Tuesday, 7 June 2011


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Food insecurity is a major problem worldwide and it is especially widespread in sub-Saharan Africa of which Nigeria is a major part. Food insecurity and hunger are two sides of the same coin and one cannot analyze one without analyzing the other. The problem of food insecurity is especially critical as World Bank data reveals that about 90 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural output comes from inefficient small farms. Also, most farmers do not even grow enough food to feed their own families. UNICEF statistics says that about 65 percent of our population is ‘food insecure’. Clearly, we are just a little away from a food crisis. The problem of food insecurity is not just limited to Africa alone, rather it is a worldwide phenomenon. Just as there have been cases of food crises in such African countries as Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun, and Egypt, cases have also been recorded in such non-African countries as Indonesia, Peru and most recently, Haiti. This shows that food insecurity and the resultant food crisis is not peculiar to Africa alone but is most prevalent in most LDCs all around the world thereby making it a development problem. It is also a global issue and hence it should be treated as one. The general objective of this paper is to explore the concept of food security, appraise its impact on Nigeria, Africa, and the global economy as well as the implications food insecurity portends if we fail to tackle it now. Even though our major outlook will be the global economy, special reference will be made to Nigeria from the perspective of our efforts since independence to remain food secure and the policy models that have been implemented over time to achieve this. An inquiry will be made into the causes of food insecurity in Nigeria and then globally.
Concept and Definition
Food is a basic necessity of life, this is due to the fact that it is a basic means of sustenance also an adequate food intake, in terms of quality and quantity, is a key to a healthy and productive life. In Nigeria, food is important also because it accounts for a substantial portion of the typical Nigerian household budget.
Food security as defined by FAO, exists when all people at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy life. Household food security accordingly is the application of this concept to the family level with individuals within these households as the focus of concern.
This definitional framework assumes that four major elements constitute food security. They include availability, adequacy, accessibility and sustainability of access. Availability connotes the physical appearance of food in large amounts, accessibility suggests sufficient purchasing power or ability to acquire quality food at all times while utilization demands sufficient quantity and quality of food intake. These elements of availability, accessibility, utilisation and sustainability embrace the supply, demand and adequacy of food at all times.
Food insecurity by contrast, exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to food as defined above. In considering food insecurity, it is necessary to also look at undernourishment and other related terms. Undernourishment exists when caloric intake is below the minimum dietary required intake (MDER). The MDER is the amount of energy needed for light activity and to maintain a minimum accepted weight for attained height.
Food security is regarded as the physical and economic access to adequate food by all household members without the risk of losing the access. The USAID’s concept of food security is made up of three key elements; food availability, food access and food utilisation and newly added; “the risks that can disrupt any of the first three”.
There are therefore four major elements of food security. They are food availability, food access, food utilisation and not loosing such access. Availability, access and utilisation are hierarchical in nature. Food availability is necessary but not sufficient for food accessibility and access is necessary but not sufficient for utilization.
In broader sense though, two main factors determine food security. These are supply side factors and demand side factors. The supply side factors are those that determine food supply or food availability. In other words, they are determinants of physical access to food at national, household and intra-household levels. The demand side factors on the other hand are factors that determine the degree of access of countries, households and individuals to available food. They are in other words, determinants of economic access to food or determinants of entitlement to available food.
Food insecurity or lack of access to nutritionally adequate diet in a country or household can take various forms, for instance;
Chronic food insecurity exists when food supplies are persistently inefficient to supply adequate nutrition for all individuals.
Transitory food insecurity occurs when there is a temporary decline in access to adequate food because of instability in food production, food price increases or income shortfalls.
A distinction may also be made between national food security and household food security. This distinction is important and necessary because an aggregate supply of food from domestic sources or import or both are prerequisite but certainly not sufficient condition for a food secure situation on a country. In other words, adequate availability of food in Nigeria on a per capita basis does not necessarily translate to sufficient and adequate food for every citizen. Food security at household level is a subset of the national level and it requires that all individuals and household have access to sufficient food either by producing it themselves or by generating sufficient income to demand for it.
Global Occurrences:
The number and proportion of hungry people in the world are declining as the global economy recovers and food prices remain below their peak levels, but hunger remains higher than before the food price and economic crises, making it more difficult to meet the internationally agreed hunger-reduction targets.
The World Food Summit goal is to reduce, between 1990-92 and 2015, the number of undernourished people by half. Millennium Development Goal1 (MDGs), is to halve between 1990-2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
There are more than 1billion under-nourished people (starving population) in the world, which does not stem from food insufficiency but from income insufficiency (poverty problem).  In Nigeria, for instance food insecurity has been fuelled by various issues; some believe that the Nigerian food security problem is the product of structural adjustment programme (SAP), which simultaneously made food exports very attractive, while it phenomenally raised the cost of producing food. Another school of thought believes that food security problems are as a result of overdependence on small scale farmers rather than the mechanised large scale farmers of American counterparts. Yet another school of thought believes that badly formulated and poor executed food policy and the perennial emergence of the unintended consequences and beneficiaries of the food and agricultural policies.
In Japan food security measures have been put in place to ensure adequate provision of food to citizenry; these actions include enhancement of domestic food production through structural reform, review of dietary pattern and promotion of healthy food consumption, contribution to the solution of food problems of developing countries through international cooperation, expansion of international food market through WTO and FTO to stabilize the international prices, active promotion of agricultural investment in developing countries, preparation of international rules to control the land rush and creation of safety net for the weak throughout the world.
The majority of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. Two-thirds live in just seven countries- Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia and Pakistan- with over 40% of them living China and India alone.
Undernourishment is said to exist when caloric intake is below the minimum dietary energy requirement (MDER). Where MDER refers to the amount of energy needed for light activity and to maintain a minimum acceptable weight for attained height. This varies however, from country to country and from year to year depending on gender and age structure of the population.
After increasing sharply from 2006 to 2009, owing to high food prices and the global economic crisis, the number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have declined in 2010 as the global economy recovers but the number of undernourished people still remains remarkably high- higher than it was before the recent crisis, higher than it was 40 years ago and higher than it was when the hunger reduction target was set at the World Food Summit in 1996.
Based on the most recent data, the total number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have reached 1023million in 2009 and is expected to decline by 9.6 percent to 925million in 2010. Developing countries account for 98% of the world’s under nourished people and have a prevalence of undernourishment of 16%.

