Some agriculture experts in the South – East have recommended provision of adequate security and inputs for farmers in order to avert impending food crisis in the country.
The stakeholders made the recommendations while responding to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on solutions to the impending food crisis predicted by experts in the country.
The Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Enugu State chapter, Mr Romanus Eze urged the Federal Government to provide security for farmers to avoid incessant kidnapping, rape and killing.
Eze also urged governments at all levels to provide inputs, equipment and soft loans or grants to farmers to encourage them to go back to farms.
He added that without adequate security and provision of necessary inputs, the country would be fully faced with food crisis.
“Nigeria is not well prepared to secure her citizens from food crises.
“The climate change that affected the country in 2020 could have taught the players in the agricultural sector lesson in preparing ahead in 2021 farming season to prevent food crisis,” Eze said.
He urged the government to always implement its agricultural policies.
“The Federal Government always comes out with good policies on agriculture, but implementation of such policies is a problem.
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“The drivers of such policies kill them from the onset and this has been a recurring decimal in our history,” Eze said.
The chairman called on government to train extension workers and recruit more agronomists as well as encourage research institutes and seed companies to give quality products to farmers.
A rice farmer from Awgu Local Government Area, Mrs Maria Nwankwo said that there would be serious food crisis if the government did not put a stop to herders/farmers’ clashes.
“We do not need to be told about the imminent food crisis that is looming.
“The everyday increase in prices of foodstuff shows that there is danger ahead because even we, the farmers, have predicted it.
“This is as a result of insecurity in the land and the climate change which is also affecting the growing of food crops,” Nwankwo said.
In Anambra, Mrs Juliana Edochie, Desk Officer, Backyard Farming, Anambra State Ministry of Agriculture urged residents to embrace backyard farming to boost food production and alleviate poverty.
Edochie described backyard farming as a mini landscape farm, usually within a person’s neighbourhood or backyard just for personal or family consumption which could either be crop or livestock farming.
“The rate of backyard farming in Nigeria is still very low due to increased urbanization. Again, rising food prices are pushing more people into poverty, increasing their vulnerability to insecurity and malnutrition.
“Backyard farming can play a very big role in alleviating food insecurity and poverty in Nigeria by boosting local and household food production,” she said.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said it budgeted an estimated sum of N56 million for the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) in Anambra for 2021 farming season.
The IFAD-VCDP is a project in collaboration with the Federal Government and the Anambra State Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation, Processing and Export, to give wider opportunities to rice and cassava farmers.
NAN reports that the agricultural inputs distributed under the programme were certified rice seeds, cassava stems, NPK and Urea fertilizer and agro chemicals such as herbicide and pesticides.
The Anambra state Programme Coordinator, VCDP, Mr Nnamdi Agwuncha, said the input distribution was an annual programme to ensure that farmers received quality agro – inputs to help increase their agricultural yields.
“The monetary value for this year’s input distribution is about N56 million and our target is to make multiple of that amount at the end of this year’s farming season.
“Our farmers performed well in the previous season but we hope they will improve on their performance this season.
“On rice, we expect a minimum of five to seven metric tonnes per hectare, on the average. While on cassava, we are expecting between 25 and 30 metric tonnes per hectare on the average, ” Agwuncha said.
He said that IFAD-VCDP and the state government had constituted Farmers-Herders Conflict Resolution Committee to check all forms of invasion on farmlands and curb the atrocities of suspected herdsmen in the state.
Agwuncha also urged farmers to take up agricultural insurance policies to get insurance cover against unforeseen disasters and attacks that might lead to losses.
“We are in partnership with the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation to make the policy affordable to farmers.
“The Federal Government is paying 50 per cent, the state government is paying 25 per cent while the farmers are expected to pay the remaining 25 per cent.
“So, it is very affordable and plans are underway to sensitise farmers on the benefits, ” he said.
Also speaking, Dr Victor Onanma, Agricultural Production Adviser, IFAD, urged farmers to judiciously utilise the agricultural inputs distributed to boost their production and harvest.
