Food Security in Southern Nigeria: More food doesn’t mean food security – Farmer Samson Ogbole
With the recent food block by some Northern bodies, there was a lot of uproar (as expected) with almost everyone believing the solution to food security is – more farmers and thus more food.
This however cannot be farther from the truth, as of today what we need in the South, in Nigeria and in Africa isn’t more farmers. The reality remains, the developed nations have a ratio of fewer farmers when compared to the general population as opposed to developing and under-developed nations where the farmers are the majority of the population. We must therefore find a sustainable solution to ensure food security because the reality is – more food production will not ensure food security. In this piece I will suggest 3 ways to ensure food security.
- Nature: To ensure food security, we need to first realize our solution has to be local, we need to handshake and collaborate with our natural environment, understand what the environment is – what is has and doesn’t have. This is especially important as we combat climate change, we need to know our temperature, rainfall pattern, soil texture, humidity, pH etc. and find a list of crops we can easily grow based on our environs, it is about time we stopped trying to produce or grow everything but rather focus on crops where we have an environmental edge. The production of these in mass will ensure more products are developed along the line of the produce beyond traditional usage e.g., Nigeria remains the highest producer of yam in the world but we do not feature amongst the top 3 exporters of yam, as we produce mainly for consumption. No blue-chip company in Nigeria processing our yams despite the fact that yam is used today for pasta, alcohol, human hormones etc. but rather we are still in the use of yam for traditional use – pound, fry, boil, roast or turn to flour.
2. Science: We also need to look at the scientific foundation of our agriculture; no nation’s sector can outgrow the science it deploys. For our telecommunication sector to grow, we had to move in recent science, same for banking and any other sector thriving in Nigeria, but in Agriculture we are still stuck with hoes and cutlass. I do not mean to criminalize hoes and cutlass but rather we need to realize it cannot do enough to feed the population, agriculture has moved from man power to mind power and we need to check our science. This cuts across input to production and to processing. We need to have tissue culture labs that produce seeds for our environs and based on our pathogenic history, we need simple enough tools that are automated, we need to deploy drones etc. However, this will be hard to do if we do not have specific products the country or regions decide to focus on. We need to be sincere and realize we are very behind in our science, however in our race to feed the future we cannot join from behind, we must skip steps and see what the science of today says and find a way to build from there. This is why in school it is called agricultural science, so it is a cultivation of crops and rearing of animals based on science, and we need to be deliberate in our science so we can ensure food security. A simple soil test can save the farmer a lot, can help reduce fertilizer to buy, as well ensure buy what is needed by the soil and not what the seller has available, it will increase yield and beyond that protect the environment as to give what is not needed is to kill the soil, contaminate ground water and poison generations unborn.
3. Accessory: These are areas that affect agriculture but may not be for agriculture alone – in this category there is security, good roads, logistics for proper movement of goods, storage and processing facilities etc. We need to understand food production increase alone won’t solve the problem, when we move to Mambila in Taraba up North, to Benue in the central region and down to Mile 12 in Lagos, the amount of food waste cannot be easily quantified. There are many myriads of reasons while this is so, from poor road network to terrible roads, lack of proper cooling vans and agricultural vehicles, no storage facility, economic instability, over dependence on import for input easily affected by the fluctuation of the naira viz a viz the dollar. We have no small-scale processing units available except for pockets of garri and palm oil processors who still make use of old unhealthy methods that requires a lot of human labour.
We must as a people ask ourselves what the goal is when it comes to food security, we must then share responsibility, from proper sensitization of the public to avoid food bias and racism, to proper channels to reduce or stop food fraud, economic policies that gives a proper goal for agriculture so anyone interested can easily plug in without falling into the hands of scams and a pathway for anyone to follow easily. We must remember food security doesn’t mean more food but rather a consistency in food production (not seasonal like we have now), availability of food (not one was only a certain people have access to some food), affordability of food (such that the poor isn’t defined by food), healthy (as we understand that food is the foundation of health and every time we eat – we are either fighting diseases or enabling diseases) and environmentally sustainable.
As a community we have what it takes to ensure food security, we only need to agree on what food security means to us and set realistic goals not just join the global race without a proper understanding of our reality.