The Role of Smallholder Farmers in Nigeria attaining Food Security

Food security-small holder farmers

Food Security, as defined by The United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security,  means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. This implies that any country or state that lacks access to sufficient food to meet its dietary needs at all times, especially at a wide margin, is at the risk of becoming a food insecure nation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a recent report highlighted that “In conflict-hit northern Nigeria, projections for the June-August lean season show that the number of people in emergency levels of acute food insecurity is likely to almost double – to over 1.2 million – since the same period last year. In the next six months, food and nutrition insecurity is set to rise considerably in northern Nigeria with some 13 million people affected unless food and livelihood assistance is scaled up”.

There are various factors that contribute to food insecurity in Nigeria, they are High level of poverty due to significant low-income earning population, climate change impacting farming yields, little or no use of agri-tech solutions to make farming more efficient and price inflation. Other secondary factors are limited access to proper post-harvest storage solutions, limited access to processing facilities and equipment, lack of investment in the agricultural sector, and inadequate agricultural infrastructure, in addition to low access to information and markets for smallholder farmers.

To tackle the challenge of food insecurity, Nigeria must harness the full, yet untapped, possibilities in its agricultural sector. We can move closer to the goal of attaining Zero Hunger (Sustainable Development Goals  2) if we explore some or all of these options below:

❖   Reduce over dependence on food imports for survival and encourage the growth of more locally produced food.

❖  Close the knowledge gaps especially regarding farming practices. If small-holder farmers adopt better practices, then they can increase their yields.

❖     Have more people invest in the agricultural sector.

❖  Expand market access of smallholder farmers and provide equipment that preserve the quality of grains and produce to reduce post-harvest losses.

❖    Embrace the fusion of agriculture and technology to increase productivity and yields within the sector.

In Nigeria, there is a burgeoning demand for higher-value food products as incomes rise. Rice and poultry (which uses maize as feed) are two of the fastest-growing sectors, with Nigeria’s demand for poultry growing from 159,000 MT to 342,000 MT from 2000 to 2018 and demand for rice growing from 2.7 Million MTs to 6.7 Million MTs from 1990 to 2019. It is for these key reasons Babban Gona has selected maize and rice as our exclusive target crops. Since its inception ten years ago, Babban Gona has cumulatively supported about 170,000 farmers and in the 2020 season farmed 80,000 acres of maize, an area equivalent to 5 Manhattans, providing enough food to feed every man, woman and child in Nigeria for nearly 1 week.

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