Osinbajo: Why Over 20 Percent Of African Food Production Is Unnecessary

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20 percent of food in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, is lost to post-harvest insufficiency, including poor storage, poor rural infrastructure and non-automation of food processing.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), made this known on Tuesday during the preparatory meeting of the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.

The pre-summit is a prelude to the global event scheduled for Rome, Italy in September 2021, which the Vice President described as crucial.

He noted that the situation had been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to acute food insecurity on the continent and raising serious concerns among stakeholders.

According to him, “post-harvest losses in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria, are more than 20 per cent of production for several food groups. And this is due mainly to poor storage, poor rural infrastructure and non-automation of food processing, among other things”.

“The situation in many African countries is given increased urgency with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to growing levels of acute food insecurity. This is of great concern to all of us, especially if we recall that prior to the pandemic, the prevalence of severe food insecurity was as high as 22 per cent,” he said.

He, however, said transforming Africa’s food system is an obvious task requiring the active mobilisation and prioritisation of both public and private investments.

He said this explained the government’s resolve in complementing development plans, sectoral strategies, and prioritising investments in specific innovations and technologies to transform food systems in the country.

Sharing insights on Nigeria’s efforts, the Vice President noted that “the Nigerian government is committed to addressing the drivers of food insecurity such as food inflation, changing consumption patterns and climate change, among other things”.

“At the same time and as an outcome of 40 different food systems dialogues in which up to 5,000 people participated, Nigeria is prioritising investments in specific innovations and technologies to scale up and transform food systems.

“These actions complement existing development plans and sectoral strategies such as our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the National Policy on Food and Nutrition, and the National Policy on Food Safety,” he added.

Continuing, Osinbajo said: “A specific aim of our recently launched National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy is to address hunger, malnutrition and poverty as part of our target of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade.”

The VP explained that at the heart of Nigeria’s post-COVID-19 response is the Economic Sustainability Plan, noting that the “plan has a major component, which is the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme (AFJP), where we seek to leverage suitable technologies to build a resilient food system for Nigeria”.

“Our Nutrition Policy addresses the issues of sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food systems – and the country has prioritized key nutrition actions that are impactful, cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable.

“An integral part of our food systems’ transformation strategy is to create an enabling and supportive environment to implement these policies in a participatory manner involving farmers, investors and State Governments,” the VP added, assuring significant improvements in crop yields, affordable and healthy diets, among others.

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Making a case for initiatives that support Africa and other developing countries, Prof. Osinbajo said, “for example, when, as in our country and several others, population growth exceeds growth in national income, food supply would not meet the needs of people, especially when distribution systems are inequitable.”

Acknowledging the work done by Nigeria, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed said: “Let me commend the effort of my home country, Nigeria, especially the Vice President, for leading six ministers, including the Minister of Finance, in the dialogues and other efforts aimed at building sustainable food systems in the country.

“Food unites us all, as families, as communities, as cultures and as humanity, now let’s use it to unite around the urgency and the actions that are needed to transform our world by 2030.”

She added that the summit is designed to guide national governments and other stakeholders looking to leverage their food systems to support the SDGs, noting that food systems play a central role in building a fairer, more sustainable world.

Aside from Osinbajo and Mohammed, participants at the second day of the preparatory meeting include the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr Mario Draghi; Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; Ministers representing India, Canada, China, Norway, Egypt, among others.

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