How post-harvest losses, bad roads, others engender food insecurity in Nigeria – NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
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POST-HARVEST losses, bad roads as well as inadequate training for farmers on best practices have been identified as major factors responsible for food insecurity in Nigeria. In Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated to be worth $4 billion per year, or enough to feed at least 48 million individuals, according to a 2019 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report.
The organisation also stated that an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally every year, which is projected as one-third of all food produced for human consumption. Federal Government’s intervention The Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), initiated a scheme, Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), aimed at boosting farmers’ productivity by giving loans to them and making it stress-free to repay. The programme was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kebbi State in 2015, to create a linkage between anchor companies and smallholder farmers involved in the processing of the required key agricultural commodities.
Specifically, the objective was the provision of inputs such as sorghum, cassava, tomatoes and cotton, among others. Some farmers who spoke to Nigerian Tribune, however, noted that though they have been hearing about the programme for some time, they are yet to benefit from it. They posited that in order for the country to achieve food sufficiency, government must come up with more interventions to assist farmers.
They listed bad roads, post-harvest losses due to lack of storage facilities, insecurity, among other challenges as factors militating against food availability in the country. Insecurity Civil conflict is one of the leading causes of food insecurity, affecting food supply and agriculture. In Nigeria, the major conflicts are that of Boko Haram’s insurgency and clashes over resources between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. Current data on the exact number of people affected by the civil conflicts is unavailable.
But what is known is that farmers and livestock have been killed, crops destroyed and farming communities devastated. Boko Haram attacks in resource rich northern Nigeria had resulted in stalled food production, large-scale displacement of people, loss of livelihoods and increased food prices in the country.
A cassava farmer whose farm is located in Apagun village, in Ido Local Government Area of Oyo State, told Nigerian Tribune that activities of herdsmen remain a major problem for him and some of his co-farmers as cows regularly invade their farms and destroy the crops therein.
He noted that until government put a check on activities of herdsmen, food security in Nigeria will remain threatened.
Climate change Nigerian farmers solely rely on rain-fed agriculture, which means they depend on rainfall for water. This leaves them especially vulnerable to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather events like flooding, heat waves and droughts. Not only do such events destabilise precipitation patterns: they also lead to soil degradation and lower crop yields.
The effects of climate change on agricultural production are exacerbated by the fact that around 70 per cent of Nigerians are smallholder farmers with relatively low-level technologies.
Extreme temperatures and unpredictable precipitation patterns threaten the productivity of more than half of Nigeria’s staple crops. The one region where climate change would actually enhance the value of crops is in northern Nigeria. Recently, the Action Aid of Nigeria (AAN) had disclosed that Nigeria would lose N38 trillion to climate change by 2050 if tree cutting and indiscriminate bush burning continues.
Country Director of AAN, Ene Obi, noted that: “Smallholder farmers, particularly women have been devastated by unpredictable climate, falling crop prices, failed intervention promise and economic tensions that have caused repercussions on the market and their livelihoods.
What stakeholders say Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Emmanuel Ijewere, posited that any food produced in any country in Africa, especially Nigeria, is an asset to that country and that the government should believe that it needs to protect it because that is what nature has given to it. He further stated that:
“Unfortunately, because our lands are so fertile and we get all these things almost free of charge, we do not take them seriously and so in the value chain you have farmers who first and foremost have no best practices, they are not being trained, they are still using the practices they have been using since time immemorial and those who are better educated and in position of policy formulation do not really help them.”
He also listed bad roads, coupled with all kinds of obstacles and roadblocks along the highway as other reasons for the losses.
He said: “We have all kinds of bad roads along the highway. There are all kinds of obstacles and roadblocks by government officials, So, by the time they get to their destination, a lot of harvested farm produce would have been lost and a lot of people holding them up do not care about the value. “What also happens is that when the food eventually arrives in the city, most of the people don’t have a choice but to pay any price at which it is sold. This further drives poverty.”
A professor of Agribusiness Management with Cavalla International University (CIU), Dr Ikechi Agbugba, said governments at all levels must take responsibility by providing adequate security for farmers, processors and other stakeholders in the value-chain. He said food is wasted as a result of a plethora of issues, stating that literature studies have shown that 20 to 40 per cent of perishable agricultural produce, particularly fruits and vegetables, get wasted largely as a result of poor harvest and post-harvest handling techniques, poor infrastructure and amenities and lack of processing facilities. Former Executive Director of National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, said horticultural crops have a unique feature which is having a large percentage of water which makes them perishable.
He said post-harvest losses start right from the farm due to the planting and the harvesting methods, stating that there are no precautions in place to guard against the losses.
“In advanced countries they have been able to overcome some of these challenges, providing cold storage which developing countries like Nigeria have still not put into consideration.
“Our transportation system is very appalling. You will see a vehicle transporting tomatoes using baskets and they are tying them together. In advanced countries there are trucks provided for that purpose and our roads are not also helping matters,” he said.
Speaking on how to address the issue, Olaniyan noted that the precautions must start from the farm as the method of harvesting exposes these crops to spoilage.
“Farmers have to be trained on the proper planting and harvesting methods that can keep these crops in good shape.
“Electricity is one of the challenges in cold storage but there are other methods that require lesser cost but farmers do not know all these. If farmers are trained on how to add value to their crops when there are gluts it will help reduce the loss.
“Government should assist with storage facilities like storage location centres for farmers so that when they harvest they can bring these perishable crops to those locations in which their crops will be stored, even if they are to pay a token,” he added.
He added that the government also needed to provide sta- ble electricity, adding that many of these technologies that can provide long term storage require stable electricity to be able to store the horticultural crops. National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said the procedure for harvesting re- mains crude, leading to losses, since machinery is not used.
“Also, most of the things that are perishable are supposed to be kept in controlled climate, we have very poor power supply so we lose some of these things due to carriage. Some of these produce are not processed; they still remain in their primary process,” he said.
Ibrahim said AFAN is working with the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) on some innovations on how to store some of these products.
“They have some airtight drums where you can keep some of these products. There are many processes of drying that will increase the shelf lives of the products,” he said.
Chairman, Kano State chairman of AFAN, Abdulrasheed Magaji, said harvesting manually by farmers contributes largely to their losses.
“We lack harvesting machinery, we are harvesting manu- ally and we also lack storage facilities. If we are using ma- chines we will not be losing the much we are losing presently.
“Our transportation system and the lack of storage facilities is another cause. If you are growing perishable crops like tomatoes and other vegetables, it requires refrigerated conditions and a refrigerated transport system,” he said.
He said in the developed countries, the government gives farmers support and provides machinery and storage facilities. Magaji further stated that the Nigerian economy is largely dependent on agriculture, adding that if the government can support the farmers it would increase the nation’s GDP and food security would guaranteed.
“Despite the planet’s capacity to provide sufficient food for all, an increasing number of people are not getting enough food and nutrition.
The COVID-19 pandemic, climate and environmental crises have compounded food insecurity in many parts of Nigeria, and the world.
“Significant loss of income and limited access to social protection fueled this problem globally and approximately 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020, which is an increase of almost 20 per cent or 320 million people in just one year,” he said.
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