Now that the Nigeria’s Agriculture sector has a new Minister after a period of quiescence, with the new Minister’s performance in the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) and the Ministry of Environment, there is high expectation that the sector will be put in the right trajectory that will ensure Nigeria’s food security, economic diversification, and industrial growth.
The sectoral dormancy under the erstwhile Minister has plunge the Agric sector into uncoordinated and rudderless growth path and it was impossible to define the policy direction on the food sector as sectoral development through the food system approach or the food security strategy. Nigeria’s economic ecosystem presently requires a functional framework for food security that will meet the food deficit needs of the populace and for a food systems approach that will facilitate the economic revitalisation of the nation.
For the sake clarity, a food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population, that is, growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, distribution and disposal of food and food-related items. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of the step. Food systems require many steps, each with a variety of inputs and outputs. It is therefore an interconnected system of everything and everybody that influences and being influence by the activities involved in production to consumption. A functional food system therefore makes quality food physically available and accessible to the people in an efficient and sustainable manner on a regional or national scale.
Food Security, contrariwise, is the measure of the availability of food and individual ability to access it. According to FAO, a person, household, community, region or nation is food secure when all members, at all times, have physical and economic access to buy, produce, obtain, or consume sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life. Food security rests on four pillars; Availability, Access, Utilisation and Stability.
Availability of food at local and regional levels, is determined by the level of food production, stock levels and net trade, i.e. the food system. Access, usually at the household levels is the ability to obtain food regularly through own production or purchase. Utilization, i.e., individual food use revolves around processing, storing, preparation, adequate knowledge and application of nutrition and childcare principles, diversity of the diet and intra-household distribution of food. It encompass the way the body makes the most of various nutrients in the food so therefore requires adequate health and sanitation services, food safety and quality of the food consumed by the individual. Stability of the food supply to all members at all time is the final pillar. Food security is therefore about equitable access to markets, distribution of resources within households, among individuals, across communities and viable options and opportunities to take action and make decisions, consequently, for food security objectives to be realized, all four dimensions must be fulfilled simultaneous. It should be noted however, that adequate supply of food at the national/international level (food system) does not guarantee household level food security. Concerns about insufficient food access often lead to policy focus on incomes, expenditure, markets, and prices in achieving food security objectives. Remember that access to food is influenced by market factors and the price of food as well as an individual’s purchasing power, which is related to employment and livelihood opportunities.
It is therefore obvious that food security is dependent on agricultural production, food imports and donations, employment opportunities and income earnings, intra-household decision making and resource allocation, health care utilization and caring practices. It is a multi-dimensional development issue that needs cross-sectoral integrated approach. However, because there are concerns that such an approach can be too costly, too complicated or take too long to show results, government may not be predispose to this for investment of scarce resources. The most functional methodology to follow is therefore the need to intervene in an integrated fashion at several points in the relationship. Theory of change is the tool that can dismantle the complicated interconnected food security web and will help in identifying the critical elements of achieving food security and the path that will be cost effective and affordable to the government in a quick and efficient manner.
Theory of change is a road map which can be a helpful tool for developing solutions to complex problems. It helps in plotting the journey, develop strategies from where we are now to where we want to be. It therefore answers the question of what change are we looking for, and what needs to happen to bring about a long-term goal/vision. It also enables the sharing of ideas with others and create a shared vision of the long-term change desired, how this change will be reached, and how progress will be measured along the way. The theory of change emerges through a facilitated process of open inquiry and dialogue and the mapping process helps stakeholders to visualize and prioritize their goals and specify what they expect to change and for which outcomes they want to be held accountable.
Analysis of the data from the Nigeria Food System Mapping Report of the Federal Min. of Finance, Budget and National Planning & Food and Agricultural Organization, Nigeria (2021) showed that, Nigerians are food insecure especially the nutritional security for a healthy living. Carbohydrate is consumed over and above the recommended amount of over 341% and only 23% of protein of recommend amount is consume by Nigerians. Fats and oils and other nutrients from fruits and vegetables are consumed at 51% and 21% respectively. Regional variations showed that cereal’s consumption contributes most to the high carbohydrate intake mostly in the Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral parts of Nigeria while roots and tuber contribute most to the Northcentral Southwest, Southeast and South-South. Northeast, Northwest and North Central consume more of the vegetable protein in the form of beans and pulse while Southwest and South-South consume more eggs, meat, and fish. Milk and dairy products as nutritional sources are consumed more in Northwest and Northeast. The implication of this is that Nigerians are not food secured in terms and availability and utilization of balance or adequate nutrients intake for a healthy living. Furthermore, the accessibility and stability of the food supply that will guarantee food security is critical due to the economic and security challenges facing the nation.
The Hon. Minister is therefore called upon to call for an assembly of experts in agriculture and evaluators versed in theory of change to develop a road map for sustainable food security as a priority needs of the Nigerians and then the road map for the food system development. Using the Theory of Change tool will identify all the critical elements as well as the pathways to achieving the objectives of sustainable food security and economic growth that is agrobased. Adopting this methodology will eliminate the incessant policy summersaults and present an integrated and coordinated approach to agriculture policy that will stand the test of time. Different policy statements have been put forward by different administrations of the sector with each Minister bringing his own that has no nexus between food security and food system. Deployment of Theory of Change tool in the development of food sector policy will eliminate these uncoordinated, non-collaborative policies strategies. It is time for Nigeria to start doing things right in a scientific way through a logical path that will define a problem clearly and identify solutions in a most coherent manner for everyone to understand and appreciate. Doing it this way will eliminate the political undertones that is usually associated with government policies and programs.
Dr. Abba Abdullah is the Special Adviser on Agriculture and Natural Resources
to the Governor of Katsina State