2021 World Food Day: Is Nigeria food Secured?

16th October of each year is marked as the “World Food Day”. It is one of the most important days in the world as over 150 countries celebrate it annually with enthusiasm.

Several events and joint action with a singular Theme across these countries are what make the “World Food Day” a remarkable celebration of the United Nations. The joint action brings together governments, businesses, NGOs, and the media for awareness creation to the general public on the challenges and prospects of agriculture, food system, hunger, and malnutrition.

World Food Day (WFD) provides an opportunity for each country to assemble its stakeholders for conferences, symposia, and exhibitions as well as examines the different strategies adopted to reduce hunger and poverty. WFD is globally celebrated every year on 16 October in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which was formally established in 1945. FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference established WFD in November 1979. The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr. Pál Romány, played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. The occasion is also used to showcase innovations and inventions made by researchers, technicians, and craftsmen on the improvement of agricultural productivity.

Two years after the first WFD, the event was assigned a “theme” in 1981 and since then, “theme” was annually assigned to each WFD. The theme highlights common areas of concerns needing attention and action of policymakers, investors, and the general public, Examples; the theme of WFD of 2017 was “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development” while that of 2016 was “Climate change: Climate is changing, Food and agriculture must too”. The theme of WFD 2015 was “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty” and so on. The theme for this year, 2021 is “Our actions are our future- Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”. This is a smart way of sensitizing the World to work towards better food production, nutrition, preservation of the environment, and a better life for all and sundry. Is the world closed to achieving food security? How is Nigeria faring on food security matters?

As I am writing this piece, today, Sunday, 10th October 2021, the world population clock indicated a population of 7,928,629,694 people. With the current population increase rate of 215,000 per day, the world is inching to accommodate 10 billion people by the year 2050. Out of the current 7.9 billion people,   three billion or 38% of the population cannot afford healthy diets and are therefore not food secured. Meanwhile, overweight and obesity continue to increase worldwide according to FAO. This clearly shows the prodigious imbalance in food distribution; while few have 3-4 times more food than their actual need, the majority has less food than their need.  Understandably, The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems with devastating consequences.

The 2020 FAO report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” released this year indicates that the world is not on track to achieve “the SDG 2.1 Zero Hunger target by 2030”. The report further states “the number of people affected by hunger in the world continues to increase slowly. This trend started in 2014 and extends to 2019. There are nearly 60 million more undernourished people now (2020) than in 2014 when the prevalence was 8.6 percent – up by 10 million people between 2018 and 2019”.  Scarier is the situation of food security in Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa where Nigeria is located. The report indicates, “The prevalence of undernourishment in Africa was 19.1 percent of the population in 2019, or more than 250 million undernourished people, up from 17.6 percent in 2014. This prevalence is more than twice the world average (8.9 percent) and is the highest among all regions”.  The report concluded “In terms of the outlook for 2030, Africa is significantly off track to achieve the Zero Hunger target in 2030. If recent rates of increase persist, its prevalence of undernourishment will rise from 19.1 to 25.7 percent”. This is the global outlook of food security in the world, which indicates systematic deterioration of food and nutrition security excavated by climate change, political conflicts, and socio-economic insecurity. Now, how food secured is Nigeria?

Food security is a state in which food is quantitatively and qualitatively available, accessible, and affordable to meet the nutritional needs of the people over a given period. When available food does not conform with the aforementioned definition, then, the people living under such conditions are food insecure. That means a person is food insecure when he lacks regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development of an active and healthy life.  There are different levels of severity of food insecurity. When a person begins to experience uncertainty regarding the ability to obtain food, such person is graduating from food security to mild food insecurity. When a person begins to compromise on food quality and variety and starts reducing food quantity and skipping meals, such person has moved from mild food insecurity to moderate food insecurity. This person has insufficient money or resources for a healthy diet. Lastly, when a person goes without food for a day or more because of food unavailability, unaffordability, or inaccessibility, such a person is experiencing severe food insecurity.

Now, as Nigerians, what are our levels of food insecurity? What is the level of agricultural productivity in Nigeria? What are the challenges and ways forward?

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