In this new era in Nigeria, marked by a mantra of renewed hope, the government is making strides to deliver on election promises, particularly in the food sector. Food security is a critical aspect of national development, and the recent declaration of a state of emergency on food security by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a commendable step. However, achieving food security is not a task for the government alone; it requires the collaboration of all stakeholders, especially scientists, to address the challenges that hinder progress.
Food security, defined as the availability of sufficient safe and nutritious food for an active and healthy life, is a goal that transcends regional boundaries. It is a task that demands cooperation and collaborative efforts among all stakeholders in the food sector. The recent actions by President Tinubu, particularly the importation of 6,750 metric tonnes of hybrid wheat seeds for dry-season farming, reflect a commitment to achieving food security. However, this also raises concerns, particularly within the Science, Technology, and Innovation community.
Importing hybrid seeds poses a significant challenge as it contributes to substantial capital flight. The money used in importing these seeds could have been channelled within Nigeria to benefit the local economy. This situation poses a challenge to our scientists, who must step up to the plate and contribute to the nation’s progress. The call is for proactive efforts from stakeholders in various sectors to provide inputs that align with the government’s plans and reduce dependence on imports.
The urgency declared on food security necessitates a joint effort from researchers, scientists, and food experts to develop improved agricultural inputs, including seeds, seedlings, herbicides, etc. Relying on imports not only drains resources but may also make the resulting food unaffordable for the masses. To avoid creating new challenges while solving existing ones, it is crucial to look inward and enhance agricultural inputs through quality research.
The government’s declaration of a state of emergency on food security should serve as a catalyst for the scientific community to engage in research that directly benefits the nation. The substantial funds invested in research annually should yield tangible outcomes that address the critical issue of food security. Researchers and scientists must demonstrate that these funds are not wasted by producing research results that contribute to the nation’s well-being.
With a gloomy report on food security in Nigeria, there is a heightened expectation from the scientific community. The recent critical situation, with an estimated 17 million people being food insecure in 2022 and a projected 25 million Nigerians likely to face food insecurity between June and August 2023, demands immediate attention. Government responses are underway, but it is evident that government alone cannot solve this complex challenge. The scientific community and stakeholders in the food sector must step up their efforts, focusing on functional and impactful research.
Various factors, such as violent conflicts, insurgency, armed banditry, and farmer-herder conflicts, have adversely impacted food security in Nigeria. However, blaming these factors alone is not a solution. The government has declared an emergency on food security, signifying the need for a comprehensive approach to overcome this multifaceted challenge. Research institutes have a crucial role to play in this regard, emphasising the importance of research for development rather than mere paper publication.
It is time for the scientific community to leverage science, technology, and innovation as tools for achieving sustainable development in the food sector. The importance of food in sustaining human existence makes it imperative for scientists to contribute meaningfully to overcoming the challenges hindering food security in Nigeria. The call is for purposeful and impactful research that aligns with the national agenda and promotes the well-being of the population.