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FAO prescribes 6 pathways to address food security

A farmer harvesting sweet potatoes

. Nigeria inaugurates integrated farm

Clara Nwachukwu  

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), an arm of the United Nations (UN) has recommended six possible pathways through which food systems could be transformed to address the major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition and ensure access to affordable healthy diets for all, sustainably and inclusively.

These are:

  • integrating humanitarian, development and peace building policies in conflict-affected areas;
  • scaling up climate resilience across food systems;
  • strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity;
  • intervening along the food supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods;
  • tackling poverty and structural inequalities, ensuring interventions are pro-poor and inclusive; and
  • strengthening food environments and changing consumer behaviour to promote dietary patterns with positive impacts on human health and the environment.

Noting that many countries are affected by multiple drivers, and as such may need to apply several of these recommendations simultaneously, the FAO also called for coherence to ensure efficiency in implementation as well as comprehensive portfolios of policies, investments and legislation to enabling the transformation of food systems through these pathways.

Integrated farming

The pathways which were contained in the organisation’s, The State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI), report released last week, comes as the Nigerian Government inaugurated the first National Agriculture Land Development Authority (NALDA) Integrated Farm Estate in Suduje Daura, Katsina State.

Even as food inflation in the country remains high at above 21.83 per cent in June 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari, who performed the inauguration on Monday, reassured of his administration’s commitment to achieving food security in the country.

To this end, he said NALDA is being revamped to encourage integrated farming to boost employment generation and stem the pervading security crisis in line with his mission to getting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, saying: “No excuse is good enough for Nigeria to remain a mono-economy.”

FAO in its SOFI report emphasised that “Under conditions of conflict, entire food systems are often severely disrupted, challenging people’s access to nutritious foods. Deep economic crises can unfold where the root causes of conflict situations are linked to competition over natural resources, including productive land, forest, fisheries and water resources.”

Consequently, the agency reiterates the imperative that policies, investments and actions to reduce immediate food insecurity and malnutrition be implemented simultaneously with those aimed at a reduction in the levels of conflict and aligned with long-term socio-economic development and peace building efforts.

Besides, it said: “The ways we produce food and use our natural resources can help deliver a climate-positive future in which people and nature can coexist and thrive. This is important, not only because food systems are affected by climate events, but also because food systems themselves impact on the state of the environment and are a driver of climate change.”

It added, “Central to this effort, are priorities to protect nature, to sustainably manage existing food production and supply systems, and to restore and rehabilitate natural environments. These sustainability efforts will also strengthen resilience to climate shocks to ensure food security and improved nutrition.”

Meanwhile, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, assured that the apex bank will, in line with its development finance programme, collaborate with NALDA to develop integrated farms across the country, provide affordable and accessible finance to farmers in Nigeria’s rural communities and provide jobs for its teeming population.

Reiterating the CBN’s resolve to collaborate with the agency to replicate similar integrated farms in the rural areas, the Governor also spoke about the possibility of providing affordable and accessible finance to beneficiaries under the integrated farm programme to scale up productivity and wealth creation. 

“These measures are also supporting our nation’s food security objectives. Nigeria is likely to make significant strides over the next three years in repositioning our agricultural sector for greater growth, given the combined efforts of NALDA, and the CBN’s in making land and credit available to farmers,” Emefiele said.

NALDA’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Paul Ikonne, said the Integrated Farm Estate comprises 40 poultry pens with a capacity of over 400,000 birds; fish ponds of 200,000 fish; cow and goat pens, 500 herds; rabbit pens, 3,000 rabbits; bee apiary, 540 litres of honey per harvest; crop farming, and more estimated to generate over N1.7 billion in the first year.

Multi-sectoral approaches

Stressing the need for economic and social policies, legislation and governance structures, FAO also called for interventions along food supply chains are needed to increase the availability of safe and nutritious foods and lower their cost, primarily as a means to increase the affordability of healthy diets.

Central to this effort, are priorities to protect nature, to sustainably manage existing food production and supply systems, and to restore and rehabilitate natural environments. These sustainability efforts will also strengthen resilience to climate shocks to ensure food security and improved nutrition.

Furthermore, it said: “Empowerment of poor and vulnerable population groups, often smallholders with limited access to resources or those living in remote locations, as well as the empowerment of women, children and youth, who may otherwise be excluded, represents a major lever in transformative change.”

It therefore concludes that coherence in policies and actions to transform food systems, and among systems, as well as the cross-cutting accelerators play a key role in maximizing the benefits and minimizing negative consequences of transformation through these six pathways.

“That is why policy coherence, understood as a situation where the implementation of policies in one area does not undermine others (and where policies even reinforce each other where feasible), will be critical to building transformative multi-sectoral portfolios. “Systems approaches are needed for building coherent portfolios of policies, investments and legislation that become win-win solutions; these include territorial approaches, ecosystems approaches, Indigenous Peoples’ food systems approaches and interventions that systemically address protracted crisis conditions.”

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