Onanma, who spoke on behalf of the National Programme Coordinator IFAD-VCDP, Mr Garba Bala, said that IFAD worked with nationally recognised agro dealers who produced quality fertiliser and agro chemicals.
“There is threat of food insecurity which will lead to hunger in the country; and this is as a result of incessant farmers- herders clashes.
“Also, the demand for rice and cassava is high now. I urge you to make good use of these inputs and not sell them, to improve productivity, family income, standard of living and food security,” he said.
Prof. Micheal Uguru, Department of Crop Science University of Nigeria Nsukka urged Nigerians to cultivate any available space in their compound to reduce impact of imminent food crisis.
Uguru said it was no longer news that there would be serious food crisis in the country in 2022.
He attributed limited quantity of food items in markets as being responsible for price hike, adding that the problem was caused by constant destruction of crops by herdsmen and their cattle.
“The crisis has already started and will worsen by next year if nothing serious is done to control it,” Uguru said.
The Professor of Crop Breeding and Genetics advised the Federal Government to urgently start importing foodstuff to be preserved in silos, so as to minimise the effect of the crisis in 2022.
“I know, there is not enough foodstuff preserved in the country’s silos and to reduce the effect of food crisis next year, government should start now to import food items to complement what we have in the country,” Uguru said.
In Abia, some respondents have called for increased funding of agriculture to boost production and ensure food security, amidst the threats of imminent food crisis.
Mr Promise Obilor, a Deputy Director in the state Ministry of Agriculture, said that Abia government was doing its best to support farmers, “based on its lean resources”.
Obilor, however, said that more resources were needed to make meaningful impact in the sector.
He described Abia as an agrarian state, saying that the state government had put a lot of measures in place to support farmers in order to enhance their productivity.
Also, Mr Johnson Ibe, the Project Coordinator, Abia State FADAMA NG-Cares Project, said he was working hard to reach out to rural farmers with lot of farm inputs to improve their productivity and boost their livelihood.
Ibe expressed great concern that the nation had nothing serious on ground to contend with the impending food crisis, “judging from the current situation in the country”.
He said that COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected food production, not only in Nigeria but across the globe.
Ibe canvassed support for mechanised farming to help farmers produce more towards averting imminent food crisis in the country.
A former programme manager, Agricultural Development Programme, in Imo, Mr Emma Jonathan identified poor policy implementation and insecurity as the major causes of food crisis in Nigeria.
Jonathan advised the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board and ensure that agricultural policies were implemented.
However, in his contribution, Mr Raymond Ucheoma, Permanent Secretary, Imo Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources urged Nigerians not to be apprehensive over the fear of possible food crisis.
According to Ucheoma, the cost of food items may appear higher than what they were the previous year but in the empirical sense, the country may not experience food shortage.
He noted that agriculture was the sustaining element in the period of COVID-19, even when people were asked to shut down markets and offices.
“Today, people are living and feeding because of what they planted in 2020.
“We are aware that the agricultural sector is a resilient sector. As we speak, people are harvesting cassava, yam and now, corn.
“We may equally be apprehensive that the insecurity situation has made some farmers unable to carry out stronger activities, but this will not affect the ministerial efforts to improve the sector in the country,” Ucheoma said.
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Stakeholders in Ebonyi also urged relevant authorities to adequately secure the rural areas so as to check the impending food crises in the country.
Dr Silas Okeh, a former Director in the old Enugu Ministry of Agriculture said the increased insecurity in the country had adversely affected farming and general agricultural production in the country.
Mr Benjamin Onele, a Security expert and farmer also said that the constant farmers and herders conflicts posed a serious challenge for agricultural production in the country.
Mrs Clara Obi, an Agricultural Extension Agent, called for a review of agricultural policies in the country to make them practical instead of theoretical-oriented.
“Functionality of silos for instance should be taken seriously as most of them across the country are not functional but are reported to be functional through the media.
“Agricultural inputs do not reach most real farmers but are hijacked by middlemen who are not mostly farmers but theoretical agricultural experts,” Obi added.