Engages media organizations as frontline partners
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Federal Government and the United Nations, UN, on a Thursday, disclosed collaboration to tackle hunger and malnutrition affecting Nigerians with Food Systems Summit Dialogue, FSSD, in September 2021.
This was made known via webinar for journalists on Nigeria National Food Systems Dialogue, FSSD, and the dialogue will hold in the six geopolitical zones of the country as part of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), and there will be series of dialogues across the country to chart pathways towards ensuring resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems in Nigeria by 2030.
The UN priorities will support; Evidence-based guidance on healthy and sustainable food and diets to transform food systems; Implementation and enforcement of policies and create healthy food environments for children; Healthy and safe environments; Large Scale food fortification; Improvements to the food supply and food environments.
According to the UN Secretary-General in his latest Policy Brief on Food Security, there is more than enough food in the world to feed the world’s population of 7.8 billion people. But, today, more than 820 million people are hungry, the food systems are failing, and the Covid-19 pandemic is making things worse.
It is increasingly clear that we must act now to address the impending global food emergency and avoid the worst impacts of the pandemic.
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Country Representative, United Nations Secretary-General, Edward Kallon, said: “Sustainable food systems do not have to just end hunger, we need to put in place system that ensures we produce enough food for the coming generation without compromising the ability of future generations to have access to adequate food and proper nutrition.
“As the population continues to grow and the many players in the food industry, there is greater need for all of us to understand and really assure the availability of quality food and in the quantity that will cater for people in all sustainable way.
“It is in the light of this UN and Government of Nigeria is bringing together key players in science, policy, business, health care and academic, including women, organizations, farming organizations, youth organizations, consumer groups, food processing, environmental activists, and most importantly the media.
“In fact, the media our dialogue will be likened to what we call the linking mobile on what they are doing, and if we leave here we want to go far in this particular race. Nigeria is blest with a vibrant press and media eco-system and definitely as professionals who constitute one of the world’s best.
“I urge our media partners to get into the fore of the UN Food System Summit and to support our efforts by encouraging debates and discussions among the population, issues of the sustainable food system for the country.
“As you all know every individual has a role to play in our efforts towards sustainable food system. We are all stakeholders when it comes to food because of one simple reason; we are all at least Nigerians.”
However, he said that COVID-19 has brought to the fore the connection between food, health, and quality of lives, and also how many food systems have failed, especially where inequality blossoms.
“The pandemic has powered global and unprecedented appetite for change that brought the challenge to transformed food systems to be more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. We must come together to do that better.
“Once again I commend the government of Nigeria to drive this process, and I also appreciate all of you in the media for being part of the Food System Summit preparation and you will remain part of this process until September 2021 when the summit will hold. Some of us have strong faith in Nigeria and we just believe that Nigeria at the right moment can feed Africa at large”, he added.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Azeez Muyiwa, disclosed that “The federal government is currently working very hard to reduce post-harvest losses most especially in the area of perishable crops. For example tomato, pepper, we are working with research institutes to develop very good varieties on some of these highly perishable food crops.
“Secondly, we are working with the farmers on appropriate packaging materials that would not bleach, most especially tomato, and because to make it well.
“Thirdly, we already have a very big programme with African Development Bank, which will bring in the producers, processors, and marketers at the same place, we are calling it Special Agro-Processing Zone, and is going to be one of the biggest programmes of the Federal Government.
“Currently, we are at the verge of getting to the preparatory stage of the programme, and we are working with multi-national investors in such a way that Special Agro-Processing Zone, we are going to have the producers, aggregators, processors, and marketers at the same place in such a way that the producers will not want to travel a long distance before getting to the processors and the SAPZs dedicated infrastructure in such a way that there will be roads, light, and others.
“We are also working with the farmers to develop adaptive storage equipment by this we are fabricating storage equipment for the small-scale farmers.”
Muyiwa also made it known that the Federal Government is currently facilitating the “establishment of 10 large scale rice mills as part of the effort of the Federal Government to ensure it affects sufficient rice production.
“And with these SAPZs Federal Government is working hard to reduce post-harvest losses, therefore, increase the quantum of food in the food system.”
Meanwhile, the Country Director, Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, Fred Kafeero, acknowledged and said, “This calls for action in the entire food system to re-evaluate our current food system to find out what is working and lessons we can learn from there but more importantly to make recommendations to improve the way the food system functions.”
Kafeero also expressed optimism and said, “For Nigeria, we believe this dialogue will take actions to achieve a sustainable food system for the country.”
Explaining the essence and target of the dialogue, National Convener, National Food Dialogue and Permanent Secretary, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Olusola Idowu, while declaring the event open said the dialogue will focus the UN five actions, namely, safe and nutritious food for all; the key to the sustainable pattern; food nature positive production; advanced equitable livelihood; build resilience to vulnerability structure and stress.
Idowu said, “This includes essential dialogue aimed at identifying food system challenges from multiple perspectives; exploratory dialogue planned to hold in six geopolitical zones and it is to harness promising approaches from diverse stakeholders that contribute to the food system in Nigeria.
“Food system touches every aspect of human existence in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world. The management of food system especially affects the health of the people as well as the health of the environment, economy, and culture.
“The food systems based by locations and so sustainable pathway must be rooted in national and local realities. To ensure an all-inclusive and participatory dialogue the Nigerian Food System Dialogue is planned to be organised at three levels in advance of the summit billed to take place in September 2021.”
Other stakeholders at the interaction include Country Representatives of UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, IFAD, and WFP who also spoke on five Action Tracks ahead of the September 2021 National Food Systems Dialogue.