Averting Food Crisis | THISDAYLIVE

Oluchi Chibuzor highlights the urgent need for government to provide a buffer against food crisis, given that 14.6 per cent of Nigeria’s population is undernourished, coupled with 16.82 per cent food inflation

Despite African Union’s (AU) declaration of 2022 as the year of Nutrition for Africa in order to fight against hunger and malnutrition on the continent, Africa is still worst off in the current global food shortages, as hunger crisis continue to bite hard on individuals.

Concerned by these developments, the 32nd session of the Food Agriculture and Organisation (FAO) Regional Conference for Africa recently concluded in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, saw over 62 Ministers from 54 African countries participate in the conference with one clear commitment to raise ambitions for Sustainable Development Goals, with a common mission to end poverty and hunger.

The timing of the event was so critical as the number of malnourished people on the continent reached 282 million in 2020. Millions of children in Africa are threatened by the day, due to malnutrition.

Going by these horrifying indicators, AU stated that with the rising food prices and the low purchasing power of many Africans, the threat of social unrest becomes more pronounced, as almost one in five Africans go hungry every day, with many of them living in rural areas. 

Given the above statistics, some 155 million people in 55 countries – mostly in Africa – experienced a food crisis in 2020, representing an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year, according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2021.

The 2021 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC 2021) highlighted the high rate of people facing food crisis in 55 countries/territories, driven by persistent conflict, and COVID-19-related economic shocks, and weather extremes.

Worrisome to note is that two-thirds of these people lived in 10 countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo (21.8 million), Yemen (13.5 million), Afghanistan (13.2 million), Syrian Arab Republic (12.4 million), Sudan (9.6 million), Nigeria (9.2 million), Ethiopia (8.6 million), South Sudan (6.5 million), Zimbabwe (4.3 million) and Haiti (4.1 million).

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, warned that hunger and poverty combined with inequality, climate shocks and tensions over land and resources, could spark and drive conflict.

For Nigeria, nearly 1,000 Nigerian children die of malnutrition-related causes every day – a total of 361,000 annually.  With an approximate 2.1 million Nigerian under five children affected by malnutrition, Nigeria is said to account for one tenth of the global total. 

The prevalence of chronic malnutrition among women of child-bearing age in Nigeria was put at 11.6 per cent, with 14.2 per cent and 5.7 per cent overweight and obese, respectively.

What is worrisome about these figures is that Nigeria is ranked 103 out of 116 countries in 2021 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2021, which also stated that about 14.6 per cent of the nation’s population was undernourished. According to the report Nigeria has a score of 28.3, showing that Nigeria’s hunger crisis has reached a worrisome point, like a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment.

The report also revealed that 32.5 per cent of children under five were stunted as 11.7 per cent of children die before their fifth birthday, with 6.5 per cent of children under five being wasted. 

Supporting Agrifood System

An urgent calls for the transformation of agrifood systems, to make them more inclusive, economically viable and resilient to multiple shocks, as well as to produce better and more with less negative impact on the environment recent times, are generating concerns globally.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting held at the United Nations, titled, “Global Food Security Call to Action,” the Director-General, FAO, Qu Dongyu, affirmed that cumulative effects of multiple shocks related to conflicts, the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, rising food prices have increased people’s vulnerability and pushed hundreds of millions of more people to the brink of hunger.

According to the Global Report on Food Crisis released in 2021, about193 million people were acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across 53 countries/territories. Projections point to around 329 000 people reaching catastrophic food insecurity (IPC 5) in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen by the end of 2022.

However, according to the FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition Report 2021, malnutrition rates have also increased, with millions of children suffering from stunting or wasting whereas a healthy diet is out of reach for 3 billion people. 

Moreover, as the budgets of governments and consumers have been squeezed tighter and countries’ income per capita has shrunk, creating a cumulative loss to the global economy of more than $12 trillion over two years (2020-21), Qu expressed concern over the lack of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

With the FAO Food Price Index reaching its highest level since its inception in 1990, Qu warned about the cascading impact of the war in Ukraine that could further exacerbate global food prices since Russia and Ukraine are dominant players in highly concentrated global grain markets. 

Hunger Crisis Persist 

Based on current GHI projections, the world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve a low level of hunger by 2030, making the fight against hunger dangerously off track.

The report noted that food security is under assault on multiple fronts, worsening conflict, weather extremes associated with global climate change, and the economic and health challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are all driving hunger.

After decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment – a component of the Global Hunger Index – is increasing.

This shift may be a leading indicator of reversals in other measures of hunger, Africa- South of the Sahara and South Asia are the world regions where hunger levels are highest. Hunger in both regions is considered serious.

According to the 2021 GHI scores and provisional designations, drawing on data from 2016–2020, hunger is considered extremely alarming in one country (Somalia), alarming in 9 countries, and serious in 37 countries.

Also inequality-between regions, countries, districts, and communities – is pervasive and, left unchecked, will keep the world from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mandate to “leave no one behind.”

