Food inflation: subsistence agriculture as a means of salvation? – MilieuNieuws

Rising food prices, compounded by insecurity, economic downturn, high transportation costs and climate change, are reshaping Nigeria’s agricultural landscape.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari

Admittedly, the Federal Government is making spirited and multi-pronged efforts to tackle insecurity and reduce food inflation, but rising food prices continue to put pressure on the average Nigerian.

With this goal in mind, families are finding innovative solutions and emergency measures to combat rising food prices.

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

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

Mrs. Rose Maiwada, a teacher, and Mrs. Blessing Yakubu, a trader, are at the forefront of advocacy for cultivating essentials for personal consumption and community resilience.

“I am a teacher with four children without a husband; When I noticed that my salary could no longer support the family due to the increase in the prices of food products, I had to clean out the back of my house where I planted vegetables and some grains.

“I planted bagged yams and potatoes, tomatoes and other household staples that I need for my personal consumption.

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

On her part, Yakubu said the increase in the prices of food items prompted her to delve into farming.

“When people come to the market as traders and you tell them the price of an item, I usually get depressed by the looks on their faces; How I wish I could give the stuff for free,” she said.

It is worth mentioning that an NGO, Global Alliances for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), recently enabled no fewer than 1,760 households with their horticultural inputs to improve nutritional indices in four LGAs in Kaduna State to boost subsistence agriculture.

The 440 beneficiary households received vegetable seeds (Amaranthus and tomato seeds), orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, organic fertilizers and watering cans.

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

Aderibigbe, the project coordinator of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an implementing partner of GAIN’s Home Gardens Initiative, said the exercise was aimed at providing support to farming households, farmers, farm workers and processors in the rice and maize value chains.

He explained that the Workforce Nutrition Component focused on increasing the consumption of safe, nutritious food by smallholder farmers, their families and the broader population.

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

Aderibigbe noted that the Home Gardens Initiative focused on training households on how to plant and maintain home gardens.

He added that it was also intended to improve access to quality planting material for the vegetable gardens and to improve knowledge and technologies in good agronomic practices for the vegetable gardens.

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

In the same vein, Mr Mustapha Bakano of the National Cassava Growers Association defends the 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 dependence on imported grains.

According to him, cassava is a staple food not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of Africa; so it is necessary that we all grow cassava.

“I urge 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 working with the government to ensure that these seedlings reach farmers to increase food security.

“If we can focus in this direction, in the coming years we will look at integrating cassava flour into wheat and this will help us reduce our deficit in wheat imports,” he said.

Furthermore, Prophet Isa El-buba, General Overseer of the Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministry International (EBOMI), said it has become imperative for Nigerians to embrace farming as a profession.

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

He said people should take advantage of it and engage in agricultural activities

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

“Nigerians must embrace agriculture; Agriculture is the right thing to do and the government should not beg us to go into agriculture.

“No matter how small the piece of land is, cultivate it and since we are blessed with quality land, you will be amazed at what that small piece of land will yield.

“With the current events, the coming days will be tough and through agriculture we can avoid food scarcity,” he said.

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

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

Abdullahi underlined the transformative potential of biotechnology, envisioning improved crop yields, resilience to pests and diseases and reduced impact on the environment.

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

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

“Biotechnology is a beacon of hope, a transformative force driving the advancement of agriculture around the world, and farmer associations like yours play a crucial role as the foundation of our agricultural landscape.

“This technology will improve crop yields and improve nutritional value against pests, diseases and adverse environmental conditions. Biotechnology offers a spectrum of opportunities to drive our agricultural productivity to new heights,” he said.

Dr. Rose Gidado, Director, Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, NBRDA, said improved seed varieties are critical for sustainable agricultural practices.

She said she is hopeful about a future where every Nigerian contributes to food security by growing staple crops with ease and having minimal impact on the environment.

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

She said the new improved seedlings were easy to plant and did not require pesticides like conventional seeds.

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

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

The analysts believe that Nigeria, with its vast arable land, has the capacity to produce enough food for local consumption and export.

In their view, subsistence farming, as useful as it may be, should not replace large-scale mechanized and commercial agriculture seen in other climates.

By Bukola Adewumi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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