The Federal Government is sounding the alarm as it reports an alarming surge of over 80% in food importation between 2019 and 2023.
This significant increase raises concerns about the nation’s self-sufficiency and underscores the need for a closer examination of policies to bolster domestic food production.
According to vanguardngr.com, Dr Kingsley Uzoma, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agribusinesses and Productivity Enhancement (SSAP), disclosed this at the National Policy Dialogue on Thursday in Abuja.
The policy dialogue is 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, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
He said that no fewer than 88.5 million Nigerians were faced with insufficient food consumption, while the figure was projected to increase by six million in December.
Uzoma said the federal government was committed to reversing the trend.
The senior special assistant identified a decline in agricultural capacity as a major contributor, as the country was being forced to rely heavily on food imports.
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.
“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 the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), Livelihood Improvement, and Family Enterprises Project for the Niger Delta (LIFE-ND), aims to enhance incomes and food security through sustainable practices and the integration of ICT4D.
“These programmes involve tools such as the Mini-weather Station (Nimet) 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 private sector as critical to 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 a 22 billion dollar 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 for 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. (NAN)