The Onslaught against Hunger

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With hunger identified as the fulcrum around which most socio-economic vices revolve, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the World Food Programme, and other stakeholders have initiated a major offensive to end hunger before the year 2030. Crusoe Osagie reports

With the world rid of hunger, numerous other social economic benefits will follow inevitably.

The decision, therefore, to pick a target to end hunger in the year 2030, by the proponents of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the number two prime target, rightly captures the enormous importance of global food security.

With chronic hunger, hidden hunger and all other facets of hunger out of the way, some of the worst challenges facing human kind such as terrorism, financial crime, senseless migrations among others will certainly face inevitable decline.

Be it consciously or otherwise, hunger and its conjoined twin called poverty, are precursors of some of the worst behavioural patterns in the world today. When they are taken out, the world can begin to hope to launch a new world order less burdened by violence.

With the understanding of the importance of winning the war against hunger therefore, the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the federal government, weekend unveiled a road map of activities to ensure that Nigeria is one of the countries that will prevail over hunger in the next 15 years.

Under the leadership of Obasanjo, all the collaborators inaugurated the ‘Nigeria Zero Hunger Strategic Road Map’ at IITA international headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Providing direction and introducing the terms of reference of the programme, Obasanjo underscored the importance of the initiative both to Nigeria and Africa.

According to the former president, the initiative “is the beginning of a new journey that will redefine the destiny of hundreds of millions of people of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.

“This day is significant as we jointly put our efforts together to draw a road map that will unlock the potential of our nation and emancipate our dear country from the shackles of hunger and poverty. Over the past decades, poverty levels have declined worldwide but in most African countries the levels declined marginally, remained stagnant or have even become worse.
He explained that available data clearly indicated that in most African nations, people are still living on less than $1.25 per day, stressing that Africa, in recent past, recorded substantial economic growth which he said did not seem to have impacted on the poverty levels.

“Statistics from the United Nations show that Africa has the second largest number of hungry people and is the region that has the largest number of undernourished people. Africa including Nigeria is still lagging behind and grappling with the issues of unemployment, gender inequality, low wages and low productivity.

“To address the problem of poverty and promote sustainable development, the United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 by Heads of States committing countries both rich and poor to do all they can to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental stability. Specifically the goals of the declaration were: eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development. This was a holistic attempt to encourage the international community to stop talking about making a difference in the developing world and join forces to start doing something about it.”

Obasanjo said it was instructive to note that with Nigeria’s population of over 160 million, “even if we had met all the targets of the MDGs, we wouldn’t have been able to solve all the developmental challenges of the country. But it is important to note that more than meeting the targets set, the MDGs drew together in a single agenda, issues that require priority to address the development question. Besides they (MDGs) received tremendous endorsement and backing by world’s governments, and lastly explicit resources were committed to achieving the MDGs.
“In 2015, the MDGs came to an end and today we have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a set of 17 goals comprising 169 targets and indicators for reducing poverty and improving environmental sustainability. The SDGs which have come to replace the MDGs, and will end in 2030, are based on six essential elements: dignity, people, prosperity, our planet, justice and partnership.

Specifically, the SDGs are set to achieve the following: No poverty, Zero Hunger, Good health and wellbeing, Quality education, Gender equality, Clean water and sanitation, Affordable Clean energy and Decent work and economic growth among others.

“Though the SDGs are laudable, the key to achieving them depends on implementation and our collective will. The task of attaining the SDGs cannot be left for the government alone, neither can it be left for the civil society nor the private sector. It is going to take the collective effort of each and every citizen of this great nation and our partners. It will require our collective change of mindset to at first identify the opportunities that abound. It is in this context that we have invited you to this meeting. We will be looking at the second goal of the SGDs which is Zero Hunger. Our main focus will be to clearly articulate what the country needs to do to achieve the SGDs,” he noted.

Also, commenting on the importance of the programme, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, a farmer, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, stressed the need to pursue the goal of ending hunger and poverty even before 2030, stressing that a legal frame work for the objective will be one of the milestones.

He called for the partnership of the private sector, the civil society organisations and international development agencies noting that only a milti-stakeholder approach can result in the success of the programme.

Other speakers at the event included the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole; Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)Louise Lobisa Setshwaelo; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF, and the Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arion, among several others.

At the end of the conference, eight subcommittees emerged to manage various segments of the plan to deliver a nation where hunger has been permanently subdued. There was also a tentative agreement that by the middle of December 2016, the blueprint of hunger emancipation would have been produced and handed down for implementation.