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UN Food security report

Hunger looms as FAO lists Nigeria among endangered nations

Mile 1.2 Market, Lagos: Buyers have a trying Ume as sellers drive a hard bargain

WHEN countries in Europe, Americas and some parts of Africa, took to the streets protesting hunger or its threat, Nigerians were docile. Today, some of these countries have reduced the dangers posed by hunger. With the recent alarm raised by the United Nations Food And Agricultural Organisation, FAD, on Nigeria, it appears the country is poised to witness a food crisis. Though the country's Agriculture Minister recenUy downplayed the report, yet, it has raised questions on food security in Africa's most populous nation. CHARLES KUMOLU reports.

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THIS house reminds one of .1 a one eyed man in the land of the blind. Located about hundred metres away from the bank of River Rima tributory at Kwakwalawa. Even though it was constructed with modern blocks and corrugated iron sheets,its being surrounded by mud houses, would make one ignore its few modern features. But doing that is as good as passing a death sentence on one's mission to the community, as it(the modern house) is where Mallam Saidi Mohammed holds sway as the Maigari(community leader) of Kwakwalawa. As the Maigari of the community, Saidi oversees the affairs of this Sleeping town. But hiS duties appear to be more demanding now, especially after flooding nearly sacked the community laSt year., Though no life was lost, but the damages run into millions of naira, as farmlands were lost to the ravaging flood. little wonder he told v.mguard Features, VF, that food scarcity is imminent in the community and other p"rts of Nigeria. "Each household was given a bag of rice. millet and N20,OOO:OO. We have someone in this community, whose farmland contained about hundred bags of rice, today he can't boast of a plate of rice. We don't even have the ones to take to the markets because the water came before harvest. We lost fields of millet, sorghum, onions and cowpea. We are srared of

what will happen next year'.'Saidi told VF, in Sokoto. Last year's Soaring in the prices offood items from the North is a confirmation of Saidi's testimonies. This is why many are not surprised, that FAO listed Nigeria among countries that would experience food shortage in 2011. Acqording to, the report, Nigetia, MoiToco, Bangladesh and others listed, need to take preventive measures ill order to prevent food'insecurity. It warned about a further increase in global food prices in 2011 if there is no significant increase in production of major

edge upward. Nonetheless, while Nigeria's listing has not come as a surprise to many, particularly for those who witnessed the flooding that ravaged most states in the northern part of the country, Prof. Sheik Abdallah, Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture, is one man, who does not seem to agree withFAO. As far as he is concerned the UN agency's report is unfounded. Prof. Abdallah is angry that as the custodian of the nation's agricultural sector, FAO ought Fifteen percent to have consulted him before of world's population listing the country among are hungry endangered nations. He urged Nigerians not to bother over the report, adding According to the FAO report, that his opinion was not sought more than one billion people, or by the authors. 15 percent of the world's Though P.rof. Abdallah's population, suffer from chronic position is expected to douse hunger and malnutrition-either fears emanating from that because they cannot afford to eat report, VF investigations a healthy diet or the food i$ simply not available where they· revealed that Nigeria had long live. . . merited to be listed. "I don't think the FAO position The number of those who are is wrong, giving the fact that the hungry in the world has been country has been paying lip steadily increasing in recent service to the issue of fixing the years, up from 825 million in the mid· 1990s, and continues to ,agricultural sector. 1 have been food crops. The United Nations agency predicted that food prices will soar 10 to 20 percent in 2011 and warned nations to be prepared for "harder times ahead" unless production of major food crops increases significantly. The FAO report indicates that world grain reserves slumped 7.2 percent in 2010, with barley plunging 35 percent, maize (corn) 12 percent, and wheat 10 percent. The decline, it noted is due to dismal fall harvests.

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saying that it is unfortunate that over reliance on oil has not made it possible for the government to revive the agricultural sector. That explains why people would not be surprised about the FAO report, "Dr. Ausbeth Ajagu, Chairman of Betcy group of companies noted. As far as Ajagu is concerned, the only option lies in mechanised farming. "I have said that any country that does not embrace mechanisation would run short of food and that is why we are here today. In the face of this report, the only option is for the Federal government to invest in food cooperative society," he added. In addition he said, "They can also start buying tractors for farmers. in order to create efficiency and high productivity. For instance, these tractors .are used in Asian countries and the result is good. But they should be handy tractors in order to make it accessible by m()st farmers. I laugh each time I hear about the huge amount being budgeted for agriculture because the money does not even get to the farmers."

graduates gf;)t Lagos micro

finance loans BY OLASUKNOMI AKANMI

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HE Lagos State Government on October 3, 2009 launched an agricultural scheme, Agric·YES with the training of 100 youths on commercial farming. The State government with the smallest land area in the country and the largest estimated population of 18 million inhabitants has the greatest pressure on land resources as well as the socia-economic pressure of an army of unemployed and underemployed youths. Basically, the programme is aimed at addressing the increasing youth

unemploym!!ilt and reduce the rate of Development Goal (MDG). Approximately, poverty in the country as well as help to 200 trainees in two separate sessions of 100 build youths with passion for agriculture per session are to be produced each year. through intensive training and support that Requirements for admission into the would permit them to establish their own programme include a passion for fanning business. agriculture, possession of a recognised While, food security is one of the major . degree or diplomas from universities and items on the to·point Agenda of the polytechnics. minimum of a senior administration of Governor Babatunde secondary school certificates and Fashola, the intervention programme, satisfactory physical and health conditions. targeted to run for the period of five years Participants are made to go through commencing from 2009 to 2014, is intensive training for six months which expected to train and produce about 1.000 includes poultry farming, vegetable youths who must have been educated in farming and aquaculture farming, bee· various commercial intensive fanning that keeping and further training on could improve the rate of food production Continues on page 52 in Nigeria as it is one of the Millennium


VANGUARD, 31 JANUARY, 2011