Speaking recently during atraining for journalists on SDGs, a representative from the office of the senior special assistant to the president on SDG, in partnership with United Nation Information Centre (UNIC), Dr. Bala Yusuf, said the Nigerian government has demonstrated strong commitment towards the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

He maintained that the SDGs Institutional Frameworks have been established at the national and sub national levels to support effective implementation of the SDGs.

He said the SDGs cannot be achieved with stand-alone programmes and projects, adding that they must be carefully integrated into national and sub national policies and development plans.

FAO’s Strategic Framework 

In the ministerial declaration during the 32nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa ministers, they welcomed the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, which shapes the organisation’s work towards achieving the SDGs under the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all, leaving no one behind. 

“We call on our partners to support our efforts through enhancing investments as we step up our efforts towards the transformation of agrifood systems through the implementation of the Four Betters,” Deputy Minister for Agriculture of Tanzania, Anthony Peter Mavunde said, reading the declaration on behalf of the ministers.

The ministers also affirmed the centrality of women and young people in Africa’s transformation of agrifood systems, and called on FAO to accelerate concrete actions to tackle the impacts of the climate crisis – calling it a major threat to the African region.

Deepening its work on the continent, the FAO Director-General, launched a set of investment guidelines for youth in agrifood systems in Africa, together with the African Union Commission. 

It is expected that these guidelines should be incorporated into countries’ policies as youth are the future of Africa.

Commenting on the roles of the youth in agric food systems, Partner at, Sahel Capital, Olumide Lawson, said a good investment model would have to stem from addressing all the dynamism that is currently being seen in the space now.

He noted that the rapidly changing food and agricultural landscape and social economic demographics, which in themselves are creating opportunities to not only invest in but also build transformational companies within the sector.

According to him, opportunities to fund youths initiatives would principally come from the youths itself as seen in most other sectors, adding that viable business ideas by youth which address key economic concerns or provide for clear gaps in the economy generally, will attract funds. 

Public Policy and Investment Prioritisation

Recently, the NBS Consumer Price Index (CPI) report released for the month of April showed that food inflation rose to 18.37 per cent in the review month, an increase compared to the 17.2 per cent recorded in the preceding month.

NBS said: “This rise in the food index was caused by increases in the prices of bread and cereals, food products, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, wine, fish, meat, and oil.”

However, In terms of food inflation, Kogi recorded the highest year-on-year increase in the food index with 22.79 per cent in April 2022, Kwara State followed with 21.56 per cent, and Ebonyi (21.45 per cent), while Sokoto (14.85 per cent), Kaduna (15.55 per cent) and Anambra (16.68 per cent) recorded the slowest rise in year-on-year food inflation.

Also Nigeria’s inflation rose to 16.82 per cent in April 2022, following a similar uptick recorded in the previous month as a result of the increase in energy and food prices,  this represents the highest rate recorded since August 2021, which is highest in eight months.

With the current level of inflation governments just need to better understand how their policies affect the prices of commodities or products along the value chain by assessing price incentives indicators at producer, wholesale and retail stages. 

Meanwhile, local industry analysts called on the federal government to take swift and deliberate action to cushion the effects of the disruptions in the global wheat market on Nigeria’s wheat value chain. 

The analysts made the call in a recently published review of the global wheat market following the war between the two top wheat exporting countries – Russia and Ukraine. 

According to the analysts, the multifaceted value chain crises, including the shortage of foreign exchange, mounting freight charges, and hike in the price of diesel, worsened by the war continue to take a heavy toll on the wheat value chain.

Citing urgent actions that must be taken to avert production and major food inflation crisis, the experts proposed the wider adoption of the agriculture value chain intervention model developed by the Senegalese government. 

Revamping Rural Economic System

It is evidently clear that the war in Ukraine has pushed food, fuel and fertiliser prices toward record levels putting food security in many of the world’s poorest countries at risk.

Going by this, The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a Crisis Response Initiative to ensure that small-scale farmers in high-risk countries can produce food over the next few months to feed their families and communities while reducing the threat to future harvests.

According to the President of IFAD, Gilbert Houngbo, the disruption to global markets is shaking food systems to the core. 

“This is particularly alarming for countries already grappling with the impacts of climate change and COVID-19, where more people are likely to be pushed further into poverty and hunger. IFAD’s new initiative will help protect livelihoods and markets so that the most vulnerable people can continue to feed their families and communities, and thrive for a better future,” Houngbo said.

IFAD, however, called on its Member States to contribute to the significant resources required to cover all 22 countries listed in the Initiative as priorities based on measures of need. 

Combating Climate Change

According to Feed the Future, in the face of major shocks to global food security, Russia-Ukraine crisis and the historically high levels of food insecurity in West Africa, strengthening resilience is the key to taking on another challenge – the climate crisis.

It noted that from record-breaking temperatures, droughts to devastating floods, the climate crisis is disrupting how communities grow and access nourishing food.