Food security exists when all people in a society have adequate food for an active, healthy life at all times. As a broad term, ‘food security is defined by: the availability of safe and nutritious food, and a guaranteed capability to procure and acquire food of good quality in a socially acceptable way. Food insecurity on the other hand occurs when basic healthy food is not easily accessible, and poor households struggle to secure enough food for their nutritional needs. Food insecurity has been identified as a global crisis.
Various factors contribute to food insecurity in Nigeria, factors like high rate of poverty, limited access to proper post-harvest storage solutions, limited access to processing facilities and equipment, lack of investment in the agricultural sector, and inadequate agricultural infrastructure, in addition to low access to information and markets for smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers are the backbone of agriculture in Nigeria, a booming sector that is the highest contributor to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP). These farmers produce about 98 percent of agricultural produce (maize, paddy rice, soybeans, sorghum, cocoa, yam, etc) needed for consumption with activities being carried out on the nation’s 74 million hectares of arable land, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Hence, they play a decisive role in terms of facilitating food security on the local, national and global levels.
The factors listed below should be considered to attain food security by smallholder farmers in Nigeria.
REDUCE OVERDEPENDENCE ON FOOD IMPORTS FOR SURVIVAL AND ENCOURAGE THE GROWTH OF MORE LOCALLY PRODUCED FOOD. Food importation should be greatly discouraged while local farmers should be greatly encouraged to do more food production. This will go a long way in encouraging farmers to plant more and also ensure that quality food is available every season of the year for all dietary purposes. Over-dependence on food importation has greatly contributed to food insecurity as farmers avoid producing many crops to avoid loss as most consumers are kin to purchasing imported food items rather than locally produced ones.
CLOSE THE KNOWLEDGE GAPS ESPECIALLY REGARDING FARMING PRACTICES.
Small-holder farmers can boost their yields by adopting better methods. Many smallholder farmers are unaware of how to use appropriate farming practices and are unaware of the approaches they can use to significantly boost their yields because they are still relying on old traditional ways. Seminars and workshops can be held to teach farmers about the most up-to-date technologies and farming practices, allowing them to experience the growth necessary to attain food security.
HAVE MORE PEOPLE INVEST IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
Appropriate funding has been a key difficulty for smallholder farmers, which has curtailed their productivity and other farming activities, resulting in food scarcity and so boosting food importation, just as it has been for every other industry. Investing in agriculture would offer farmers a sense of belonging and will show them how important they are to the nation. Smallholder farmers will then begin to see the benefits of agriculture, ensuring that farming and agriculture, in general, have a future. Farmers will be encouraged to work more efficiently as a result of this.
EXPAND MARKET ACCESS OF SMALLHOLDER FARMERS AND PROVIDE EQUIPMENT THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF FARM PRODUCE TO REDUCE POST-HARVEST LOSSES.
To ensure food security, a well-defined system must be in place that allows farmers to quickly sell their harvest before it spoils, as most perishable goods cannot be stored for long periods. Someone must collect agricultural produce from numerous farmers and establish a link to the market without putting the farmer under undue stress in locating buyers. Aggregation is also a smart way to generate wealth because smallholders would be able to sell more of their products and earn more money. Smallholder farmers should also be given the necessary tools to assist preserve the quality of their farm produce and reducing food waste.
EMBRACE THE FUSION OF AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY AND YIELDS WITHIN THE SECTOR.
Smallholder farmers can use a variety of technologies to boost their harvests and sales. Drone technology is doing wonders for smallholder farmers. Using a drone, farmers can spray fertilizers and pesticides across long distances that would otherwise take days to perform manually. Also, using bio-fortified seedlings is an effective strategy for smallholder farmers to provide food security; this will ensure both quality and quantity, ensuring that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger would be realized in no time.
In conclusion, it is prudent to infer that to achieve food security in Africa, we must rethink how we produce and distribute food, particularly at the family level. Small-scale farmers must be empowered and supported as a top priority. Improved and more inclusive agricultural extension services, as well as the use of technology (such as apps) in communicating agricultural advice or climate information, are all examples of this. The adoption of modern farming practices is now more vital than ever before. Small-scale farmers can raise their agricultural revenue and avoid poverty by adopting and planting improved crop types, thereby enhancing local food security.