Food inflation: Nutritional farming to the rescue? – EnviroNews

Rising food prices due to insecurity, economic downturn, high cost of transport and climate change are reshaping Nigeria’s agricultural landscape.

The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari

Granted, the Federal Government is making vigorous and multifaceted efforts to tackle food insecurity and reduce inflation, but soaring food prices continue to weigh on the average Nigerian.

To that end, families are looking for innovative solutions and stopgap measures to combat rising food prices.

An increasing number of Nigerian households are turning to subsistence farming as a means of ensuring food security and affordability.

The hope for these families is that subsistence farming, particularly home gardens, can provide a regular main source of diet and nutrition and reduce dependence on often expensive commercial food products.

Mrs. Rose Maiwada, a school teacher and Mrs. Blessing Yakubu, a trader, are at the forefront of advocacy to sustain basics for personal consumption and community resilience.

“I am a school teacher with four children without a husband; when I realized that my salary could no longer support the family due to the increase in the prices of food items, I had to clean the back of my house where I planted vegetables and some grains.

“I bagged yams and potatoes, tomatoes and other basic household items that I need for my personal consumption.

“This has helped my family a lot; I no longer spend money on buying some food items and meat because I grow the basic things I need for my consumption, I also have small poultry,” said Maiwada.

On her part, Yakubu said the rise in the prices of food items made her think of taking up farming.

“As a trader, when people come to the market and you tell them the price of the item, I often get depressed looks on their faces; how I wish I could give the goods away for free,” she said.

It is worth noting that an NGO, Global Alliances for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), recently empowered at least 1,760 families with their home gardening inputs to improve nutrition indices in four LGAs of Kaduna State in order to boost subsistence farming.

Vegetable seeds (Amaranthus and tomato seeds), orange-fleshed sweet potato vines, organic fertilizers, and water cans were given to the 440 beneficiary families.

GAIN’s, Mr. Francis Aderibigbe, said the initiative was launched as a critical part of the Workforce Nutrition Component within the Strengthening of Nutrition in Priority Staples (SNiPS) Project.

Aderibigbe, who is the Project Coordinator of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an implementing partner of the GAIN Home Garden Initiative, said the exercise was designed to provide support to farming families, farmers, farm workers and processors in the rice and maize value chains .

He explained that the Workforce Nutrition Component focused on increasing the consumption of safe, nutritious foods by smallholder farmers, their families, and the general population.

He said the Workforce Nutrition Component promoted the consumption of nutrient-enriched staples, fruits and vegetables for improved nutritional intake, especially among farmers, farm workers, and their families.

Aderibigbe noted that the Home Garden Initiative was aimed at training families in the establishment and maintenance of home gardens.

He also said it was to improve access to quality planting materials for home gardens and to improve knowledge and technologies on good agronomic practices for home gardens.

“The initiative also aims to improve nutrition education of families on the need to eat nutritious foods grown in their home gardens,” he said.

In the same way, Mr. Mustapha Bakano from the National Association of Cassava Growers is in favor of the subsistence cultivation of cassava as a key aspect of food security.

He said that with strategic partnerships and government support, cassava could alleviate food insecurity and reduce dependence on imported grains.

According to him, cassava is a staple food not only in Nigeria but in other parts of Africa; so we all need to cultivate cassava.

“I am urging Nigerians to cultivate cassava; if we all do this, it will remove us from food insecurity because we can consume it in different forms and we can also export it.

“We are synergizing with the government to ensure that these seedlings reach the farmers to boost food security.

“If we can focus in this direction, in the next few years, we will be looking at integrating cassava flour with wheat and this will help us reduce our wheat import deficit,” he said.

Also, Prophet Isa El-buba, the General Overseer of the Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministry International (EBOMI), said it was imperative for Nigeria to embrace farming as a livelihood.

El-buba, who is also the Convenor of the Initiative for a Better and Brighter Nigeria (IBBN), said Nigeria is blessed with arable land and a temperate climate that can grow all kinds of crops.

He said that people should take advantage of that and engage in farming activities

El-buba said such a move would avert the looming food crisis in the nation, as people produce for both subsistence and commercial purposes.

“Nigerians should embrace farming; agriculture is the way to go and the government should not beg us to go into farming.

“No matter how small the piece of land is, cultivate it and since we are blessed with high quality soil, you will be surprised what that small piece of land will produce.

“With the current situation, the coming days will be rough so by farming we will be able to avoid food shortage,” he said.

On the other hand, some experts believe that it is possible to resort to biotechnology solutions to tackle Nigeria’s food crisis.

Professor Mustapha Abdullahi, the Director General of the National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency (NABDA), said the adoption of biotechnology would revolutionize food production and security.

Abdullahi emphasized the transformative potential of biotechnology, looking at improved crop yields, resilience against pests and diseases and reduced environmental impact.

“Biotechnology offers a promising path to protect farmers’ livelihoods and ensure national food security.”

According to him, biotechnology is vast, profound and offers solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing our agricultural sector.

“Biotechnology stands as a sign of hope, a transformative force that is driving agricultural progress around the globe and farmers’ associations like mine play a central role as the cornerstone of our agricultural landscape.

“This technology will increase crop yields and improved nutritional content against pests, diseases, and adverse environmental conditions, biotechnology offers a spectrum of opportunities to drive our agricultural productivity to new heights,” he said.

Dr Rose Gidado, Director of the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, NBRDA, said improved seed varieties were critical to sustainable farming practices.

She said she hoped for a future where all Nigerians contributed to food security by growing staple crops with ease and minimal impact on the environment.

Gidado appealed to Nigerians to embrace farming to boost food security.

She said the new improved seedlings were easy to plant and did not need to be sprayed with pesticides like traditional seeds.

“If we can all plant one stable crop in no time Nigeria will be free from hunger,” she said.

Admittedly, subsistence farming improves households’ food supplies and helps them make healthy food choices in terms of eating organic foods, but it is a concern for policy analysts.

Analysts are of the opinion that Nigeria, with its vast arable land, has the capacity to produce enough food for local consumption and export.

According to them, no matter how helpful subsistence farming may be, it should not replace large-scale mechanized and commercial farming as seen in other times.

By Bukola Adewumi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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