Solution to food crisis in Nigeria, by experts

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According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), food security refers to the availability of food and access to it.
A household is considered secured when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.
It also stated that food security exists when all people, at all
times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
Food is different from other commodities because everybody needs it for survival, and it is an indispensable factor in nation’s quest for economic growth and development.
The first essential component of social and economic justice is adequate food production.
To occupy a place of pride in the comity of nations, a nation is expected to feed her population.
Nigeria is a country richly blessed with abundant natural and human resources that if properly harnessed, can feed its people and export the surpluses to other countries, yet it is experiencing persistent food crisis both in terms of quantity and quality.
Cases of malnutrition and under nutrition are growing by the day, as
the food intake requirements of majority of Nigerians have fallen far
below the international standard.
Past efforts at improving food supply through agricultural production
had not yielded successful results.
Programmes that were introduced only helped to alienate peasant
farmers who are the major producers of food in the country. These
programmes were more in favour of capital intensive and large scale
commercial farmers who corruptly enriched themselves at the expense of
poor peasant farmers.
However, besides policy defects and past mismanagement of
resources, Nigeria, as a member of the global community, is experiencing a sudden downturn in food production and supply as a result of the effect of land tenure system on food production.
The traditional land holding system gives room for a diminutive proportion of land made available for cultivation of food.
It is characterised by a situation where several interests subsists on a small parcel of land. The Land Use Act of 1978, which was introduced to salvage the situation, has also been found wanting in ensuring that land is made available to users.
Hence, access to land in Nigeria is a major threat to food security in the country. The nature of land rights in the country is seen as grossly responsible for the inaccessibility to land.
There is no denying the fact that poverty walks on four legs in Nigeria.
It remains a paradox, however, that despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year.
Gross Domestic Product per capita is $2,400, and poverty is
widespread, about 50% live on less than $1.25 per day.
Nigerians have seen a number of ineffective governments with various
leaders betraying the trust of the people and people have no say over
how they are governed and how accountable their governments are to
them.
This implies that there is a strong relationship between poverty and
governance. Based on empirical evidence from many countries, a recent World Bank report concluded that “good governance is critical for successful development, as it improves the well being of the poor.
With regards to the numerous programmes directed at poverty reduction overtime in the country, without a significant improvement in governance, much of the resources devoted to poverty reduction were
captured by politicians, contractors, and bureaucrats.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has outlined policies and strategies designed to promote economic growth.
The Green Alternative initiative of the government, which focuses on Commercial Agriculture Development Programme, is targetted to strengthen
food security, increase employment opportunities and boost agriculture
as an engine for broad-based economic growth in the country.
Sadly, it is generally believed that this intervention is not
sincerely complemented by equivalent approaches by some States and
Local Governments, especially on food security.
For instance, kid gloving style and unseriousness that characterize new agricultural initiative of the Oyo State Government, launched some months ago, left much to be desired as this uncomplimentary attitude has spread to most of the Local Governments in the state.
Besides mere propaganda, there is nothing practically on ground to
indicate that both tiers of government are sincerely committed and
determined to support the Federal Government’s concern about
worsening rural poverty, rising unemployment rates among young people
and the marginalisation of women.
Access to credit, participation in decision-making, access to
agricultural extension services, access to improved seeds and planting materials, farm inputs and tools are non existing.
Visits to some of the local governments revealed that mounting heaps of cassava stems made available by the International Institute for
Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for planting this season are rotting away uncultivated within vicinities of the councils’ secretariats.
This is happening when farmers are lamenting about non-availability
seedlings and other farm inputs to aid production. Each of the 33 local governments is allocated number of tractors, planters and harvesters to meet the demands of diminishing farming population.
Though, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, during his first
tenure in office, empowered local governments with working tools to assist farmers and boost food production, most of these equipment have either been sold off or mismanaged by past caretaker chairmen.
Under the new agricultural initiative of the state government, each local government is to acquire large hectares of land purposely for mass food production.
So far, only few local governments are able to secure land, while others attribute their inability to acquire any to land tenure system, when the rainy season is almost over.
Caretaker Chairman, Oyo-East Local Government, Mr. Azeez Tirimisiyu, said until a workable synergy is evolved between agricultural research and land reform that takes into cognisance the plight of peasant farmers, downturn in food production and supply will persist in the country.
Tirimisiyu gave the advice at a workshop organised by Fadama for farmers in the local government area.
He stated that the traditional land holding system gives room for a diminutive proportion of land made available for cultivation of food,
adding that it is characterised by a situation where several interests subsist on a small parcel of land.
The Land Use Act of 1978, according to him, which was introduced to salvage the situation has also been found wanting in ensuring that land is made available to users, hence, access to land in the country
is a major threat to food security in the country.
