The Global Food Security Mirage
When Russia invaded Ukraine, the prolonged conflict that ensued disrupted consistent supply of Wheat. Gradually, Bread, a staple food disappeared from the dining tables of some families, and in families that could still afford it, it was bought at double or triple the price pre Russian-Ukraine war.
One continent that felt this heat most is Africa. The continent was largely dependent on imported wheat. Ironically, the land size and arable land of countries that produces wheat like Ukraine is just a fraction of what Africa has. Though the African Development Bank (AFDB) eventually responded by providing funds to African nations to ramp up their wheat cultivation, it was one of those reactive moves than foresight moves accustomed with developing nations. The impact of AFDB intervention can only be felt later, as fund injection in Agriculture cultivation does not automatically translate to products. As keen players and observers in this industry, it’s worthy to note that results from reactive moves are usually low compared to results from proactive moves.
This recent challenge just described, reflects a foremost global issue, Food Security.
Food Security is a matter of utmost concern to the entire globe. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines it as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active healthy life. It refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.
The goal of the global food security of United Nations is to ensure every part of the entire globe is on same page with the drive to ensure food availability and sustainability. This also buttresses the reason why eradication of hunger is the second goal on the 17 UN SDGs. Based on this, it is therefore safe to expect that every nation of the world works towards achieving this goal at same pace.
Ironically, it seems the more the efforts in achieving this goal, the greater the challenges that arises daily. Here are some challenges that needs to be surmounted if all we pursue in attaining food security will not remain a mirage.
The Fault Line Tilt
It is common knowledge that playing to one’s strength is best. In this instance, one will think that huge land mass, enormous arable land, and high youthful population will be a major factor in reassuring the global community of where to expect the best of food security.
Incidentally, Africa falls within the bracket described above. However, it is ironic that all the facts listed do not currently help to change the narratives with African countries. As it is currently observed and expected in no time, the African continent will be a breeding ground for a huge catastrophe if there are no increased urgent steps to curtail it. The world may have too much in its hands to handle. Already, we are witnesses the growing risky migration across the Sahara, and the Atlantic Ocean. It seems what plays in the minds of those who stake all is, if I stay, I may not survive, and if I risk the journey, I may die also; either way, I am confronted with same possible result.
The disparity in achieving the much desired food security is too glaring. The fault line tilts so much towards the African continent.
The African continent is plagued with lots of challenges that are both human and nature induced. Some of these challenges includes drought, desertification, erosion, and flooding. Others are slow advancement in embracing and using technology, and frequent political quagmire and insecurity that keeps most farmers away from the farms, just to mention a few.
According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), about 19.4 million people will face food insecurity across Nigeria between June and August 2022. To proffer a holistic solution, there will be the need to fully understand the causes as earlier stated.
The narratives and culture that strengthens the poor UN-SDG goal performance must be addressed. The system in the African continent is fundamentally faulty and it needs adequate attention so that all intervention efforts can be more productive.
The Seeming Unachievable Mechanization, Extension Work & Funding Gap
In a survey conducted over 2 years through the Mile-12 market in Lagos Nigeria, it was discovered that less than 20% of agricultural products that lands there for sale comes from small holder farmers efforts who use little or no form of mechanization and shifting cultivation to cultivate and harvest their products. It was previously far worse than this until recently when some efforts were being put into more provision of mechanization. With this kind of farming practice, it’s impossible to matchup what obtains in other climes, and there is no way food security will not continue to be a mirage here in Africa.
When you visit most states or local governments Agric implement yards, you will discover that it is littered with un-serviced equipment meant for mechanized agriculture. To combat this malady, government intervention is required because of the capital involved in solving this challenge. Though many farmers have resolved to forming co-operatives to try find temporal solution as a team, as well as await lasting solution from government. Also, of these small-scale farmers who have tried to upgrade from subsistence to mechanized agriculture, there has been imbalance in access to credit facilities, hence they subscribe to cooperatives and thrifts, but the amount gotten from this method cannot yield a transformation to large scale production.
Blait (1996) pointed out that the least expensive input for improved rural agricultural development is adequate access to knowledge and information in areas of new agricultural technologies, early warning systems (drought, pests, diseases etc), improved seedlings, fertilizer, credit, market prices etc. There have been short-comings of traditional print and library-based methods (Van and Fortier, 2000) of providing such agricultural information to rural farmers who are generally illiterate and relatively remote from formal sources of information (e.g. extension stations, libraries). Aina (2007) also, believed farmers would benefit from global information, if information centres, are cited in rural areas complete with all information and communication gadgets. Although the government with the Agricultural extension workers organise programmes, this is still a piece meal considering the enormous need.
Logistics and Post-Harvest Challenges
There can be nothing so demoralizing like seeing your efforts go down the drain when harvested farms products rot away right before your eyes as a farmer.
Already farmers face low productivity constraints due to the scale of production. When the products are finally ready, they are faced again with poor marketing and marketing channels. In this instance, products sometimes get spoilt even before reaching the wholesalers that will further distribute the food so that it gets to the consumers at the nick of time. There is also distribution infrastructures challenge, among others. An attempt to ameliorate the constraints by the Federal Government of Nigeria was the adoption of the Agricultural Policy for Nigeria in 1988 (FMARD, 2000).
Farmers encounter high production costs in their efforts to boost production but hardly get fair pricing of their products from the middlemen, and the bulk farm gate buyers. The real profit goes to the middlemen who buy up the farm products at almost give away prices and sell at outrageous prices to the consumers.
Economic policies must encourage the spring up of more processing companies or cottage industries to help check these issues.
A combination of all these issues, coupled with poor road networks to the rural areas where most of the farming activities takes place, and high cost of transportation, contributes to the rising cost of food. Transporters and middlemen will continue to have a fare share of the bargain at the detriment of the farmers who are the real producers.
The Impending Livestock Availability & Affordability Implosion
According to a 2020 Nutritional Advisory for a strong Immune system issued by the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON), “An important note is that complete protein is found only in animal protein such as meat, fish, and eggs. Plant protein will give us one type of protein or the other. Eggs remain the cheapest source of complete protein in Nigeria”.
Despite these profound and interesting findings from SOFPON, the availability and affordability of animal based protein rich food is currently highly threatened. This is largely due to the consistent increase in livestock production inputs such as feeds, medications, and farms workers who now prefer to indulge in internet fraud to get quick wealth.
These reasons have led to the shutdown of farms or capacity underutilization of operating farms. Also, this is one of the reasons the herders resist ranching because they feel the cost of feeding their livestock will be too high, with attendant impact on the selling price of their cows.
If this trend is not quickly checked and nipped in the bud, we are indirectly beckoning on malnutrition prevalence in the land.
The next better time for us as a nation, and continent to address these issues is now. The UN Zero hunger goal is not only threatened but increasingly becoming unrealistic as more of these challenges overwhelms. The recent wheat problem attests to this.
Nations must arise to combat this menace except we believe deep down within us that food security is noting but a mirage. In that case, lets just live our lives and continue the lamentations.
- US Department of Agriculture, (2019). Definitions of Food Security. Available online at: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx
- Read https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Africa/Nigeria-AGRICULTURE.html#ixzz7UsSPc2Wa
- Issues for Agricultural Extension Policy in Nigeria Koyenikan, M. J. Projects Coordinating Unit (PCU)/Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (FMAWR), Regional Office, P.M.B. 1210, Benin City. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org