MR. Emmanuel Ijewere is the Chairman Agriculture and Food Security Commission of Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG. In this interview with Charles Kumolu, he argues that all tiers of government should be involved in the fight for food security.Â He also suggested that micro finance banks should be involved in issues of food security.Â By Charles Kumolu. Excerpts
RECENTLY, a protests strike by transporters of food items due to extortortion by Lagos State officials and the killings in Jos resulted to scarcity of some produce that comes from there. What should be done in the event of such ugly incidents, to prevent scarcity of food stuff?
As for the Jos riot all I can say is that this is symptomatic of unemployment and poverty. As long as we want to live as a nation, we must rely on areas of comparative advantage to produce specific products for the rest of the country. This is an economic problem. Engage more of our people in structured and meaningful agriculture from the Local Government level then we can start having peaceful co-existence.
The changing weather pattern in Nigeria, has increased the fears of food insecurity in Nigeria, as an expert how do you think the development can be checked before it becomes alarming?
ChangingÂ weather pattern is a world wide phenomenon. There is therefore nothing unique about Nigeria. What is however uniqueÂ is that only few States in Nigeria have adopted policies that show that they understand that modern attitude to agriculture should reflect the following:
It is a private sector business that must ensure that it is profitable. Government must therefore adopt those policies that assure farmers that government will listen to their problems and assist them where possible. This means that Agriculture is not politics but business and government deliberating supporting real agriculture in a measurable way. For example, getting local Governments to identify their farmers, form them into Co-operatives and linking them up with Microfinance banks in their area. Privatise or concession all 12 River Basin Authorities and Strategic Reserve Silos in the country,etc.
What measures do you think the present government can take to make the agricultural sector move along the track of Millennium Development Goals,MDGs?
Adopt the â€œNucleus Estate Initiativeâ€(NEI) model as recommended by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).This is a people basedÂ idea. Remember that about 65 percent of Nigerians are in the agric sector. Agriculturally successful countries do not mix agriculture and politics.
As for Government officials extorting money from food transporters, these are criminals hiding under Government garment to rob hard working Nigerians. I fully support those transporters who withdrew their services from States that condone these criminals. May be if the citizens feel the pinch they will get their State and Local Governments to act against these criminals.
Do you think Nigeria is on track as it relates to the UN target of reducing in half the number of people experiencing chronic hunger by 2015?
If our country will be lucky enough to have a focused, proactive and people friendly Minister of Agric we will have a chance of getting close to meeting the UN target of reducing hunger by 50% by 2015. Such Minister must also believe that a hard working farmer should be assisted to be a rich man.