By Farmer Ogbole Samson
As we endure the aftermath of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next battle we will face will be that of hunger – which can only be quenched with FOOD. Unfortunately, this could not have come at a worse time when farmers are meant to be on the farm, preparing their lands, planting to ensure food supply. The developed world today already has their farm produce being discarded as it is actually cheaper than giving it out for free. Many others have lost their jobs and today majority have their salaries slashed to various percentages. How then do we ensure food supply for us and our households post COVID-19?
This is important because despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand hunger doesn’t go on break simply because there is a lockdown, so we must ensure food production is not seasonal. We must create a food system that ensures food is readily available – not having to eat maize only in specific months but all year round, food is accessible – such that location isn’t a factor in getting food, food supply must be consistent without sacrificing health on the altar of profit and it must be affordable – in that the poor amongst us are not defined by “their purchasing power of food” – this is food security.
As individuals, we all have a little space – an empty room, a fence, a wall, an unused garage, balcony, air space (to grow plants in the air: aeroponics)– we need to try to grow something, if we all grow something – we can employ the use of trade by barter to exchange things with our neighbors. For some of us, we have empty lands in outskirts, before the “big bucks” for the mansion; we can turn it into a farm, have those in the locality farm for us and give them a portion to farm for themselves as payment. We also need to engage the food systems – most of us in the urban and peri-urban areas have no idea who our farmers are! We need to get a link to farmers, invest in their farms not for monetary returns but rather to supply food to us based on agreed terms. We must also ensure we curb food waste – if you won’t cook it, don’t buy it; if you can’t finish it, don’t cook it. In addition to not discriminate against food, that the fruit or vegetable doesn’t look fine doesn’t make it less nutritious.
As a community, we can also grow together, grow a crop that will do best in your area, because in any lockdown or stay home, you live in an environment, food will also unite people. As new estates and housing units are developed, create green areas deliberately for farms, we already create areas for relaxation, exercise etc why not also for food production? As we also try to help the most vulnerable, we must move beyond sustaining to empowering, we must find ways to create small farms for them so they can be of help to themselves and the community.
A proper personal food system as described above will ensure food sustainability – we will have healthy foods which equals healthy individuals, we conquer hunger, we save money and could even sell the excess to create a stream of income, we can use it to empower (especially in a nation like Nigeria with over 50% being involved in Agriculture, whatever helps to improve their lives automatically lifts the poorest of the population, and with a larger percentage being women, the most vulnerable group are also empowered), we are able to adopt climate smart technologies and with these farms in urban and peri-urban areas, we can develop AI and automate farms to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability without sacrificing the health of the farmer, the health of the consumer and the health of the environment. Food production should not be seasonal because hunger is not seasonal.