Zero Hunger (Goal 2), is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations in 2015. It seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by year 2030 and to achieve food security. This is to ensure that everyone (male or female, young or old, rich or poor, black or white), around the world, has enough good quality food to lead a healthy life. Though the fight against hunger has seen considerable progress over the years, more than 790 million people globally still lack regular access to adequate food. The devastation caused by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the global food situation and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, since February 24, 2022, make the world’s hunger crisis even tougher to fight. The zero-hunger target may surely be missed by 2030!
Preliminary estimates made in 2014 and 2015, by the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, for about 150 countries, reveal that food insecurity is most prevalent in Africa. More than half of the adult population in this continent face moderate to severe levels of food shortage. In Nigeria, food insecurity is further compounded by human-induced disasters and political instability. Growing up, a balanced diet was defined as a diet that contains differing kinds of foods in certain quantities and proportions so that the requirement for calories, proteins, minerals, vitamins and alternative nutrients is adequate and a small provision is reserved for additional nutrients to endure the short length of leanness. This is fast getting out of reach to the average Nigerian.
Let us take a look at the economics of the festering war between Russia and Ukraine. The countries are two of the world’s major suppliers of wheat, fertilizer and gas. Russia and Ukraine are in the first and fifth positions globally, respectively in the production of wheat with their production volumes being almost one-third of global production. Ukraine is one of the largest producers of maize. Russia and Ukraine produce almost 30 percent of the world’s urea and 26 percent of the world’s potash. Russia is the second largest producer of dry natural gas. The world economy is already feeling the impact on global supply chains. In developing countries as Nigeria, the effect is overwhelming. Currently, this is reflected in skyrocketing prices of goods and services from January to March 2022. Wheat is the third most widely-consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. The country imported 27 and 4 percent of wheat from Russia and Ukraine, respectively in 2021. Products from wheat as bread sold for N300 has increased to N500, 25kg bag of poultry feed sells at N7,500 from N6,500, crate of egg from N1,500 to N1,900, spent layer from N2,500 to N3,500. Petrol sells for more than N200/litre from N166/litre, diesel from N288/litre to above N700/litre, cooking gas at N650/kg; 50kg fertilizer from N8,800 to above N18,000. These products are also now very scarce and difficult to get.
The COVID-19 pandemic plunged 26 million Africans into extreme poverty. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has maintained the infamous position as the poverty capital of the world, as no less than 40 percent of Nigerians presently live below the poverty line. With the minimum wage of N30,000, which many states of the federation are unable or unwilling to pay, this looming food crisis, plus the accelerating inflation, is going to see a couple of million more people fall into extreme poverty. This is because food accounts for roughly 65 percent of many households expenditure. Most people are looking at only one or two meals a day. Hmmmm, “ohun ti eye ba je, ni eye ma gbe fo ooooo”. The President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, and the Chief Executive Officer of Flour Mills of Nigeria, Boye Olusanya, have warned that the health and well-being of Nigerians will severely be affected by a protracted crisis and urged the Nigerian government and other stakeholders to appraise the situation and address what is coming down the road.
Sequel to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Europe has realised the need to diversify its energy dependence on Russia (45 percent of all of its gas). A place to look to is Africa, and Nigeria (the giant of Africa), can be a major harvester of this opportunity. Firstly, the Federal Government needs to deploy the instrument of diplomacy in reaching out to well-meaning world powers towards a speedy and timely resolution of this crisis. Secondly, Nigeria is in the top 11 crude oil producing countries in the world yet, it is the only member country of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that imports 90 to 95 percent of refined petroleum products to meet its domestic consumption. This is such a shame! Refurbishing our refineries to refine our crude oil remains the most sustainable option, especially when we consider the huge cost of subsidy. In addition, increasing the production of liquified natural gas for domestic consumption and export is necessary.
Lastly, diversification of the economy cannot be over-emphasised. Between 1962 and 1968, export crops were Nigeria’s main foreign exchange earner. The country was number one globally in palm oil exports, well ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia, provided 18 percent of the global production of cocoa, second in the world, and exported 47 percent of all groundnuts, putting it ahead of USA and Argentina. Several agricultural commodities such as cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton, maize, oil palm, soya bean, onion, rice, wheat and sorghum could be developed into huge export earners. Livestock and fish productions also make strong contributions as sources of high nutritional value and micronutrients, as well as contributing to the income of those engaged in the production, processing and marketing chains at national and international level, ultimately to Nigeria’s gross domestic product. The country needs to look inwards and engage relevant stakeholders. The role of veterinarians from ‘farm to fork’, ensuring food safety and food security, is consequently one of the guarantors of the stability and programmed development of the world food system through activities deployed at each stage in the system.
Some of the challenges facing the agricultural sector have been youth apathy for farming, infrastructural problems such as poor energy supply, bad road networks for distribution of farm produce, limited storage facilities, lack of capital and inadequate loan facilities, land policy, absence of political will and insecurity. The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, once advised that it is possible to redeem the situation, through knowing science, knowing technology, and deploying the right instruments at the right time. Nigeria’s huge population and the consistent demand for agricultural products offers wonderful opportunities to investors. The question now is, what are we doing that such whooping amount of money has to go to other countries economy? The time is now for young, savvy entrepreneurs to break into the agricultural sector and feed the nation. This will not only ensure food security, but will also foster peace and security of lives and property as several idle minds can be taken off the streets. Let there be food for all!
Dr. Adenubi, an Associate Professor and Veterinarian, can be reached via, +2348025409691, firstname.lastname@example.org