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Friday, May 24, 2024

Food inflation: Subsistence farming to the rescue?

Escalating food prices compounded by insecurity, economic downturn, high cost of transportation and climate change are reshaping Nigerian agricultural landscape.

Sen. Abubakar Kyari
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Sen. Abubakar Kyari

Granted, the Federal Government is making spirited and multi-faceted efforts to tackle insecurity and reduce food inflation, but surging food prices continue to exert pressure on average Nigerians.

To this end, families are finding innovative solutions and stop-gap measures to combat rising food prices.

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

These families are upbeat that subsistence farming, especially home gardens, can provide primary and regular source of diet and nutrition and also reduce dependence on commercial food products which are most times, expensive.

Mrs Rose Maiwada, a schoolteacher and Mrs Blessing Yakubu, a trader, are spearheading the advocacy for the cultivation of essentials for personal consumption and community resilience.

“I am a schoolteacher with four children without a husband; when I noticed that my salary could no longer sustain the family because of the increase in prices of food items, I had to clear the back of my house where I planted vegetables and some grains.

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

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

On her part, Yakubu said the increase in the prices of food items made her to think of the engage herself in farming.

“As a trader, when people come to the market and you tell them the price of an item, the looks on their faces most times make me depressed; how I wish I could give the items for free,” she said.

Worthy of note, an NGO, Global Alliances for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), recently empowered no fewer than 1,760 households with its home gardening inputs to improve nutrition indices in four LGAs in Kaduna State in order to boost subsistence farming.

The 440 beneficiary households were given vegetable seeds (Amaranthus and tomato seeds), orange-fleshed sweet potatoes vines, organic fertilisers, and watering cans.

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

Aderibigbe, who is the Project Coordinator of Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an implementing partner of the GAIN’s Home Gardens Initiative, said the exercise was designed to provide support to farming households, farmers, farmworkers 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 wider population.

He said the Workforce Nutrition Component promoted consumption of nutrient-enriched staples, fruits and vegetables for improved dietary intake, especially among farmers, farmworkers, and their households.

Aderibigbe noted that Home Gardens Initiative was centred on training households in the establishment and maintenance of home gardens.

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

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

In the same vein, Mr Mustapha Bakano of the National Cassava Growers Association champions subsistence cultivation of cassava as a mainstay of food security.

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

According to him, cassava is a staple food not only in Nigeria but in other part of Africa; so there is need for all of us to cultivate cassava.

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

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

“If we are able to focus in this direction, in the next few years, we will be looking at integrating cassava flour into wheat and this will help us reduce our deficit in importation of wheat,’’ he said.

What’s more, Prophet Isa El-buba, the General Overseer of the Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministry International (EBOMI), said it had become imperative for Nigerians to embrace farming as an occupation.

El-buba, who is also the Convener of the Initiative for Better and Brighter Nigeria (IBBN), said Nigeria is blessed with arable land and temperate weather capable of growing all types of crops.

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

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

“Nigerians should embrace farming; agriculture is the way to go and 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 quality soil, you will be amazed what that small piece of land will produce.

“With the current happenings, the days ahead will be rough and so by farming we will be able to avert food scarcity,’’ he said.

On the other hand, some experts believe that resort to biotechnological solutions can address Nigeria’s food crisis.

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

Abdullahi underscored the transformative potential of biotechnology, envisioning enhanced crop yields, resilience to pests and diseases and reduced environmental impact.

“Biotechnology offers a promising pathway to safeguard farmers’ livelihoods and ensure national food security.’’

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

“Biotechnology stands as a beacon of hope, a transformative force driving agricultural progress across the globe and farmer associations like yours play a pivotal role as the bedrock of our agricultural landscape.

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

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

She said was hopeful on a future where every Nigerian contributed to food security by cultivating staple crops with ease and minimal environmental impact.

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

She said the new improved seedlings were easy to plant and it did not require spraying of pesticides as the conventional seeds.

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

Admittedly, subsistence farming improves families’ food supplies and help them make healthy food choices in terms of eating organic foods, but policy analysts are concerned.

The analysts are of the view that Nigeria, with its massive arable land, has the capacity to produce enough food for local consumption and export.

According to them, no matter how helpful subsistence farming could be, it should not supplant large scale mechanised and commercial farming as seen in other climes.

By Bukola Adewumi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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