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FG gives reasons why food insecurity is a growing problem

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From Tony Osauzo, Benin

The combine effect of the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, escalation of Ukraine-Russia war and the rising number of internally displaced persons has made food insecurity in the country a growing problem, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, disclosed in Benin yesterday.

He stated this in a keynote address he delivered at the maiden roll out of agricultural inputs and equipment, as special intervention support for small-holder farmers in Edo Sltate.

Dr. Umakhihe stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, worsened poverty and food insecurity in the country, pointing out that the reduction of economic activities due to the pandemic led to food price hike, as high as 120 per cent across markets nationwide.

“The inputs’ distribution is targeted at small-holder farmers, who form about 70 per cent of the food producing populace. For the past seven years, issues relating to food security have constituted a major focus of the policy thrust of the Nigerian government. It formed part of the major goals, which the world leaders initially agreed to devote resources to actualise by 2015, but now by 2030. These goals are aimed at ensuring no poverty and zero hunger by 2030, as one of the SDGs.

“To address the food insecurity occasioned by the crises of national insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian government, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, came up with strategic policies such as the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), the Green Imperative, Agricultural Promotion Policy, NATIP, and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), among others.

“These policies are aimed at ensuring food security, economic growth and job creation, especially during this post COVID-19 era.

“Smallholders are the most vulnerable in times of crisis. It becomes imperative for the government to support them with the much-needed inputs, especially seeds, the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield, in order to enable them to recover quickly from the setback of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the insecurity.”

The Permanent Secretary who listed the farming inputs as food dehydrator, motorised oil palm harvester, cashew cracker, 3 HP water pump, knapsack sprayers, agro chemicals, growth enhancers, power tillers, cassava stems, planters and cassava processing equipment, as well as seed yams, maize, cashew and groundnut seeds, coconut, oil palm and cocoa seedlings, said the items were given free of charge to the farmers.

He explained ed that the support would open up investment opportunities, create jobs for stakeholders, and facilitate increased production, as well as food and nutrition security.

“In this inputs’ distribution effort, 35 per cent are targeted at women farmers and processors, in line with the target set in our national gender plan and policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women.

“Similarly, 10 per cent is targeted at persons with special needs, and this has been communicated to the farmers’ associations, to act accordingly.

“It should be noted that this year alone, the ministry, in its effort to support smallholder farmers, has distributed different equipment, improved seeds and seedlings of various crops to farmers in Osun, Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba States. The next major input and equipment distribution will be in Katsina state”, Dr. Umakhihe further disclosed.

In his welcome address, Edo Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Stephen Ideheren, said Governor Godwin Obaseki was committed to agricultural development, with the administration also fully supporting farmers in the state, in order to ensure food security.

On his part, the National President of All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Rabiu Mudi, who was represented by the association’s National Legal Adviser, Lukman Mohammed, hailed the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the initiative, assuring that the members would fully support it since agriculture held the ace in Nigeria’s development, and to diversify the economy.

In his speech, Edo Chairman of AFAN, Alhaji Bako Dogwo, lamented that the state, the food basket of the nation, did not have single tractor. He, therefore, called on the Federal Government for assistance, in order to boost agricultural production and ensure optimal yield.

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