Undernourishment by Region                                                   Source: FAO
Global cereal harvests have been strong for the past several years- even as the number of undernourished people was rising- but overall improvement in food security in 2010 reflects improved access to food through the expected resumption of economic growth, particularly in developing countries, combined with food prices that remain below the peaks of 2008. The international monetary fund estimates that world economic output will increase by 4.2% in 2010, faster than previously expected.
In general gross domestic product is growing faster in emerging economies than in developed countries. Recent studies indicate that the number of undernourished people will decline in all developing countries/regions though at different paces.
While the world summit goal is to reduce by half the number of people who are undernourished, MDG1 seeks to reduce by half the proportion of these people. Because the world’s population is still increasing, a given number of hungry people represent a declining proportion of people who are hungry.
The proportion of undernourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 30% in 2010 but progress varies widely at the country level. As of 2005-07 the Congo, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria had already achieved MDG1 and Ethiopia, and others were close to achieving it. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, the proportion of undernourishment had risen to 69%. In Asia, Armenia, Myanmar and Vietnam had achieved MDG1 and China and others were close to doing so, while in Latin America and the Caribbean Guyana, Jamaica and Nicaragua had achieved MDG1 and Brazil and others were approaching the target reduction.
Causes of food insecurity
1)   Poverty: this has been suggested to as the leading root cause of chronic inadequate access to sufficient food.

The table above show a growing incidence of poverty in Nigeria.
2)   Rapid growing population: this is another root cause of food insecurity, undernourishment and poverty in Nigeria, as the Nigerian economy seems to be an example of what the Rev. Thomas Malthus was predicting long ago, that population is growing at a geometric rate while food production is growing at an arithmetic rate.




Source: CBN statitics2005-2007

3)   Fluctuations in world commodity prices: this happen in response to the trade, fiscal and monetary policies of large exporting and importing countries.
4)    Natural disasters: this include drought, floods and climate change, that affect agricultural produce.
5)   Discovery of oil that led to the neglect of the agricultural sector: this is another cause of food insecurity in Nigeria.

Agric share of GDP
% of agric in total GDP
Source: yahaya (2008)

The table show how agricultural output drop from 54.8% before the discovery or dependence on oil in the 60’s to 21% in the 80’s and 24.6% in year 2000.
6)   Other causes of food in security in Nigeria include
·        Indiscriminate use of chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, etc
·        Violent political and ethic crisis
·        Climate change.

