The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D, has decried that the burden of food insecurity in the world is heaviest on African.
He, however, noted that the parliaments on the continent could address some of the issues causing food crisis.
Speaker Abbas made this known while delivering an address at the third plenary session of the ongoing 18th Commonwealth Speakers’ and Presiding Officers’ Conference (CSCOP) in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Thursday.
The Speaker’s address was titled: ‘Addressing Challenges of Food Security in Africa by Promoting Investment in Agriculture.’
“While food insecurity is a global crisis, Africa sadly bears the heaviest burden of the global lack of access to food and nutrition. The 2022 Global Report on Food Crises noted that one out of every five African goes to bed hungry daily while an estimated 140 million out of Africa’s one billion populations face acute food insecurity. These observations have been made by various speakers in this session, and there are several causes for this challenge,” Abbas said while addressing other heads of parliaments.
According to the Speaker, some of the factors causing food crisis in Africa are armed conflicts of different kinds and magnitude; climate change; impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; rising population; subsistence farming and crude agricultural practices; lack of access to credit, poor infrastructure, and lack of investment in agri-business, among others.
Speaker Abbas noted; “Suffice it to say that these factors reinforce themselves. For example, armed conflicts disrupt agricultural activities by destroying crops, livestock and preventing farmers from access to the farms.
“The Nigerian case demonstrates this much. The activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the North Eastern part of the country greatly contributed to Nigeria’s rising food insecurity as farmers could not have access to their farms following the sacking of several villages in the wake of the attacks which lasted for several years. The terrorist attacks equally impacted negatively on the activities of commercial fishermen within the Lake Chad region.”
The Speaker also noted that on the other hand, the recurring conflicts between herders and farmers in Nigeria is “fallout from the impact of climate change which brought in its wake, drought and extreme weather conditions in the Northern part of the country, which necessitated the need for herders to move their flock to other parts of the country for grazing.”
Speaker Abbas further noted that the movement of the herds “often destroys farmlands and crops, which triggers retaliatory action from farmers who in turn, slaughter the livestock of the herders,” stressing that, “These two actions further worsen the food crisis as both livestock and crops are destroyed.”
The Speaker buttressed his point with the fact that extreme weather conditions occasioned by climate change and global warming pose severe threats to agricultural production and increases food insecurity within the continent.
He said: “Our food insecurity is equally exacerbated with the poor infrastructure within the continent which ensures that farmers are unable to preserve produce, transform them as well as move their produce to urban centres for better pricing.
“Related to the foregoing is the lack of investment in agribusiness, which is as a result of a number of factors including poor infrastructure, ill-conceived policies, lack of access to land, high cost of doing business and many others. Farm implements and other incentives are not within the reach of most farmers in our continent who largely operate at a subsistent level.”
Speaker Abbas, however, pointed out that the legislature is very critical to tackling the ravaging scourge of food insecurity in Africa, through the three cardinal functions of legislation, oversight and representation. “Many of the challenges related to food insecurity can be addressed with the right legislative framework and actions,” he stated.
Through legislation, the Speaker said, parliaments can remove the bottlenecks mitigating investment in agribusiness in the African continent. He also said with legislation, we can make the operating environment more conducive to attract investors into the sector and ensure that their investments are protected.
The Speaker stated; “We must enact legislations that provide access to land, credit, and other incentives that make investing in agribusiness attractive and rewarding.
“We can equally reduce food losses with the necessary legislative framework that promotes climate-proof agricultural production. Greenhouse farming can help the continent overcome adverse weather conditions induced by climate change and increase food production and supply.
“Parliament can deploy the power of the purse to appropriate funds for infrastructural development particularly of the rural areas where the bulk of African food production takes place.
“Parliaments must also ensure, through oversight, that these funds are properly utilized as appropriated.”
According to Speaker Abbas, investing in infrastructure will not only enable farmers have access to markets for improved pricing of their produce but will also encourage investment in agribusiness of all kinds.
He also stated that the legislature “must take every necessary action” to address the scourge of armed conflict, which he said hampers agricultural production on the continent. “Some of the factors are political, economic, legal and social. All of these fall within the remit of the legislature,” he stated.
The Speaker noted: “In Nigeria, we have some laws that promote agriculture and investments in the sector:
“The Agricultural Seeds Act Cap N5 Volume 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 is meant to harmonise the seed industry with other significant agricultural input to meet the increasing demand of agricultural seeds. The law also promotes productivity and export capability.
“The Agricultural credit Guarantee Scheme Fund Act Cap A10 LFN, 2004 was established to grant loans to farmers to enhance their agricultural capacity to produce and improve the economy.
“The Agricultural (Control of Importation0 Act Cap 13 LFN 2004, provides for the regulation of the importation of articles used for controlling plant diseases and pests which are injurious to agricultural or horticultural crops.
“The Agricultural Research Council Act of Nigeria recently amended to include Colleges of agriculture in Nigeria with the aim to promote research and related matters in Agriculture.
“The Sea Fisheries Act Cap S4 LFN, 2004 is meant to control, regulate and protect sea fisheries in the territorial waters of Nigeria.”
Speaker Abbas stressed that Nigeria’s ease of doing business is a fundamental policy which crystalised into several legislation to support its citizens to have access to different platforms in promoting their businesses, including in agriculture.
According to him, the Anchor Borrowers scheme was one of the fallouts of the ease of doing business, where famers were provided with seeds by the Central Bank of Nigeria and after production, the CBN had to procure the yields from the famers. He stated: “This encouraged investments and interests in the agricultural sector.”