President Tinubu’s declaration of state of emergency on food security marks vital step forward

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President Bola Tinubu’s recent declaration of a state of emergency on food security in Nigeria is a crucial and timely step towards addressing the pressing issue of food scarcity and clean water availability in the country. With rising food inflation and concerns about the viability of the agriculture and food value chain, it is evident that urgent action is required to ensure the well-being of Nigerian citizens.

The state of emergency declared by President Tinubu underscores the seriousness of the situation and demonstrates his commitment to addressing the challenges faced by Nigerians in accessing affordable and nutritious food. The gravity of the situation is emphasised by recent statistics from UNICEF, which indicate that approximately 25 million Nigerians are at high risk of food insecurity in 2023. Moreover, Nigeria’s ranking of 103rd out of 121 countries in the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI) further highlights the severity of the issue. With a GHI score of 27. 3, Nigeria’s level of hunger is classified as serious.

The presence of food inflation across all 36 states of the federation and Abuja adds to the urgency and magnitude of the problem. Rising food prices exacerbate the burden on citizens and hinder their access to affordable and nutritious food. It is important to note the significant issue of food insecurity and limited access to clean water in coastal regions of Nigeria. These regions face heightened vulnerability due to a combination of anthropogenic activities, sea-level rise, increased flooding, and the impacts of climate change. The consequences of these factors are devastating, as they obliterate the livelihoods of communities that depend on coastal resources for sustenance.

Immediate action is essential to alleviate the hardships faced by Nigerians in securing an adequate food supply. It is notable that the declaration of a state of emergency on food security includes the recognition of food and water availability and affordability within the purview of the National Security Council. This underscores the importance of considering these essential livelihood items as crucial components of national stability and well-being.

A multi-faceted approach is necessary to tackle food insecurity (See Figure 1) and ensure equitable access to clean and affordable water. President Tinubu’s proposed actions, as outlined by Mr. Dele Alake, the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communication, and Strategy, provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the issue.

Immediate measures such as the release of fertilisers and grains to farmers and households will help mitigate the effects of fuel subsidy removal. This step acknowledges the need to support farmers who are essential contributors to the agriculture and food production value chain. Additionally, ensuring all-year-round farming through enhanced irrigation techniques is vital to reduce dependence on seasonal farming and foster continuous food production. 

The establishment of a National Commodity Board, responsible for reviewing and assessing food prices, will facilitate the stabilisation of critical food items through strategic reserves. By moderating price fluctuations, the government can alleviate the burden on consumers and maintain food affordability. Collaboration with stakeholders such as seed companies, research institutes, and fertilise producers is essential to strengthen the agricultural value chain and ensure the availability of necessary resources for sustainable food production. 

Furthermore, it is commendable that President Tinubu recognises the importance of protecting farmers and farmlands from attacks. Engaging the security architecture to provide security for farmers is crucial in instilling confidence and enabling them to return to their lands without fear. This step will safeguard agricultural productivity and contribute to the overall goal of achieving food security. 

In terms of financing, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s continued role in funding the agricultural value chain is commendable. The allocation of concessionary capital/funding toward key areas such as fertilisers, processing, mechanisation, and other necessary inputs will enhance productivity and make food more affordable for consumers. Exploring alternative means of transportation, such as rail and water transport, to reduce freight costs is another commendable initiative that will positively impact food prices.

 President Tinubu’s plan to transition from archaic and problematic nomadic animal husbandry to government-managed ranching is a progressive move. This shift will not only address the challenges associated with livestock management but also promote sustainable and modern practices in line with global standards. 

In terms of impact, the declaration of a state of emergency on food security presents significant opportunities for job creation and economic growth. By focusing on agriculture and the entire food value chain, it is estimated that between five and ten million new jobs could be created within the value chain. This prospect aligns with President Tinubu’s mandate to prioritise job creation and tackle youth unemployment in the country. 

While President Tinubu’s efforts should be applauded, addressing concerns raised by Mr. Phrank Shaibu, the Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku Abubakar is essential. Shaibu’s assertion that the proposed palliative of N8,000 per month for six months is an attempt to divert public funds warrants attention. Transparency and accountability are crucial in ensuring these funds reach the intended beneficiaries and have a tangible impact on their lives. Efforts must be made to avoid previous pitfalls where intervention programs failed to reach those in need.

In addition to President Bola Tinubu’s initiatives, it is crucial to highlight the commendable work of various organisations and projects in the food sector that are actively working to address the food security challenges in Nigeria. These initiatives are contributing to the overall efforts and deserve recognition for their innovative approaches and impact. 

One notable example is the Soilless Farm Lab located in Ogun State. This project, known as the EYiA Project (Enterprise for Youth in Agriculture), aims to tackle youth unemployment by providing training opportunities for unemployed youths and women in vegetable production using technology. The project enables year-round, climate-smart cultivation, optimising resource utilisation and increasing productivity by incorporating greenhouse farming, soilless farming (hydroponics), ML & AI tools, and integrated pest management techniques. 

Another noteworthy initiative is The Green Institute in Ondo Kingdom, Nigeria. This organisation focuses on building the next generation of sustainability leaders through education, advocacy, and innovation. By promoting sustainable farming practices and imparting knowledge about environmental conservation, The Green Institute plays a crucial role in fostering a more sustainable and food-secure future. 

Furthermore, the Green Microbiology Lab is leveraging the power of microbes for food production. Microbes, when harnessed effectively, can contribute to improved soil health, plant nutrition, and pest management. By utilising the potential of microbiology in agriculture, this project offers a sustainable and eco-friendly approach to enhance food production. 

These initiatives represent a small sample of the diverse efforts taking place in the food sector across Nigeria. By seamlessly incorporating them into the op-ed, we can underscore the collaborative nature of the response to food security challenges. These organisations are partnering with governments, communities, and other stakeholders to create innovative solutions that address the underlying issues of food scarcity and water availability/affordability. Their work serves as an inspiration and a reminder that collective action and innovation are essential in overcoming these challenges.

 Recognising and supporting such initiatives is pivotal as they play a significant role in complementing the government’s efforts and contributing to long-term solutions.  

Moreover, it is important to note that addressing food security requires a long-term commitment and sustained efforts beyond short-term palliatives. Investments in agriculture, infrastructure, research, and development should be prioritised to build a resilient and sustainable food system. Collaborations with international organisations, knowledge-sharing platforms, and research institutions can contribute to adopting best practices and leveraging global expertise. 

In conclusion, President Bola Tinubu’s declaration of a state of emergency on food security marks a vital step forward in tackling the pressing issue of food scarcity and limited access to clean water in Nigeria. The proposed measures demonstrate a comprehensive approach that encompasses immediate, medium, and long-term strategies. By focusing on all aspects of the agriculture and food value chain, from production to transportation and storage, and by prioritising job creation, the President’s actions hold significant potential for positive change. It is imperative that these initiatives are implemented with utmost transparency and accountability to ensure the intended impact is achieved, benefiting all Nigerians and creating a more resilient and food-secure nation. 

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