Abimbola Akosile examines various calls by concerned stakeholders for a poverty-free world, as Nigeria and others marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17
The theme of the 2016 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP) is ‘Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms’; a goal which all concerned nations are expected to work towards.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” explicitly recognises that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty.
This means all citizens and stakeholders must go beyond seeing poverty merely as the lack of income or what is necessary for material well-being – such as food, housing, land, and other assets – in order to fully understand poverty in its multiple dimensions.
The theme this year – selected in consultation with activists, civil society and non-governmental organisations – highlights how important it is to recognise and address the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty.
Goal 1 of the new 17 global Sustainable Development Goals is as clear as daylight. The first and arguably most important goal of SDGs – adopted by more than 190 members of the United Nations in September 2015 – seeks to end poverty in all its forms everywhere between now and 2030, the deadline year of realisation.
Nigeria, which adopted the global goals alongside the other UN member-nations, is also making strenuous moves to address the issue of poverty in a country of 170 million citizens, although that is proving difficult to achieve in an ailing economy, which is reeling from economic recession, persistent corruption, inadequate food production, years of selfish leadership, glaring income and gender inequality and fallout of insurgency.
That is not to say the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari is not trying to eradicate poverty, but the general feeling is that poverty cannot be eradicated in Nigeria, under the current circumstances. Rather, the focus appears to be on minimising poverty to a bearable and manageable level. It remains if this will fit into the targets of the SDGs.
According to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, poverty is both a cause and consequence of marginalisation and social exclusion, stressing that to fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind, “we must address the humiliation and exclusion of people living in poverty.”
In his message to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Secretary-General said implementation of the 2030 Agenda is reaching the end of its first year, and with its 17 SDGs, it embodies a universal vision for peace, prosperity and dignity for all people on a healthy planet.
Achieving this objective is inconceivable without executing the mandate of SDG 1, which aims to end poverty in all its forms, he explained, stressing that some one billion people still live in extreme poverty and more than 800 million endure hunger and malnutrition.
Ban noted that “humiliation and exclusion are powerful drivers of social unrest and, in extreme cases, the violent extremism that is troubling so many parts of our world. But, in most instances, people living in poverty respond to these societal ills with stoic resilience as they work to escape the degrading reality of their daily lives. We must break down the walls of poverty and exclusion that plague so many people in every region of the world”.
The UN scribe said the theme for the IDEP can be achieved by building inclusive societies and promoting the involvement of people in global efforts. He said it is the duty of all Governments and societies to address socio-economic inequalities and facilitate the engagement of all people living in extreme poverty so they can help themselves, their families and their communities to build a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous future for all.
In her message, on the Day, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Irina Bokova, said, “poverty is about money, but never just about money,” as underlined by the agency’s 2016 World Social Science Report. Better understanding of the relationships between income and other dimensions of poverty can help to empower people living in poverty as agents of change, she added.
The UNESCO chief said the goal to end poverty in all its forms by 2030 is tough but achievable. “The key to success rests on political determination, driven by solid knowledge about the causes, mechanisms and consequences of poverty,” Ms. Bokova stated.
Indeed, eradicating poverty demands renewed policy approaches and more comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge. Beyond traditional mechanisms of poverty reduction, poverty can be only solved by tackling inequalities. “So long as injustice and exploitation are embedded in economic, social and cultural systems, poverty will continue to devastate the lives of millions of women and men,” she said.
Bokova stressed that UNESCO stands for social justice within societies, because ending poverty is not just helping the poor, but also giving everyone a chance to live with dignity.
Role of Agric
In a new report the United Nations agriculture agency has noted that rapid transformation of farming and food systems to cope with a warmer world, such as adopting climate-smart practices, particularly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, is critical for hunger and poverty reduction.
While presenting The State of Food and Agriculture 2016 report at the agency’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva said “There is no doubt climate change affects food security.”
“What climate change does is to bring back uncertainties from the time we were all hunter gatherers. We cannot assure any more that we will have the harvest we have planted,” he added.
FAO warned that a ‘business as usual’ approach could put millions more people at risk of hunger, than in a future without climate change. Most affected would be populations in poor areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, especially those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Future food security in many countries will worsen if no action is taken today, the report noted.
Without action, agriculture will continue to be a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. But by adopting climate-smart practices and increasing the capacity of soils and forests to sequester carbon, emissions can be reduced while stepping up food production to feed the world’s growing population, the report says.
The report provides evidence that adoption of climate-smart practices, such as the use of nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant crop varieties, zero-tillage and integrated soil fertility management would boost productivity and farmers’ incomes. Widespread adoption of nitrogen-efficient practices alone would reduce the number of people at risk of undernourishment by more than 100 million, the report estimates.
It also identifies avenues to lower emission intensity from agriculture. Water-conserving alternatives to the flooding of rice paddies can slash methane emissions by 45 per cent, while emissions from the livestock sector can be reduced by up to 41 per cent through the adoption of more efficient practices.
“2016 should be about putting commitments into action,” urged da Silva, noting the international community last year agreed to the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change, which is expect to come into force early next month. Agriculture will be high on the agenda at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known by the shorthand COP 22, in Morocco starting on 7 November.
Helping smallholders adapt to climate change risks is critical for global poverty reduction and food security. Close attention should be paid to removing obstacles they may face and fostering an enabling environment for individual, joint and collective action, according to the report.
FAO urged policy makers to identify and remove such barriers. These obstacles can include input subsidies that promote unsustainable farming practices, poorly aligned incentives and inadequate access to markets, credit, extension services and social protection programmes, and often disadvantage women, who make up to 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force.
Food for All
Nigeria and the rest of the world celebrated World Food Day on October 16, a day set aside by the United Nations to create awareness in the global fight against hunger, with ‘Climate is changing, Food and Agriculture must too’ as the 2016 theme. Nigeria, according to the Global Food Security Index is presently ranked 80 out of 105 surveyed countries in terms of affordability, availability and quality of food. The country spends about $22 billion annually importing food items such as rice, wheat, fish, etc. and is still a net importer of food, although agriculture contributed 22 per cent of GDP in 2014/2015, while farming provides livelihoods for 60 per cent of the population.
The Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has called on countries to address food and agriculture in their climate action plans and invest more in rural development, in order to achieve zero hunger globally. Although Nigeria celebrated meeting the hunger target before the 2015 deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals, millions still go to bed hungry. To tackle this, government at all levels must ensure food security by making land available for modern agriculture, luring youths back to the farms through incentives and infrastructure; irrigation farming, mechanisation and by investing more funds in interest-free agricultural loans to farmers and entrepreneurs.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) must implement the new Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) tagged, ‘The Green Alternative,’ which is designed to address Nigeria’s food security challenges and position the country as a net food exporter. Experts have called for major public investments in agriculture to encourage people to produce enough food for local consumption and export. Beyond ban on importation of food products, government must grow the agriculture subsector, with improved seeds and varieties from research institutions also made available to farmers. Food for all should be the norm, rather than the exception. A worthwhile goal…
- Abimbola Akosile