Sunday, September 19, 2021

Food security key to poverty elimination – Osinbajo

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Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, says Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable food systems is one of the key strategies for eliminating poverty across Nigeria.

Mr Osinbajo stated this on Tuesday at the opening of the National Consolidatory Dialogue on the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 in Abuja.

According to Voice of Nigeria, the programme was organised by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, aimed at making policymakers and stakeholders agree on the promising pathway that would help to promote food security and achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDPs.

The Vice President said: “Nigeria’s target of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade would only be achievable if the country focuses on substantially improving agriculture and food systems, which would not only ensure good food but also create jobs.”

“This perspective on addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty runs through our policy frameworks, including our recently launched National Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy, and our Nutrition Policy that addresses the issues of a sustainable and nutrition sensitive food system,” he added.

According to him, Nigeria’s Nutrition Council has also prioritised key nutrition actions that are impactful, cost-effective, scalable and sustainable.

Mr Osinbajo said: “The call by the United Nations Secretary-General is therefore apt and timely as this provides the opportunity to holistically re-examine all the element of the Food System in Nigeria.

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“I have no doubt that the 39 dialogues held nationally and sub nationally have been accessible to all stakeholders and able to identify those challenges that still clog our wheel of progress especially in the relevant sectors.”

Noting that poverty has deepened, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, the VP explained that the resultant malnutrition and unhealthy dietary practices create unique threats to health and productivity for a huge segment of Nigeria’s population.

He said; “Close to 17million Nigerian children are undernourished (stunted and/or wasted).

“Malnutrition and food insecurity make it harder for children to learn and gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce.

“It also increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which are expensive for families, businesses and government to manage.

“A prolific and sustainable food system is undoubtedly critical to our nation’s Human Capital Development.”

Collective efforts insisting that Nigeria’s food system must be resilient enough to significantly impact nutrition security, Vice President Osinbajo called collective efforts to reduce the malnutrition numbers.

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“We must realise that defining bold steps to improve food systems and by extension food security ensures that children have improved health, early development and increased intellectual and emotional readiness to learn.

“This translates to positive school engagement and improves the potential of children growing into healthy adults.

“On the other hand, imagine a generation of adults who suffer arrested physical and mental health, and the social and economic burden on their families, their communities and the nation.

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“Imagine the implications of approximately 50% of Nigeria’s population being at risk if we do not get it right,” Mr Osinbajo stated.

He urged stakeholders to own the process and be ready to translate the recommendations of the dialogues to prompt action.

The VP stated that this would mean embracing the changes required in modernisation of farming practices, mechanization, and reduction of post-harvest losses.

“We must ensure that we practice environmentally sustainable production; we must empower our communities by creating jobs and livelihoods to sustain the food systems we desire,” he said.

The Governor of Nassarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, who represented the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, said that discussing the national food system should be beyond agriculture to the development of the value chain in the sector.

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In her remarks, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, highlighted the threats facing the Nigeria food system, which include insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other security,

She pointed out that these challenges offer opportunities that the country must take advantage of.

Mrs Ahmed said: “it was against this background that food and nutrition have been made a key thematic area in the Medium-Term National Development Plan for 2021 to 2025, being developed by her ministry in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.”

In her speech, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, noted that the consolidatory dialogue would provide a three-year and 10-year plan for the Nigerian food system, which would set a solid foundation for sustainable and resilient food systems in the future.

Goodwill messages were given at the event by the ministries of agriculture and health in Nigeria, the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, and Senior Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Food Systems, David Navaro, who delivered his message virtually from Geneva, Switzerland.

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The Nigeria Food System Mapping Report was also presented at the event.

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