Implication for Nigeria and global Economy
1)   Human suffering: increasing incidence of insecurity in Nigeria has the implication of increasing the level of suffering for Nigerians and the entire global economy.
2)   Substantial productivity losses: as the level of suffering increases, total amount of human effort committed to productive reasoning, uses and work diminishes, since man has to survive first to be able to produce.
3)   Miss-allocation of scarce resources due to diminished work performance.
4)   Growing poverty level is another implication as the vicious cycle become more complicated.
5)   Sustained underdevelopment and negative economic growth is another implication.
6)   Over-dependence on foreign aids and other nations of the world for survival.

Strategies to Ensuring Food Security
Food as a human right: A food-secure world would be one in which food as a human right would be the norm of social behaviour, an expectation upheld and enforced by all and for all. The rudiments for the international recognition of a human right to food currently exists in the form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in conflict situations, the 1977 protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Yet in 1984, the foremost legal expert on rights to food could write: Few human rights have been endorsed with such frequency, unanimity, or urgency as the right to food, yet probably no other human right has been as comprehensively and systematically violated on such a wide scale in recent decades (Alston, 1984).
Since then there has been a slow but marked improvement on the leading edge in the creation of such a social norm - the provision of humanitarian assistance. A human right to food by civilians in zones of armed conflict is gradually emerging as enforceable even within the borders of a civil conflict or against the wishes of host governments. Simply stated, there is growing agreement that no nation or governmental authority has the right to starve its own people. The transition to the case where all nations and peoples live up to their responsibilities to ensure that everyone is adequately fed will be long and difficult but has advanced considerably since 1984. Nevertheless, though war and conflict may themselves still persist, we are optimistic that by the middle of the next century the use of food as a weapon will be eliminated.
Sustainable food availability
It is widely believed that there is actually plenty of food in the world and that hunger results mainly from its misdistribution. This is certainly true for a world universally content with a nutritionally adequate, but rather basic vegetarian diet. Distributed according to nutritional need, the vegetarian food supply plus the production from naturally grazed animals could support as much as 120 per cent of the world’s current population. But for a world whose diet contains a modest amount of animal products derived from cereal grains, then there is only enough food produced at present to meet fully the nutritional needs of about three-quarters of the world’s population. And to feed people with a healthy but animal-rich industrialized national diet, there would be only enough food for a little more than half of the world’s population.
These figures do not necessarily imply that people cause hunger by eating cereal-based animal products or that there is or will be a global food shortage. Economists rightly point out that if poor countries and peoples had greater purchasing power then more food would be produced: the world has much unused capacity for producing food. And without such purchasing power, cereal products not used in animal feed would still not be available to poor people unless given away as food aid. Studies of the expenditures of poor people also show that with increased income, most poor people want to spend some of that income for a diverse diet that includes animal products except where restricted by religious preference.
All of the foregoing suggests that in a world of somewhat more than doubled population, food availability will have to increase three- to fourfold simply to meet the food requirements and modest expectations of improved diets of a food-secure world. Between 1934 and 1989, food production measured in terms of food calories grew by an average of 2.1 per cent per annum with per capita growth of about 0.6 per cent. For a fourfold increase in food production between 1990 and 2060 growth will have to be at a rate of 2 per cent per year, or about the historic average.
Can this historic rate of increasing food production be sustained to provide enough food for improved diets for a world with a doubled population? A key component of the scientific and policy arsenal for improving food supply is agricultural biotechnology. This array of molecular, cellular, and whole-plant biology techniques is applied to tailoring plants used in agriculture to resist pests, tolerate heat and drought, and respond more efficiently to nutrients and moisture. However, the first biotechnology products in the marketplace will probably benefit farmers in rich nations. Agricultural biotechnology is unlikely to contribute to the alleviation of hunger in developing nations during the coming decade. Continued progress into the next century will depend greatly on improved capabilities on the part of developing country scientists and farmers (Messer and Heywood, 1990).
