For any country to banish hunger, the focus must be on the promotion of sustainable agriculture which will in turn facilitate food security and improved nutrition.
Our over dependence on oil export revenue and underestimation of Agriculture as a potential economic power house is gradually coming back to haunt us as a nation. The glut in the global oil market as a result of this pandemic clearly points to our vulnerability as a nation claiming to be the giant of Africa.
In the advent of a more brutal pandemic that may warrant months of total lockdown across all States, we may not be able to handle the possibility of mass starvation as a result of food shortage.
Already, in some cities, we are beginning to see the early signs of food scarcity. This may get worse if smallholder farmers who grow annuals and vegetables can no longer produce particularly during this farming season. This situation is rather imagined.
The truth is, we do not produce enough food; we do not have food reserves that can cushion the effect of famine; we have not invested in our smallholder farmers in terms of knowledge and empowerment; and we do not have social impact investments in the food system or Agriculture.
There is a disconnection between farmers and Government. Farmers do not have representation in Government. Farmers do not have a voice and it is only during emergencies like these that people see the importance of food production.
Our Agriculture is not getting the requisite investments and support from both the public and the private sector. The sector is a toddler grappling in the dark.
The Private sector have also focused and invested more on entertainment neglecting a sector that matters most. Financial institutions avoid Agriculture preferring to fund estate developers.
Now, we have to face a future without oil revenue. It will happen soon or sometime in the future and we may be stranded if we do not consider food as a right.
Food can become a Right in Nigeria if the Right to Food Bill is passed into law and an amendment of the constitution is made to that effect by the National Assembly.
Food has to be included as a fundamental human right explicitly listed in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. This is because ‘Food’ is a rights issue; a rights issue is the exclusive preserve of the constitution, not that of a subsidiary law.
Sola Kolawole Onikoyi is an agriculturist from Ikoyi Ile, Oyo State