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Don to FG: Tackle food shortage urgently, change Nigeria’s current status as world’s poverty headquarters

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For sustainable food self-sufficiency and food security in the country, the Federal Government has been urged to urgently tackle food shortage in the country in a bid to change its current status as the headquarters of global poverty.

According to a university don, Prof.Taye Babaleye, feeding a population of over 200 million Nigerians is a big business and a task that must be accomplished.

Babaleye, a Professor of Mass Communication and Media Technology at the Lead City University, Ibadan, stated this in his inaugural lecture, entitled: “Participatory Agricultural Communication with Rural Farmers: Potentials and Panacea for Food Self-Sufficiency and Food Security in Nigeria’’, delivered at the university.

“If the problem of food shortage can be solved in Nigeria the challenge of the country as the headquarters of global poverty will be drastically reduced.

“Subsequent Nigerian leaders thereafter, missed the opportunity of perpetuating and sustaining that golden era of food self-sufficiency by neglecting agriculture after the discovery of crude oil as the country’s foreign exchange earner.

“Regrettably, since the Nigerian independence in 1960, the country has continued to be bedeviled by a mirage of problems that seem to have defied solutions. These include political instability, tribalism or ethnicity, religious intolerance, poverty, corruption and national insecurity.

“Others are the falling infrastructural standards of education, paucity of modern and well-equipped health institutions, unemployment, corruption among Nigerian political leaders and their followers, leading to complete moral decadence in all sectors of our national life.

“Apart from large scale corruption, perhaps the most stubborn challenge that has defied solutions till date is that of food self-insufficiency and food insecurity in the land. Over the years, the Federal Government has introduced series of agricultural policies with a view to improving the situation but regrettably, food deficit in Nigeria has continued unabated.

“According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (2016), before independence in 1960, agriculture was contributing 85% of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings, 90% of employment generation and about 80% to the gross domestic product (GDP),’’

“Available data also confirms that shortly after the first military coup in Nigeria in 1966, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP dropped to about 60%, which was typical of developing agrarian nations of the period. Since then, agricultural contribution to Nigeria’s GDP has continued to dwindle gradually in spite of the annual 3% growth in Nigerian population (World Bank, 2020),’’Persecondnews quotes Babaleye as positing in his presentation.

Stressing that food insecurity is more than hunger, the professor said it was the beginning of starvation affecting most vulnerable sectors of the society.

According to him, the vulnerable sector includes the hordes of children, boys and girls who parade the streets in major cities eking a living from dumpsites and dustbins looking for left-overs to fill their stomachs.

“The vulnerable also includes the urban poor like men and women who sleep under bridges in cities; the beggars at road sides and all those who take begging as their profession especially on major streets. They also show up at social functions such as wedding parties, house warming occasions, naming ceremonies, funeral ceremonies for senior citizens and on any occasion where food is served to guests in abundance.

“The vulnerable may also include the so-called area boys who are mainly school drop outs or stack illiterates who lend themselves to crime as hoodlums out of frustration in major cities.’’

On food self-sufficiency and food security, Babaleye explained that food self-sufficiency is the availability of food from the production level in the farmer’s field to the dining table.

“But food security involves food production, processing and marketing. It is the availability of both raw and processed food, distributed to all nooks and corners of the country at affordable prices. In Nigeria for instance, food security is a situation whereby everybody will have access to balanced diets at affordable costs both in the rural areas and at the urban centers,’’ he said.

The professor of mass communication also suggested that government at state and federal levels should also make practical agricultural science a compulsory subject in all secondary schools in the rural areas of the country as part of efforts to get youths to take to farming.

Babaleye also wants agricultural communication courses introduced at the postgraduate level in the Departments of Mass Communication in the nation’s universities.

Such a move, he said, help to produce communication specialists in the agricultural value-chain, pointing out that one major consequence of the neglect of agriculture is that many people who depend on the media to have more knowledge of any aspect of agriculture are cut off.

He called for the diversification of media practice to give a pride of place to agriculture and environmental reporting in Nigerian media practice.

“There is need to make media practice in Nigeria all inclusive, rather than concentrating only on politics and socio-economic aspects alone by majority of Nigerian journalists.’’

On government’s emergency agricultural policies and impact on food production, Babaleye said: “In Nigeria, there is a plethora of Agricultural Development Policies introduced by the Federal Government to improve food production. However, most of the policies are only good on paper but are poorly implemented.

“The result is that every government in power at the center would jettison agricultural policies of past administrations and introduce new ones which would also be rejected by a succeeding administration in next few years. Even when a political party rules consistently for eight or more years, the Minister of Agriculture, rather than implementing the old policy introduced by his/her predecessor, would push that aside and introduce new ones.

“The current Buhari Administration came into power in 2015 and, as usual, pushed aside the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the Goodluck Jonathan administration and introduced yet a new policy known as Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP). Suffice it to say that such a situation is purely an evidence of political mistrust, instability and inconsistency as far as Nigerian agricultural development plans and programmes are concerned.

“Currently, it appears that the present administration is actually taking steps to ensure food self-sufficiency first, by banning the importation of certain food commodities especially rice, and secondly, by encouraging local rice and maize production through the support of the Central Bank that has set aside some seed money for advancement to the farmers.’’

To guarantee sustainable food self-sufficiency and food security in Nigeria, the don suggested that the Federal Government should take advantage of IITA and borrow from the various basic and applied research findings with abundance of data available in that center to support rural farmers.

“There is need to adopt and promote Participatory Agricultural Communication with Famers (PAComm) Model of Extension to enhance food crop productivity using the crop based Farmers Associations in the rural areas of Nigeria.’’

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kabiru Adeyemo, had lauded Babaleye for his contributions to the body of knowledge particularly in the field of mass communication, agricultural and environmental journalism.

Babaleye has published nine books in the fields of Agricultural Communication, Public Relations and other arms of Mass Communication among other publications.

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