 Even if food production could be trebled or quadrupled, could it be sustained under the additional burdens of heightened soil and water loss, pesticide and fertilizer use, and changing climates that will accompany such increase? Our research suggests some important questions for an uncertain future, a number of which are considered in the papers to come. First, we must ask whether more food can be made available from existing agricultural production. The present global food system is not very efficient in transforming raw agricultural products into usable food (Chen, 1990; Bender, in press). Second, we need to examine alternatives for increasing food production in the light of their potential impacts on the global environment. For example, it may be necessary to weigh the benefits of bringing more cropland, irrigation, and rangeland into production and of using more fertilizers against their contributions to methane and nitrous oxide emissions and loss of biomass. Similarly, measures to prevent or delay global environmental change that affect energy use, water management, and forest practices could have important near-term effects on agricultural sustainability (Chen, 1990; Rosenberg and Scott, in press). Notably, the success of these measures in actually reducing or spreading out environmental changes is by no means guarantee
Adequate household income
Household income affects food security directly, providing the major source of entitlements for the food required by the household, income that is currently inadequate in households with a total population of more than 700 million. Indirectly, household incomes in the aggregate affect the size of the available food supply by virtue of its effects on encouraging greater production. This suggests that in a world of somewhat more than doubled population, household income will have to increase four to six fold (depending on the pattern of income distribution) in order to meet the food requirements and modest expectations of improved diets of the poorest households. But increasing income is not enough. Although it is true that for the poorest households up to 85 per cent of income is spent on nutrition, it appears that in general a 10 per cent increase in income increases dietary calories only by 4-6 per cent (Marek, 1992). This occurs because some of the additional income is spent on non-food needs and some on greater and more costly food varieties. Thus for a food-secure world, even raising most households above the poverty level would still require a pervasive safety net.
Famine prevention
Many of the tools needed to prevent famine are already in place. Efforts to cope with drought, flood, war and famine in the 1980s have led to major improvement in the global system for providing emergency food aid. A major international early warning system coordinated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization was established in 1975, and several regional systems are in operation as well. Recent efforts to improve understanding of the underlying vulnerability of particular groups to famine and to coordinate development, response, and relief efforts based on this understanding hold promise of more timely and effective interventions before famine conditions spread.
Adaptations to surprise
To achieve a food-secure world, societies will have to be successfully adapted to a series of unexpected surprises. These will have made the task easier and harder, and certainly different than it might have been. The surprises themselves are by definition unpredictable, but the mechanisms are easily imaginable. For example, one can readily conceive of a new disease outbreak that would seriously disrupt plant or animal production at the same time that new breakthroughs in biotechnology begin to provide substantial improvements in yields and nutrition. New and unexpected sources of conflict may well interfere with the flow of food, people, and caring, while social and religious movements enhance the development of global responsibility. Optimistic outlooks in some regions will undoubtedly give way to pessimism but perhaps a few of today’s ‘basket cases’ will confound the conventional wisdom.
To achieve food security in the world will require a capacity to deal with surprise - to take advantage of surprising opportunities and to maintain social and technical flexibility to cope with surprising adversity. Such a capacity could entail the maintenance of large food stocks and other emergency response resources to cope with fluctuations in food production due to a changing climate. It will certainly require support for the research and development infrastructure to provide continuing improvements in food production in the face of a variable environment and ongoing population change. And though the details are hard to foresee, it will need to include a safety net to ensure that the most vulnerable people and regions are not caught unprepared.
1)     A framework for food security and poverty in Nigeria: European journal social science(2009) by E.O Oriola (pdf file).
2)     Alleviating Rural Poverty in Nigeria: A Challenge for the National Agricultural Research System :V. B. OGUNLELA, A. O. OGUNGBILE (pdf file)
3)     Undernourishment around the world in 2010.(google.com)

4)     Climate Variability, Environment Change and Food Security Nexus in Nigeria: Emeka E. Obioha. Department of Social Anthropology and Sociology, National University of Lesotho, Roma, Lesotho, Southern Africa

5)     AN ANALYSIS OF FOOD SECURITY SITUATION AMONG NIGERIAN URBAN,HOUSEHOLDS: EVIDENCE FROM LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA. Omonona, Bolarin Titus and Agoi, Grace Adetokunbo, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

6)      OIL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND FOOD INSECURITY IN NIGERIA. Eme O. Akpan, Dept. of Economics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

7)     The Nigerian manufacturing sector bumpy past and a shaky future: what option for survival? (inaugural lecture series 2009):  Professor Simbo Adenuga Banjoko.

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