Of shortage of food,shortage of will
“POOR RESEARCH CAUSES FOOD SHORTAGE.” “LOCAL TOMATOES WASTING AS N11.7BN FOREIGN IS IMPORTED.”“GOV WADA TASKS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON RICE IMPORTATION.”“HOW IMPORTATION OF PALM OIL IS KILLING LOCAL INDUSTRIES.”“FOOD SECURITY UNDER THREAT IN YOBE.”
These are headlines in two editions of Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper (www.dailytrust.info) on the 4th and 11thof July 2013.Ordinarily, they demonstrated a recognition of the problem and, by conjecture, a will to cause change. But the change appears to be slow. Policies such as the scheme known as Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending System (NIRSAL)implore banks to lend to commercial farmers while the risk is covered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). But as there aren’t so many commercial farmers and the policy is coming when the current CBN governor is gearing up to complete his tenure, it is unclear what the impact of this
policy can be for sustainable food production.
And Nigeria is not alone in this. Ghana’s food imports make headlines too as Ghanaians, like their Nigerian counterparts; prefer foreign (and thus imported) foods such as rice and tomatoes. This hasn’t helped the country’s ranking on the Food Security Index: it ranks 67th out of 107 countries. Even then, Ghana is still the 3rd most food-secure country in Africa after South Africa and Botswana. Nigeria is 86th.
What’s more dreary is the contribution of other factors to stifling productivity, as stated in the Conversation segment of this newsletter. Poor infrastructure leads to poorer access to markets and increase in post-harvest losses. Farmers get poor remuneration for their productivity (which dwindles with each year) when draughts, floods and other effects of climate change factor themselves in. Of great significance is the place of conflict and political instability in declining food security as seen in Mali, with the civil unrest there, and on a smaller scale in Yobe State, Nigeria, where the Boko Haram have been on rampage.
What is the place of improved varieties of seedlings in ensuring food security in West Africa as reported in Burkina Faso and some other countries in the region? Farmers need access to new varieties and loans and land and extension services, but a lot needs to be done about ensuring political stability. This is the context in which Prof Kenneth Omeje’s piece on Liberia finds a place in this edition. His article on neopatrimonial impunity in post-war Liberia argues that even though there is a semblance of peace in President Johnson-Sirleaf’s country, instability can befall Liberia again if she tries to foist one of her three sons to take over the reins of power as she completes her second term. Omeje writes that Madam Sirleaf’s sons already head the National Oil Company of Liberia and the National Security Agency, while another is the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia. This is food for thought about food security in West Africa. –Odoh Diego Okenyodo