A year ago, people around the world and not just Africa would never have thought the world could be brought to a standstill. Even, nobody, not even the world most powerful countries knew businesses, education, football, entertainment, travelling and notable events would have to be cancelled because of a viral disease which was first identified in far East Asia. But in March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic raising the alarm for all political leaders to safeguard their territory.
When Nigeria recorded her first case on February 27, 2020, the country and many of her citizens were simply not ready for the accompanying effects of this unknown virus. Unlike the previous outbreaks the country has witnessed, COVID-19 was excruciating for key players and sectors of the Nigerian economy. With extensive lockdowns by both Federal and State Governments, health and indeed, the path to food security in Nigeria has faced with yet another stumbling block.
As the country continue its drive to be food secure, lockdowns and the inactivity in the country’s informal sector has posed great threat to Food Security in Nigeria. According to World Bank, the concept of food security encompasses the availability and access to food to live a ‘healthy and productive life’. In a country or society where there is food security, it is said that everyone in the society irrespective of their social status have sufficient access to safe and nutritious foods that meets their dietary needs.
However, shutting down of the informal sector, a sector which accounts for over 60 per cent of the country’s economy; and restriction of activities in major markets of the country have led to economic crisis, improvising of the disadvantaged people in the country’s social strata, increase in job loss and ultimately, rising food security. Already, the country’s economy has started dwindling before the pandemic with upward trend in the loss of jobs (unemployment), low wages/income, malnutrition and inflation.
In Nigeria, with all the sectors of the economy badly hit by the pandemic, achieving food security in times like this now seems like a herculean task for all stakeholders in the agriculture sector. Government’s snail-pace responses coupled with the recalcitrant attitude of the public towards the pervasive outcome of the virus’ contraction has paved way for the deadly virus to flourish in the black most populous nation.
COVID-19 is reshaping the way humans interact and live and agriculture is one of the sectors that is affected. The complete lockdown in several states has affected the migration of labour and movement of mechanized farm produce in the country. While some are been allowed to transport their products despite border closure in these states, extortion and increase in transport fare has really affected the ease of movement for local farm produce. These has gradually interrupted the movements of goods from states like Benue, Oyo and Osun.
With Nigeria’s border closure policy during the pre-COVID days already causing huge demands for local farm produce such as rice, tomatoes, onions and wheats, demand have doubled while supply was still relatively low, the pandemic has however hugely affected production. Thereby, raising further concerns on food security in Nigeria. There is now shortage of manures and fertilizers for farmers, also there is hortgae of vetinary medicnes dues to lockdown for poultry farmers.
Consequently, prices have reduced and local farmers are faced with paucity of funds and other materials needed for farming with consumers now spending more. In many parts of Nigeria, an evident impact of COVID-19 on food security in Nigeria is the seismic rise in the number of people living in misery, with thousands of people hoping on ‘giveaways’ (a social media slang for palliatives). While in rural villages and disadvantaged communities, politicians and philanthropists are now donating foods to support many people.
For a country where a total of 3.5 million people is currently in food crisis while 999,959 are in an emergency situation in need of urgent assistance according to data released by USAID, supply chain must be increased in times like this in order to improve livelihood among the people. As such, policymakers must ensure adequate access and movement to farm in order to increase food production.
More importantly, the federal and state governments in Nigeria must as a matter of urgency meet the food need of the disadvantage people in the country in order to avert an impending doom. As such, it is the role of government to ensure adequate supply of food and ease in the movement of farm produce.