The sustainable management and resilience of ecosystems is very important in all human activities, as a means to address food insecurity. For this reason, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is putting together a project on ‘Fostering Resilience and Sustainability for Food Security in Sub Saharan Africa’. The programme aims to promote the sustainable management and resilience of ecosystems as a means to address food insecurity, reports Bennett Oghifo
A crucial meeting of stakeholders was held at the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) Centre in Kano recently to provide inputs to the GEF/UNDP programme, which will support efforts to; scale-up more sustainable and more resilient approaches, practices and technologies, including innovative approaches to improving soil health, water resource management and vegetation cover with direct benefits to the most vulnerable land users; promote impacts at scale, by fostering supportive policies and incentives for smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable and resilient practices; and increased private sector investment in climate-resilient and low-emission food value-chains; and d) promote mechanisms for multi-stakeholder coordination, planning and investment in Sustainable Land Management at scale.
The meeting, which had in attendance people with vast knowledge on environmental and agricultural issues, was designed to have the relevant information/data on the actual situation on ground in the proposed region of focus, so as to foster food security and resilience in the Sudan Sahel region of Nigeria.
Presentations were made at the meeting by various resource persons including, the Country Director, ICRISAT Nigeria, Dr. M. Vabi; representative of eHealth Africa, Dr. Sarma, Executive Director, WOFAN, Hajia Salamatu Garba, among others.
Coordinator of the Kano brainstorming sessions, Professor Emmanuel Oladipo set the tone in his presentation ‘UNDP/GEF project: Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Nigeria.’
Stating the project elements, Professor Oladipo said in his ‘Country situation that agriculture accounts for about 24% of the nation’s GDP and employs about 70% of the labour force in Nigeria; Dominated by about 15 million smallholders (mostly women) who account for over 90 percent of the national food; Farm an average of 1 to 2 hectares per smallholder, usually with little or limited mechanization, access to fertilizers, and preservation or storage facilities; Average prevalence of food inadequacy and domestic food price volatility between 2000 and 2013 were 12% and 13% respectively and that food imports despite its abundance of arable land resources – about $11 billion in 2012.
Giving the ‘Situation Analysis’, he said the main divers of food insecurity include: rapidly the growing population; changing and uncertain climate; shrinking farming workforce; poor infrastructure; flat crops yields over the past decades; and conflicts in the northern agro-ecological zones (AEZs), where most of the grains are produced.
This, he said puts food security in danger unless the decline in food production is offset by vast increase in-country food production and food imports despite infrastructure, production and market support services constraints.
Project Objective, he said was to “Enhance long-term environmental sustainability and resilience of food production systems of the country to achieve improved national food security.”
The areas covered by the project are the Sudan/Sahel regions of Nigeria; North-east; North-central; and North-west, which were all represented at the meeting.
According to the Executive Director, WOFAN, Hajia Salamatu Garba, while discussing ‘Challenges/way forward to
Food security in Northern Nigeria’, said ¾ of populace are small holder farmers and live in rural areas that are unaware and not literate; rely on rain-fed food production systems (small-scale farming, herding or fishing) for livelihood; too poor to purchase an adequate, balanced diet; lack the resources to enhancing the productivity of their farms; often excluded from social communication and political systems that might enable them to achieve a better life.
Climate change threatens food security by decreasing crop productivity, destroying fragile ecosystems and damaging infrastructure, forcing migration, and increasing the risk of conflict over resources.
On gender disparity, she said Women make up 60-80 percent of farmers worldwide and provide nearly half of the labor on farms. They have limited control over land, water and farm inputs.
She said women make up 60-80 percent of farmers worldwide and provide nearly half of the labour on farms and that they have limited control over land, water and farm inputs, rarely benefit from agricultural research and extension; have little access to financial and Market services; gender roles along the value chains, not properly defined and lopsided support to vulnerable groups.
She listed the socio-cultural, socio-economical and socio-political limitations as cultural, religious, ethnic, political, educational and marital practices, among others.
On the impact of conflict and natural disasters, she said “Major conflicts and natural disasters destabilise local food supplies; seriously disrupt food production systems; and that 22 percent of the losses are caused by natural disasters, and that they receive less than five percent of post-disaster aid.
In her recommendation/way forward, she called for improving livelihoods and to promote opportunities for women and the youth; promote relevant post-secondary, vocational and business training; data collection, record keeping, financial management services and training should be targeted to enhance agricultural productivity.
She said there should be focus on women and youth small-scale farmers on leadership, access productive assets, resources and markets, training; facilitate access to ICT, extension services
Later, the participants were grouped into zones to harmonise their presentations/data for presentation to the plenary