The theme of this year’s World Food Day resonates profoundly: ‘Sustainable Food System for a Healthy Planet.’ At a time when the world grapples with an impending food shortage and soaring food prices, it’s crucial to adopt a proactive stance towards agriculture. By embracing modern practices, we can avert a looming food crisis. The theme of this year’s World Food Day couldn’t be more fitting.
World Food Day, celebrated globally on October 16 each year, marks the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1945. It serves as an occasion to address hunger and food security concerns. This day is widely observed by various organizations dedicated to combatting hunger and promoting food security, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The central principle celebrated on World Food Day is the promotion of food security worldwide, particularly in times of crisis.
A brief scan of global events reveals the looming spectre of a food crisis. It’s a reality we cannot ignore. While conflicts in various regions already contribute to food crises, most developing and underdeveloped nations still rely on subsistence farming practices using outdated methods that cannot generate enough food for their populations, let alone foster development. The signs of trouble are evident.
A recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) underscores the looming food crisis in Nigeria unless we take prompt action. According to the NBS, in September 2023, the food sub-index of the general inflation rate stood at 30.64 per cent, nearly 4 per cent higher than the country’s overall rate of 26.72 per cent. This represents a 7.30% increase compared to the figures from September 2022, which was at 23.34 per cent. These statistics should raise alarms for all stakeholders.
The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated. A wide range of essential food items, such as oil and fat, bread and cereals, potatoes, yams, fish, fruits, meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs, make up the core of household staples. This alarming inflation rate in food prices demands immediate attention, and we must act decisively to mitigate the potential crisis.
One thing is evident: we cannot resolve this problem with the same mindset that created it in the first place. As a nation, our approach to agriculture must undergo a transformation. Outdated practices must give way to modern methods for sustainable food production. Rain-fed agriculture must make room for irrigation-based farming. Traditional, subsistence farming with primitive tools must yield to mechanized farming with drones, tractors, and other equipment. Innovative soilless farming practices like hydroponics and aeroponics must take precedence. We must ensure year-round food production.
It’s time to change the prevailing perception that farming is a dirty occupation. To make this shift, government institutions, especially those focused on agriculture, science, technology and innovation, must launch nationwide campaigns to showcase new technologies and methods in agriculture. These efforts will engage the public’s interest in agriculture and potentially increase the number of farmers. Modern, technology-driven farming practices will make farming more appealing. The establishment of model farms using modern technology across the country will further stimulate public interest. Seeing is believing and these initiatives will underline the government’s commitment to change the narrative.
These new methods and practices will encourage urban farming, reducing dependence on rural farmers. People will be motivated to grow what they consume, given the modernisation of agriculture through technology. In the 21st century, technology is an essential tool for achieving sustainable development. The rest of the world is progressing rapidly and Africa, including Nigeria, cannot afford to lag behind, especially in food production. Our population is growing daily, and food sufficiency is imperative to sustain it.
The theme of this year’s World Food Day is a gentle reminder of the urgent need to modernise farming by replacing outdated practices with new and contemporary methods. It’s a call to action to prevent food scarcity in a world already burdened by myriad challenges. Food crisis is a challenge we cannot afford to add to the list.