A former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has said that Nigerians need to worry about the country’s changing demography driven by rapid growth in population coupled with a stagnant and in some cases retrogressing agricultural productivity.
Obasanjo stated this at the just-concluded Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum (NZHF) in Sokoto State.
He noted that “by 2050, the country’s population would be over 400 million, and the increase in population would put pressure on food systems as more people would require food to eat for survival.”
According to him, “Nigeria should begin to think and proffer solutions to this coming challenge that the country would be faced with in no distant future.”
The former president’s position was reechoed by the former governor of Adamawa State, Alh. Murtala Nyako, who canvassed greater youth involvement in agriculture.
Nyako underscored the importance of nutrition to the peace and security of the nation, stressing that a well-nourished population is calmer than one that is not.
He added that the restiveness being experienced across the nation is correlated to poor nutrition among children who end up stunted with low intelligence quotient.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Mahammadu Sa’ad Abubakar commended the Nigeria Zero Hunger initiative and lauded Obasanjo for taking the driver seat to move the initiative forward.
The Sultan, who is the spiritual head of Muslims in Nigeria, called on the Federal and State governments to fund agricultural research and extensions services.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said the task of ending hunger requires partnerships and collaboration among all actors in the agriculture value chain.
Dashiell, while reading the communique which was released on Monday, disclosed that the participating states: Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ogun, Sokoto and Kebbi, of the zero hunger forum were on track, and have made progress towards the attainment of zero hunger.
While commending the efforts of Sokoto state, especially in agriculture financing, Dashiell said Sokoto and Kebbi were among the few states in Nigeria that had met the Maputo Declaration of allocating 10 percent of annual budgets to agriculture.
Efforts by Sokoto state to tackle malnutrition were also appreciated especially the investment in the Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) towards addressing malnutrition in children.
The communique noted that addressing malnutrition is key for Sokoto state. In this context, the government was advised to partner with the private sector in the establishment of food manufacturing industries that would produce Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) using local materials and targeting children.
It was also agreed that awareness on breast feeding should be intensified and that women should be supported in nutrition-enhancing enterprises that would provide nutritious food options to the population and at the same time serve as income generating activities for women.