Food Security as the first step to saving Nigeria
For most of history, food security has been constant in determining the survival or otherwise of many civilisations whether it is the issue of grain in ancient Egypt or the more recent potato crisis in Ireland, instances are bountiful. Even the Nigerian government knows this, hence their fiasco with rice pyramids in Abuja. For this reason, many developed nations have considered food security a matter of national security so sensitive that they have to protect their local food market from forming any dependency on foreign countries.
To this end, these nations have employed high-handed tools like heavy subsidies and high tariffs in their agricultural industry contrary to their obligations under the World Trade Organisation framework aimed at liberalising trade internationally. As a result, the agricultural scene is more nationalised for most countries: every country is left with the option to feed its population or starve.
Bringing it back to Nigeria, admittedly the country is plagued with challenges that this write-up cannot fully address, but the problem of starvation remains the most obscene. Nigeria has been christened the poverty capital of the world with one of the largest starving populations in the world. With a worsening economy marked by high inflation rates, more people are unable to afford food and are being pushed to starvation daily.
This reality imposes a strenuous duty on the government to handle this full-blown food crisis unfolding in Nigeria. This translates that the bulk of the capital expenditure by the government must be tactically placed around the nation’s ailing agricultural sector.
At this juncture, I must use the aphorism: “only a fed man can go on to have other worries”. To know the step forward to achieving this goal of food security in Nigeria, a detour to Nigerian history is needed. The phase of history being glanced at is our interaction and administration by European powers.
Yes, a consensus exists as to the evils these imperial European powers committed in Nigeria but when motivated by profit, these colonial powers got some of the administration of Nigeria right. Take for instance the interaction with the Portuguese who introduced to West Africa modified versions of yam, maize, millets and so many other crops which they discovered in their expeditions to South America.
What we consider staple crops in Nigeria today were engineered and introduced to us by one of the greatest pollinators known to history, the Portuguese. As regards the infrastructure that aided Nigeria feed itself, the British empire built train networks, road systems and waterways that linked important industrial and agricultural hubs in Nigeria at the time. For a while, this perfect combination of modified crops and infrastructure guaranteed food security in Nigeria despite the free-for-all policy approach when indigenes took over the administration of the Nigerian government.
However, as reality has shown us, this mismanagement and negligence by subsequent Nigerian governments snowballed into the issue of starvation we are contending with today. Having peered back into history, it seems as though the recipe to solving this food crisis has always been there for any responsible government with the political will to replicate.
With recent advancements in food technology, Nigeria can strategically invest in acquiring modified versions of our staple crops that are best suited to our climate while producing maximum yields. This is to be complemented by heavy infrastructure development in areas of irrigation and transport similar to that laid out by the British which is to link agricultural hubs such as Benue to available markets. If properly executed, the ongoing food crisis can be a scar reminding Nigerians of the dark times when food, one of the basic amenities to life was scarce.