“The nature of land rights in the country is seen as grossly
responsible for the inaccessibility to land. An anatomy of the Land Use Decree of 1978 and the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) of 1991 pointed out their key objectives as well as their shortcomings in terms of agricultural production”.
Tirimisiyu, an agricultural expert, noted that the two land related policies only provides a basis for the neglect of peasant farmers while allocating land to fancy dressed politicians.
This, according to him, has significant negative effects on
agricultural productivity in the country.
“The land use act promulgation by the government years ago failed to take into sufficient consideration the modifications that have taken place in the traditional tenure system by treating land as a free good. Most elements of the Act are disregarded by the majority of the land owners. Sale of land, forbidden by the Act, has been recurring undiminishingly. The Act has not mitigated land speculation; rather it has driven it underground or exacerbated it.
The Land Use Decree (LUD) has served to increase the marginalisation, dislocation and fragmentation of small agricultural holdings and has also rendered access to land more difficult for women.”
He pointed out that the Act has not improved security of land tenure and has, therefore, only intensified regression in agricultural production, adding that in particular, productive lands have been allocated to individuals who have cared little about farming or land conservation.
“This situation has led to a serious decline in agricultural
production while the oil sector has continued to soar. It was against this milieu that the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) was established in 1991 by a decree to re-examine and address the land tenure problems of rural communities., which it failed to
accomplish”.
The unique feature of Africa’s land policy making, according to him, is that, historically, it has created the conditions for narrowly based, class and racially founded commercial land users to continuously derive the major economic gains from the status quo and from land policies that are neo-liberal in outlook.
“Nigeria has based her policies on the belief that if the agricultural sector is carefully planned, harnessed and government policies at all levels well implemented, the sector can effectively drive the efforts at addressing the issues of poverty, hunger and unemployment. Now, it
is easy to see that despite land reform policies, agricultural
productivity has continued to fall when compared to the oil and other non-oil sectors of the economy.”
While eulogising both the Federal and Oyo State Governments for providing packages of incentives with the hope of encouraging foreign investors to participate in direct agricultural production, the council boss lamented that gender, land tenure, agricultural productivity. As well as exclusion of women in land management and inheritance is generally a dominant issue , especially in the
customary systems where land tenure related issues are largely
informed by a patriarchal orientation.”
“The country has on ground 18 agricultural research institutes, three agricultural universities with most of the 93 conventional universities having faculties of agriculture, and six state colleges of agriculture. If properly coordinated, they could complement government efforts by evolving a sound agrarian reform and a workable land tenure strategy, capable of ensuring meaningful agricultural productivity through the development of agricultural research,
technology disseminating and adoption to sustain long-term
productivity growth; and the sustainable development of livestock, fisheries and forestry resources”.
A Professor of Developmental Economics at the Ajayi Crowther University, Samuel Olasupo Akano, said while Nigeria’s condition may be said to be slightly better, the pattern of existence is basically the same.
He stated that in the traditional peasant economy, a wide range of
fruit trees are never deliberately cultivated, but they grow wild and
flourish by virtue of congenial and climatic soil conditions.
“These include palm trees, coconut, banana, plantain, bitter kola,
oranges, mango, guava and pawpaw trees. The declining availability of
palm oil and plantains in the country over the past decade illustrates
the long term future of extractive activities which are not
regenerated through a cycle of cultivation”.
Palm trees and plantains , Akano noted traditionally grow wild in the
Southern part of the country, adding that they are normally grown
deliberately in plantations until recently, but were plentiful in
supply and ownership passed from one set of family members to another
over several generations.
According to him, “with age, palm trees grow taller, thinner and
diminish in productivity until they die off. As a result of increasing
demand (from rising human population) and declining population of
trees, supply shortages became more manifest after the civil war” .
The country, the economist asserted, “is currently a net importer of
vegetable oils and fats. In like manner, plantains have virtually
disappeared from the diet of most Nigerian households”.
“This has been due largely to declining supply from age-worn trees and
rising demand. The same picking or extractive mentality has led to the
virtual disappearance of forest snails and a wide range of wild
animals which used to be local delicacies, but have been over-hunted.”
Also speaking, renowned toxicologist, Professsor Julius Ipadeola Olaifa, observed that as “the world population continues to grow, much more effort and innovation will be urgently needed in order to sustainably increase agricultural production, improve the global supply chain, decrease food losses, waste, and ensure that all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition have access to nutritious food.”
Olaifa, pioneer Dean, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, said the President Muhammadu
Buhari-led administration’s initiatives aimed at achieving food security in the country, if thoroughly implemented, would eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.
“Improvement in food security strategies by individuals and households allows more time and resources to be directed towards improving economic situations, through investments in better means of production, further education, and other quality of life measures which can improve the communities”, Olaifa stated.

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