By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
Food, water, air and shelter are the most essential elements for life and living in every part of the world; and it is so in all past, present and even in future eras. But in this piece it is the significance and importance of food these days that will be highlighted.
Without food security, human beings can find it almost impossible to survive and engage in other activities that contribute to a blissful and dynamic life and living on earth. All it takes to achieve food security are food availability, affordability and adequately nutritious to make man function properly. Thus, the food matter is a big matter.
In Nigeria, there is a manufactured feeling, some may say, belief, that Nigeria is in hunger. The mass media, especially FM Radio stations which broadcast journalists largely operate as “citizen journalists,” dish out views and opinions that seem to suggest that the country is facing famine. They do this, typically, without reliable or real-time facts to support their claims.
And mentioning “hunger” in conversations has become a routine, not because hunger is indeed rampaging in Nigeria, but simply because of the mass conditioning of minds by “citizen journalists” who work for countless FM Radio stations in the country.
Many of the stations, escially those in Lagos and Abuja, continuously relay stale stories of high prices of food commodities, occassionally based on what the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported for the previous three months to their audiences. This is done without reflecting the current prices of individual commodities that have fallen despite high cost of transportation and the big scramble for commodities by frightened hoarders of Naira notes. The truth is that newly-harvested stable food commdities are being delivered to market massively.
This reality caused drops in the prices of new yam, millet, maize, cowpea, sweet and Irish potatoes, cocoyam, groundnuts, Bambara nuts, sorghum, and indeed all the stables except paddy rice. However, most operatives of the FM Radio stations and writers in newspapers are based in cities. They shop in pricy super markets as opposed to open air markets. They rarely pay attention to what is happening outside those big cities. Thus, they can hardly discern the general downward trend in food prices.
Being the largest producer of yams and cassava in the world, these food crops are available all-year round and affordable in most parts of the year in Nigeria. The country is among the top ten world producers of pearl millet, food sorghum, cowpea, groundnuts, maize and all the main stables consumed in the country. Such commodities are cheaper in Nigeria than in sister African countries. Merchants and end-users from ECOWAS member countries, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and even further afield, come to Nigeria in droves to buy such commodities in large quantities. This is the truth.
It is worthy of note that some of the commentators on food prices genuinely fear that the floods that affected the country this year (2022) may negatively affect food production, cause massive food scarcity and bring “famine” to Nigeria. This is not necessarily so.
The flooding that sadly claimed hundreds of lives of our compatrios, devastated crops on farms, regrettably destroyed houses and other public infrastructure, can still be turned into some positive use as was done by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the 2011-2012 flooding. Then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, advised what the country could do to turn the misfortune of the flood into good use.
The Federal government accepted the idea. Seeds, seedlings and other essential inputs were rapidly supplied to farmers. They were encouraged to cultivate the flooded plains after the water has receeded. The flood water has brought with it orgnic debris that enriched the soils.
The soil was so wet and retained moisture long enough for the crops to grow and mature. The result was a bumper harvest in the affected areas. It is not too late to replicate that effort regarding the 2022 flooding.
Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is a senior journalist.