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‘88.5 million Nigerians face insufficient food consumption’

No fewer than 88.5 million Nigerians are faced with insufficient food consumption in the country with the figure projected to increase by six million by December.

This came as the Federal Government yesterday described as alarming the over 80 per cent surge in food importation from 2019 to 2023.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agribusinesses and Productivity Enhancement (SSAP), Dr Kingsley Uzoma, disclosed this while speaking at the National Policy dialogue in Abuja yesterday.

The policy dialogue was tagged; Deepening Partnership for Scaling-Up of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) for Smallholder Farmers in Nigeria.

It was organised by the Federal Government, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

He said at least 88.5 million Nigerians were faced with insufficient food consumption while the figure was projected to increase by six million, stressing that the Federal Government was committed to reversing the trend.

The senior special assistant identified the decline in agricultural capacity as a major contributor as the country was being forced to rely heavily on food imports.

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He said the country had the highest rate of stunted children globally and added that 70 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line and food inflation stood at 31.52 per cent in October.

He said, “This escalating dependence on external sources further intensifies the challenges within the domestic food landscape all of which have resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency in food security by Mr President.

“The IFAD-financed programme such as Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) and Livelihood Improvement and Family Enterprises Project for the Niger Delta (LIFE-ND), aims to enhance incomes and food security through sustainable practices and integration of ICT4D.

“These programmes involve tools such as the Mini-Weather Station and Agriculture Market Information System (AIMS) to benefit farmers.

“However, challenges in data access, gender equality, infrastructure, and technical support still exist,” he said.

He identified sustained efforts at digital literacy and collaboration by agencies and the private sector as critical in ensuring greater technology adoption by smallholder farmers.

Uzoma said such efforts could translate to improved productivity, extensive technical upscaling, promotion of best practices, increased trade competitiveness, and market access.

The presidential aide said it was essential to apply a twin approach of developing critical technology-enabling infrastructure in partnership with the universal service provision fund and mobile network operators while driving low-technology solutions such as USSD and WhatsApp to increase accessibility.

“Increased collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the NITDA is necessary to implement the National Digital Agriculture Strategy to further leverage technology for the advancement of the agricultural sector.

“These aligned with the mandate of my office under the leadership of the vice president which encompasses a multifaceted approach rooted in technology and innovation to ensure transformative change in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

“This includes empowering one million women, youths, and minorities to achieve food and nutritional sovereignty, ensuring food security and heightened agricultural productivity.

“It is also to achieve $22bn import substitution of high-value crops like wheat, implement sustainable agricultural practices to promote environmental conservation and mitigate climate change.

“Moreover, the mandate seeks to generate two million direct and six million indirect jobs with a focus on youth and women while simultaneously addressing and minimising farmer/herder crises,” he said.

Mrs Dede Ekoue, IFAD Country Director, said the dialogue was aimed at strengthening partnerships for enhanced access of smallholder farmers to digital solutions.

According to her, the solutions will enhance their livelihoods, and contribute to food security, nutrition, poverty reduction, economic growth, and job creation.

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