Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), made a shocking prediction of impending food shortage in Nigeria if urgent interventions are not put in place to enhance food production. Giving this warning in Abuja, Lead Consultant, UNDP project on “Targeting Interventions to Foster Sustainable and Resilient Food Security in Nigeria,” Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo, said that many parts of the country would suffer from severe food insecurity, as not much attention is being paid to agriculture by the three tiers of government. He lamented that the current tomato crisis in the country could have been avoided if adequate proactive measures had been taken, even as he called for an integrated approach in proffering solutions rather than waiting for a crisis to develop before struggling to address it. Incidentally, what Prof. Oladipo said is not new to Nigerians, even though there is a sense of urgency to it.
For long, there has been growing alarm at the decreasing food production in Nigeria brought about by variety of reasons that include lack of official support for large scale mechanised agriculture, decreasing rural farming population due to old age and migration, desertification, and droughts.
It is increasingly evident that Nigeria has become one of the largest importers of food in the world. The volumes of imported food items will give anyone cause to worry about the future of agriculture in the country. It is a fact that all kinds of food from all over the world find their way into Nigeria. These range from wheat, sugar, fish, milk, vegetables, fruits, rice and other food items that could be produced locally.
Ironically, it is on record that successive administrations promised to reduce the importation of rice into the country. However, rather than reduce, Nigeria has become the dumping ground of all types of rice from different parts of the world. It is sad that despite all that have been said about efforts towards improving agriculture, the country still cannot feed its citizens.
This is a clear departure from what obtained before and immediately after independence in the 1960s. At that time, agriculture was the main source of employment, income and foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria. Many Nigerians will admit that until the discovery of oil in 1958, agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy with the regions boasting of different cash crops like groundnut, cocoa, rubber, palm oil and many more.
Commentators and other stakeholders have argued that with more than 79 million hectares of arable land, diversified ecological conditions, abundant water resources and adequate rainfall, it beats the imagination as to why Nigerians should go hungry or be jobless. They posit that the increasing social vices, rising crimes and security challenges are traceable to poor attention to agriculture.
It is therefore imperative that government at all levels should put in place pragmatic plans to make agriculture more appealing, particularly to the youth in order to boost food production. Moreover, farmers should be supported with government guaranteed loans to expand production. Provision of power, accessible roads and good transport system are also paramount. Many farm products perish in the farms due to lack of access roads and transport system to bring them to the consumers in urban centres. Until these problems are solved, the hope of Nigeria feeding her citizens will remain a mirage.