Ife Adebayo: Food is what Nigerians really need (Y! Politico)

by Ife Adebayo

Ife Adebayo

What we need is not a waste of tax payers’ money by buying mobile phones for farmers to get fertilizer at subsidized prices at this current government is doing, what the farmers need is empowerment for better production…

Going by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs represented in the pyramid as shown below, Abraham Maslow says in humans the most fundamental needs are physiological, the physical necessities for human survival. If these requirements are not met, Maslow says the human body cannot function properly, and will ultimately fail. He portrays these needs as the most important; they should be met first.

Maslow lists breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion as the most basic needs for human survival. In my opinion the most basic needs for survival for Nigerians are (in no particular order) food, electricity, shelter, roads, education, employment, healthcare. If these basic needs are met we will not have to worry much about corruption, insecurity and other ills as they will be reduced to the barest minimum. I’ll write about food today.

Meeting the basic needs of Nigerians is not rocket science, we need food, the government needs to develop a proper food security policy, a policy that seeks to reduce importation and encourage local production of food. This cannot be achieved by ordinarily placing bans on imports or increasing import tariffs, but by increasing support to farmers, by helping farmers go into mechanized farming by provision of loans, enlisting the support of experts in the development of better crops and by ensuring the Bank of Agriculture does more than just giving out loans but ensure the loans go to the right people. We need an agriculture lending policy that eradicates the need for collateral to obtain agriculture loans, commercial banks must be FORCED to give agricultural loans to farmers. This is a topic for another day if I want to go into it in detail. We must start to empower our farmers with low interest loans.

What we need is not a waste of tax payers’ money by buying mobile phones for farmers to get fertilizer at subsidized prices at this current government is doing, what the farmers need is empowerment for better production such that they will be able to buy the fertilizers themselves. We need to start feeding Nigerians from Nigerian farms. Asides mechanization of agriculture we must also encourage improved soil fertility management; expanding cropped areas and investing in irrigation. Nigerian agriculture needs to move from rain-fed agriculture to agriculture that can be run all year round. I hear in Israel they water crops using helicopters. According to the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, a major study led by the International Water Management Institute, managing rainwater and soil moisture more effectively, and using supplemental and small-scale irrigation holds the key to helping the greatest number of poor people. It has called for a new era of water investments and policies for upgrading rain-fed agriculture that would go beyond controlling field-level soil and water to bring new freshwater sources through better local management of rainfall and runoff.

Processing plants for agricultural products should be built close to agricultural regions so that we can start processing our products in Nigeria and stop exporting orange to import orange juice. Nigeria must make food available and accessible to the whole nation, but in this case not just food, but food grown in Nigeria. It is a shame that Nigeria imports rice and other products that can be easily grown in Nigeria; it is also a shame that the government ignores the basics of empowering farmers to produce more rice at affordable prices and instead focuses on TV adverts of cassava bread. No matter how much you advertise cassava bread or how much higher the price of importation is, if the foreign products are cheaper and of better quality the people will prefer them. What we need is for our farmers to produce cheaper farm produce of better quality.

Millions of Nigerians live in the rural areas and they earn a living from agriculture, interestingly most of the malnourished children in the country also come from these areas. Improvements in agricultural productivity and mechanized farming will benefit the rural poor first because it helps the farmers earn more money and also opens these areas to modernisation and the presence of essential social amenities.

When there is a responsible people oriented government in power that truly sees food security as a fundamental human right that every Nigerian must have, a government that believes that food availability and accessibility is essential and a basic necessity for survival then the government will have a food security policy that truly works, not just on paper but in the farms, markets and on our dining tables. The government will realise that unproductive policies such as purchasing mobile phones for farmers is not what we need, what we need are real, workable agricultural policies that bring about increased productivity from farmers, increases the numbers of farmlands, empower and enrich farmers and other rural dwellers and ensure that every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, religion, social class or economic capability can afford to eat and feed his/her children and wards without living in fear of where the next meal will come from.

I believe access to good food is a fundamental human right that the Nigerian government must take very serious. A national food security policy that will work in conjunction with the private sector must be put in place. The Nigerian flag is green-white-green, representing agriculture-peace-agriculture. We must start to live this flag, we must bring the green in our flag to life.

My next Y!Politico article will be about another item on Nigerians’ Hierarchy of Needs.

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Ife Adebayo is an IT Consultant with work experience in Germany, United Kingdom and Nigeria. He currently runs his own IT firm in Lagos, Nigeria. He is an ardent believer in the Nigerian project and encourages all Nigerians to become actively involved in making Nigeria a better place. Ife is a registered member of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Epe Local Government, Lagos State. He was an active member of the UK branch of the party, holding the post of Youth Leader for the year 2010/2011.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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