Nigeria’s changing demography driven by rapid growth in population coupled with a stagnant and in some cases retrogressing agricultural productivity are challenges that the country needs to worry about, says former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former president spoke at the just concluded Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum (NZHF) in Sokoto.
He noted that by 2050, the country’s population would be over 400 million, and the increase in population would put pressure on food systems as more people would require food to eat for survival.
Chief Obasanjo said Nigeria should begin to think and proffer solutions to this coming challenge that the country would be faced with in no distant future.
Chief Obasanjo’s position was reechoed by the former Governor of Adamawa State, Alh. Murtala Nyako who canvassed for greater youth involvement in agriculture.
Alh. Nyako underscored the importance of nutrition to the peace and security of the nation, stressing that a well-nourished population is calmer than one that is not.
Alh. Nyako added that the restiveness being experienced across the nation is correlated to poor nutrition among children who end up stunted with low intelligence quotient.
His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto Mahammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, commended the Nigeria Zero Hunger initiative, and lauded Chief Obasanjo for taking the driver seat to move the initiative forward.
The Sultan, who is the spiritual head of Muslims in Nigeria, called on the Federal and State governments to fund agricultural research and extensions services.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said the task of ending hunger required partnerships and collaboration among all actors in the agriculture value chain.
Dr Dashiell while reading the communique, which was released on Monday, disclosed that the participating states—Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ogun, Sokoto and Kebbi— of the zero hunger forum were on track, and have made progress towards the attainment of zero hunger.
While commending the efforts of Sokoto state, especially in agriculture financing, Dr Dashiell said Sokoto and Kebbi were among the few states in Nigeria that had met the Maputo Declaration of allocating 10 percent of annual budgets to agriculture.
Efforts by Sokoto state to tackle malnutrition were also appreciated especially the investment in the Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) towards addressing malnutrition in children.
The communique noted that addressing malnutrition is key for Sokoto state. In this context, the government was advised to partner with the private sector in the establishment of food manufacturing industries that would produce Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) using local materials and targeting children.
It was also agreed that awareness on breast feeding should be intensified and that women should be supported in nutrition-enhancing enterprises that would provide nutritious food options to the population and at the same time serve as income generating activities for women.
The Governor of Sokoto State, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, appreciated the NZHF for giving the hosting the hosting right to Sokoto and reiterated the commitment of the states towards ending hunger.
He promised to constitute a technical committee on zero hunger to help the state achieve the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals especially goal number 2 also known as Zero Hunger.