A heap of weapons are seen on April 21, 2022 part of small arms and light weapons recovered from bandits during Operation Safe Haven and during the military mop up in Jos and surrounding areas in Plateau State in northcentral Nigeria. – The Nigerian military under the platform of Operation Safe Haven has handed over 517 small arms and light weapons recovered recently from bandits to the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons following successes in checking bloodletting and insecurity occasioned by the proliferation of illicit arms in circulation. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)
Concerted warnings by some multilateral organisations on the ominous food crisis in Africa and other developing countries are genuine and should not be unduly politicised or undermined as the signs of a food crisis are already glaring and reflected in the high cost and scarcity of many food items. What is required is a coordinated and collaborative action to tackle the problem. And that is possible without the rising spate of insecurity in Nigeria for example.
That food crisis is lurking across Africa is not in doubt. The signs are palpable and the outlook is grim, coming as it were from the background of COVID-19 pandemic ravages, changing and unpredictable climate, policy flip flop by many African countries and worse of all rising insecurity that has seen cattle rustled in their thousands and farmers driven away from their farms especially in Nigeria. In addition is the Russia-Ukraine conflict that has defied reasons and fast threatening global food supply chains. That is dangerous for many African countries dependent on food importation. Action, proactive and reactive, is needed to avert mass hunger and starvation.
The World Bank and sister organisations had called for a coordinated global action to save the continent from a potentially troubling situation. The good thing is that there is hope, if Africa’s comparative advantage in agriculture can be explored and put into use. According to the President of African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, with 65 per cent of the global arable land and cutting-edge technologies, Africans cannot afford to go to the rest of the world with bowls in their hands begging for food.
Rather, the continent should leverage its competitive advantage in food production to feed its citizens and emerge with a solution to the current challenges confronting the global community. Adesina reportedly made the statement at a media breakfast in Accra, Ghana, for the 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the bank.
He told journalists from across Africa and other regions that the continent “is fully ready for agriculture and food production,” unlike when it was caught unawares by COVID-19, which caused a major shock across the world. Guided by his conviction that Africa has a competitive advantage in food production, Adesina reiterated his 35 years experience in agribusiness and willingness to provide desired leadership through AfDB.
As part of the grand plan to build an Africa that will feed itself and export its surplus, he disclosed that AfDB is committing $1.5 billion through its African Emergency Food Production Plan in the coming years. The amount, which is said to have secured the approval of the Board of Directors of the bank, would be leveraged eight times, bringing the total spending envelope to $12 billion. With the plan, AfDB is looking at a benchmark of 38 million metric tonnes of food in the next few years to feed Africa.
Different countries, Adesina noted, are already rising to the occasion. For instance, Ethiopia is planning to start exporting wheat soon as its production volume exceeds local consumption need. The introduction of commercial mechanised farming and use of improved seedlings could go a long way to boost food production. Dry farming techniques could leverage the impacts of climate change.
Available records show that annually, Africa loses $7-15 billion due to climate change. This is expected to rise to $50 billion a year by 2040. Africa, which accounts for just four per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, is short-changed by climate finance. Africa’s financing needs to address climate change ranges from $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion in 2020-2030.
As it were, Africa is not getting enough resources to tackle climate change. The continent reportedly gets only three per cent of total global climate finance. Climate financing mobilised globally falls short of Africa’s needs by $100-$127 billion per year from 2020 to 2030. But individual countries can do more to safeguard their food interest.
With regards to Nigeria, the drastic shortfall in food supply is already compounding the biting harsh economic condition. Government should, therefore, do everything within its power to ensure that Nigeria is not hit with food shortage by boosting local production instead of resorting to the usual importation of food. Measures should also be taken immediately to combat the menace of destructive pests.
Over the years, Nigeria has spent billions importing basic foods from other countries. Not long ago, former Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, disclosed that Nigeria spends a whopping $20 billion on food importation annually. For a country that has great potential for agricultural development, with 99.9 per cent arable land, this is a shame.
Nigerians have been reported to consume N62.8 billion worth of French fries yearly, whereas the potatoes used in making French fries are available locally. Not only that, Nigeria has yams or other tubers that could be harnessed to serve as substitute.
It is obvious that policies and institutional barriers constitute a major hindrance to Nigeria’s agricultural development and agro-based industry. Apart from lack of commitment, there is no policy thrust for the fabrication of instruments for processing agricultural products and adding value. Besides, epileptic power supply is a major handicap. Nigerians, certainly, have no business importing food items or going hungry if the right policies and structures are put in place.
Beyond this, the virtual war situation across the nation is at the root of the rising food scarcity: Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnappings/abductions and raping of women in farms have together dealt a massive blow to food production.
Following the killings and destruction of dwellings in many parts of the country by Boko Haram fighters as well as Fulani herdsmen who allow their herds to trample freely on farms, many farmers have abandoned their farms. Even in parts of the south, villagers are being rendered into refugees, seeking safety and protection in smaller neighbouring countries. Farmers have turned to beggars in refugee camps.
A little over a year ago, about 76 peasant farmers were gruesomely massacred by Boko Haram in Borno State. The terror group said the attacks were carried out in retribution for farmers cooperating with the Nigerian military. Even at that, the presidency, in an absurd manner, blamed the farmers for not getting clearance from the military before going to their farms, as if such clearance had previously been a precondition for going to farms.
There is, no doubt, that the tide of insecurity is dealing a big blow on food production in the country. Both the federal executive, led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly have an onerous duty to amend the constitution to enable a change in the country’s security system.
The present set-up is grossly deficient and would sooner than later only facilitate an unpleasant disintegration of the country. States must be allowed to take charge of the security of their domain, as a precursor to achieving a seamless farming output; while the Federal Government needs to show much greater commitment and sincerity in fighting insurgency.