The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Nigeria (AGRA) recently had a Webinar on “Securing the 2020 Cropping Season in the face of COVID-19 Pandemic” with stakeholders in the sector.
The participants include Dr Mua’zu Abdulkadir, Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Professor Muhammed Khali Othman, Executive Director National Agriculture Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Professor Victor Okechukwu Chude, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer Nigerian Institute of Soil Science and African Soil Partnerships.
Others are Dr Udugmenar Abdul, Mena Programme Lead Agribusiness and Mineral Resource Foundation, Madam Halima Lawal, Commissioner for Agriculture Kaduna State, Mr Ayodeji Balogun, Chief Executive Officer AFEX Nigeria Market Creators and Mr Mezuo Nwuneli, Managing Partner Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers.
The panellists discussed the current trends affecting the achievement of food security in Nigeria specifically Covid-19 and flooding.
After the meeting, resolutions were made to develop a pathway to build a resilient agriculture sector during and post covid-19, which includes the introduction of the tech-based communication network among stakeholders, distribution of stimulus packages to farmers/households and issuance of permits to farmers to enable continuous farm operations at the local government level.
According to experts, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts to guarantee food security in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
With the present geometric increase in world population, it has been predicted by the World Population Prospect (WPP) that in 2050 Nigeria’s population is estimated at 402million, which is more than double the present population; this according to the experts, calls for an urgent action to sustain the growing population through the resilient agricultural framework.
The experts said the urgency to develop a resilient pathway to ensure food security cannot be overemphasized with the present pandemic outbreak.
Prior to the pandemic, AGRA has funded projects to increase productivity through enhanced agro-processing practices, although in current times, the success of ongoing projects seems to be threatened due to the pandemic.
In a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government of Nigeria has initiated a lockdown to prevent further spread of covid-19.
This impacted food supply chains negatively, stakeholders along the value chain were stranded with agricultural produces on transit and farmers faced challenges accessing their farms.
These have brought up key questions in the agricultural sector focusing on the pathway to mitigate crop loss and build agriculture resilient practices to achieve food security during the pandemic and post Covid-19.
The challenges associated with smallholder farmers’ empowerment, access to agricultural inputs, the resilience of extension service programs and improvement of agro-processing practices has to be addressed to achieve food security both during and post COVID-19 period.
Though these issues are prevalent there seems to be “a silver lining beneath the clouds”. This outbreak has shown a dire need and opportunity for actual diversification of the country’s economy to agriculture.
To ensure food security, the Federal government embarked on humanitarian activities that included the distribution of food items to households and the approval of the release of 77,000 tonnes of assorted grains to farmers.
This was done specifically to support smallholder farmers in remote communities.
Transporters were given formal permits from the government to ensure easy transit of agricultural products to consumers and the price of fertilizer has been reduced from ₦5500 to ₦5,000 to help farmers during the planting season.
Also, plans were being made to initiate tech-based coordination to involve all stakeholders in the extension programs to move on with planned projects.
Though the issue of understaffing and underfunding needs to be addressed, to some extent this has been mitigated through the Community Based Advisor (CBA) model which is focused on building capacity to ensure a sustainable impact.
Madam Halima Lawal, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Kaduna State stated the importance of involving women in the development of an agriculture resilient pathway.
She said in a time like this, it is imperative to involve women smallholder farmers who are zealous to go back to their farms to work. In her words “if you ignore your other half, you are already halfway to your failure”.