BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Cross River state governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has called for improvement in the quality of food system so as to bring desired value.
He stated this at the National Consolidatory Dialogue on the United Nations Food Summit 2021 in Abuja.
According to him, ” for Nigeria to overcome the unpleasant challenge of stunted growth among her citizenry, the objective of the food system should go beyond financing and include nutrient content of food which entails food fortification.”
He said government must deliberately sponsor researches that would help improve food system in Nigeria like the Chinese did after the second world war having discovered that her people experienced stunted growth due to poor quality of food.
Ayade explained that food fortification was ‘precision technology aimed at improving quality of food, urging the federal government to as a matter of policy, also focus on food fortification while pursuing its food sufficiency agenda.
He added that super abundance of food with low nutrient quality would continue to lead to malnutrition and stunted growth as being experienced in the country.
“Again, there is a direct relationship between hunger and anger. When people became hungry, anger sets in. This anger often finds expression in restiveness and all sorts of crimes. So, food sufficiency is critical but food quality is twice as critical. All tiers of government have the responsibility to ensure that technology is made available to farmers to help improve our food system”, the governor inferred.
Ayade who chaired the event on behalf of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, maintained that the 21st century agriculture was driven by technology with focus on knowledge engineering, arguing that small-holders farming as presently practiced in the country was old-fashioned.
“In Thailand for instance, it is the responsibility of the government to provide irrigation, inputs, extension services and off takers. The responsibility of the farmer is to nurse his crops. We still practice 20th century agriculture system in Nigeria. We must entrench technology driven agriculture with focus on knowledge engineering, Ayade said”.
The governor who identified financing as a major setback to agriculture in the country submitted that it was very difficult for sub nationals to focus on agriculture considering the meagre allocation from the federation account accruing to many states who struggle to pay salaries.
His words; “It’s always very challenging for sub nationals whose federal allocation is not even enough to pay salaries to begin to focus on agriculture. If I was to speak at any forum, I would speak on food security, food system, theory and practice. In practice, most of the advice and suggestions given during the dialogue session are underpinned by financing. When there is no finance, there is very little you can do. The problems are known, the solutions are well articulated but the reality is that there is inadequate financing to drive the process to expected ends”.
“The federal government has a responsibility beyond budgetary provision, to take an extra step in collaboration with the United Nations in order to fully achieve the objectives of her agriculture revolution. It is sad that Nigeria is number 2 in the statistics of stunted growth in the world. We must be very committed to addressing issues at sub national level. One of my key focus is agriculture. I have set up agro-based industries in every senatorial districts of the state”
“Our investment in agriculture is massive. We are the largest producers of cassava in Nigeria. In Obubra, we have set up a cassava processing plant, that will produce commercial starch. We are fortifying our variety to produce quality cassava flour as alternative to wheat flour. You have to have a combination of knowledge and funding to be able to bring value otherwise we will continue to remain at the academic level”.
At the event was the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who had earlier declared the summit open before delegating Governor Ayade to chair proceedings on his behalf.
Other dignitaries at the event include Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ms. Amina Mohammed, Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Nanono; Health, Dr Osagie Ehinare; Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, and the convener of the Dialogue, Mrs Olusola Idowu.
Also at the event was Prof. Kola Amigo from the Ahmadu Bello University, who presented findings from the various UN Food System dialogues held in the country, as well as Nigeria’s development partners, and other dignitaries from the academia, private and public sectors..