This is not just unhealthy for a country already mired in food crisis but an open advertisement of our fault lines as a country housing diversity of human crop whose desire to be at peace is far-fetched. Instructively, both are key stakeholders in the quest for food sufficiency for entire citizens. The corn, cassava, rice, millet etc producer needs the man whose job is to ensure the availability of meat in the open market.
Inadequate preservative methods for food items such as cereals, yam, beans, rice, plantain and others have resulted in avoidable wastage thereby further deepening the insecurity level of food. Lack of food processing apparatus sometime leaves farmers with no choice than to consume significant fraction of their harvest within short period. Food processing is an important aspect of agriculture that prevents wastage of food items that cannot be easily stored in their original form by transforming them into other form that can enable their preservation.
Mangos, citrus and pineapple can easily be preserved when converted into fruit juice. Nigeria wouldn’t have any business expending a chunk of our GDP importing orange juice from Malaysia when orange fruits are wasting in Makurdi, or importing mango juice from Cyprus when mango fruits are wasting away in Nasarawa. If we must achieve a sustainable food security, efforts must be made to avert any wastage which appears to be the order of the day.
Modern agriculture has become so highly industrialized and dependent on energy. Gone are the days of crude method of land cultivation with hoes and cutlasses. Sadly, we are still deeply entrenched in manual farming methods, even among so called Universities of Agriculture across Nigeria. Students are subjected to one full year of manual land cultivation method in the name of practical, a practice Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia state, still maintains till date.
With thousands of hectares of lands lying fallowly uncultivated for years across the country especially in the Northern Nigeria, from Kogi to Plateau, Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa etc, our youths who have found a safe haven in sundry crimes and internet fraud can be productively engaged to contribute in making our dear country attend sufficiency in food production.
The number of youths who flock Betnaija lottery centres on daily basis must give any concerned citizen sleepless nights. This has also fuelled the era of growing insecurity where our people can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed. If there was a deliberate plan to incorporate the critical stakeholders, with a strong political will devoid of hypocrisy and politicking, the about 23.1 per cent youth unemployment would have drastically reduced.
It is appalling and indeed a large scale national shame that the shelves of big shopping centres in Nigeria especially some of them with South African affiliation have been dotted with imported fruits, some of which we produce here. This is how we have inadvertently sold our jobs, contracts, GDP figures etc to our neighbours. Our people today find pride in buying banana from South Africa while we at the same time look the other way and let out agricultural fortunes and pride kiss the dust. We have deliberately neglected to package our own for foreign market just because few individuals feed fat from our misery.
The future seems bleak. The population implosion and the waning interest among young people to delve into farming as a career is a clear pointer to this direction. The wind of hunger has slowly permeated into the grassroot like a wildfire and no one is immune from its toxic effects. There must not be further hesitation in taking adequate measures in enhancing food security in the country.
The government must do more to strengthen our agriculture research institutions and reposition for optimum performance. Developing climes like ours have begun in-depth research into the discovery of high yielding seeds and latest global agricultural methods. We must not be left behind.
Adequate feeding improves our mood, look, productivity and also has a symbiotic relationship with crime reduction. A hungry man does not sing hallelujah. All hands must be on deck towards permanently banishing food shortage in our land. The time to achieve a zero hunger in Nigeria is now.
Enemanna is an Abuja-based journalist