November 25, 2019

Food security in middle belt is real security in Nigeria, Smallholders farmers tell FG

Food Security: NALDA moves to reactivate 1,200 hectares farmland in Ekiti

File: farmers

File: farmers

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Smallholder farmers though plagued with many obstacles ranging from flood, drought, lack of access to land, lack of capital and modern farm implements to the recurring farmers/herders conflicts have continued to contribute immensely to food security in Nigeria.
The farmers, mostly operating at subsistent level have ensured their immediate families and communities have food on their tables and even the urban dwellers depend on rural farmers for their food supply as these farmers exchange some of their products in the markets for money.
Although, there have been diverse interventions by government at all levels to boost farming activities, many smallholder farmers do not recover their investment in farming hence the need for more coordinated and accessible interventions especially for rural smallholder farmers so that they can meet the goal of contributing their quota in ensuring food security and building the nation’s economy.
Since many Nigerian communities can boast of fertile land that support agriculture in whatever form, such interventions can improve the quality and quantity of farm produce and make food available for every household in the country.
For instance some weeks back, a report which went viral on the internet had it that somewhere in Imo State; a rural famer harvested a tuber of yam which was said to weigh around 180kg. This is an indication that a little boost is what is needed to record such feat on regular basis.
Buttressing this point, a smallholder farmer, Mrs. Mary Afon of the Small-scale Women Farmers’ Organization, SWOFON said smallholder farmers especially women are doing much despite lack of access to land and adequate support because they know that food security is real security.
She particularly frowned at the patriarchal society that do not give women access to land and called on the Plateau State government to provide farmlands across the three senatorial zones of the State for small scale rural women farmers, increase budgetary allocation and release funds on time to the agricultural subsector because, “investment in food security will ensure other forms of security not only in Plateau but the nation at large.”
She noted that at SWOFON, “Our major problems are lack of access to land, lack of access to credit facility, lack of access to market, lack of information, lack of inclusion and lack of organization and linkages but we are not deterred because we know food security is security.”
However, if the recent report released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations which said that “about 4.02 million people in Nigeria are currently faced with acute food insecurity” is correct, an urgent step needs to be taken to ensure food security and curb violent conflicts arising from hunger.

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In the said FAO report, it was projected during the presentation of October 2019 CH Analysis’ outcome for 16 states (Plateau inclusive) and the FCT, that about 5.94 million people in the country would be in food crisis phase or worse off between June and August 2020, if nothing was done and over four million Nigerians would be in the food crisis phase or worse off between October and December.
Reacting to the report, another smallholder farmer, Bitrus Daman said it was shameful that food insecurity is threatening any of the Middle Belt States as the region is the food basket of the nation and blamed the development on not only climate change but recurring farmers/herders conflicts.
His words, “It is very shameful that Plateau and other States in the North Central zone are mentioned as those with problem of food security, in Plateau, we have good land that support agriculture, exotic fruits are here but the problems of ambushes, attacks and killing of farmers on the farm are stopping people from going to the farms.
“These must be checked so that people will be free to go back to the farms, tight now, many youths are running away to the cities not because they want to go there but they want to escape being killed in the farm. If they all escape to the cities, who would farm and provide food?”
To this end, attaining food and nutrition security should be the cardinal objective of the present administration; it is imperative that government redouble efforts at ending the farmers/herders conflicts so that both crops and livestock farmers can concentrate their energy in food production to make food available for the society.
Plateau State budgetary allocation for Agriculture which was N2, 674,850,000.00 representing 3.93% of the total 2019 budget size must be reviewed upward and fund released on time to implement policies which are targeted at ensuring food security.
Again, the much talked about National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP which the State government said it had adopted the ranching option must be adequately implemented to serve as a model which would encouraged others to see the need to use the option in boosting its internally generated revenue as well as minimize if not eliminate the recurring farmers/herders conflicts.