Let’s face it, who doesn’t love food? Yes, people may watch when they eat for health reasons or even abstain from food for a while for religious reasons such as fasting but ultimately, we all return it. Food is our fuel and without it, we cannot function. Okay, maybe we can but just for a little while and certainly not at our highest level. However, food security is not my passion solely because I eat, that’s just one reason, albeit a very important one.
Besides just eating food, over the years I have been at the vanguard of sustainable food security, globally. I prepared the first programming priority on Food Security that was part of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDAF), in Nigeria 2001, at the onset of the first civilian administration of President Obasanjo. As a member of the food security committee of the Presidency in 1999, I started investigating the dietary aspect of sustainable food security which metamorphosis into a call for nutrition empowerment, the bases for my project ‘Every meal a Diet’, which was one of my two submissions favoured by the World Bank in their Development Market place search for innovative ideas on poverty reduction; the other being ‘empowering women in agriculture through products evacuation’. An extensive and elongated study on the subject matter saw the project escalating into a major program on the eradication of malnutrition as a Prime Approach to Health and Development. The program is premised on the fact that the attainment of most, if not all the goals of development is based on nutrition empowerment for the Eradication/ prevention of Malnutrition. The general belief that this multi-projects Nutrition program, if well implemented, will form the basic foundation for health led to the collaboration between our NGO – the Vulnerable Empowerment Initiative Network, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMH) in Nigeria for the dissemination of information on it. Food Security Magazine, a quarterly whose goal is the dissemination of vital information on this very crucial subject matter was founded by yours truly. I also started a networking NGO – the Vulnerable Empowerment Initiative Network another angle of my passion. Working on these has continued to empower me knowledge-wise in the area of assisting the masses, particularly the vulnerable community.
Food Security is said to exist when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life, (FAO, 1996). Although most times agriculture, food sufficiency, food sovereignty seems to grab the focus when considering development; all with its relevance and impact, however, it is heartening to note that food security is the only program that comes with a promise, an assurance for wellbeing. Thinking about it reminds me of the biblical Ten Commandments; the Sixth that reads -“Honour your father and mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you”; a strong promise. (Apologies, I borrow from my familiar region. Moreover, I know the truth is constant, not minding the source.
It is a core primary program that leverages the entire economy. What with its various impactful components: ‘All people at all times’ is a holistic attribute and balanced approach that touches the entire whole essence of development. It stresses that the entire people would be covered by its policies and the benefit precluding none. All times drive the fact we do not experience food in abundance during harvest and scanty off-season. It shall be year-round. Physical and economic access implies the elimination of all limiting factors to accessibility. It precludes poverty and other physical factors that could limit access to food. Sufficient food lies in the domain of food adequacy/ enough. It is so readily mistaken for food security however, it is just one of its many components. It measures the quantity available is enough, most times viz-a-vis the needed. The limitlessness covers it too. At no time shall 1-0-0, 0-1-0, 0-0-1 be allowed at the household; sufficiency all the way. Then comes the quality component – safe (absence of harm/ danger) and nutritious (healthful/ healthy). How very relevant, particularly in developing countries where about 50% of child death is as a result of diarrhea, which is caused mainly by unsafe/contaminated water and food. Dietary needs to speak more of fulfilling the scientifically stipulated requirement of the body for optimal and balanced development. Does such exist, you ask? Oh yes – according to needs that differ by age, gender, etc. Food preferences give the program a human face. What does the individual want, within the ambit of their need? What do they collectively desire, as in culturally acceptable food? Also, that unhindered available dietary needs dovetails into well-being and elimination of factors of predisposition to ill-health, predominantly malnutrition. It got me thinking about need versus want, essentiality versus triviality and this influenced the making of my work, making Every Meal A Diet. The ultimate goal is an active and healthy life, a life mostly devoid of complications and ill-health. a program suitable for this present world order – that shuts the door against diseases, slows its rate of infection and reduces its fatality and overall impact. That is the food security mega promise/assurance of your years being long in this land that the Lord God has given you. How about this- God being so conspicuous in our development program?
As this program comes with a lot of assurance, one wonders if it is not worth being prioritized. Isn’t it worth more attention than it is now getting? Or has agriculture so much masked it that it’s so hard to tell the difference? African countries are grappling with Agriculture – to increase production – sufficiency, for its burgeoning population and, for export. Yes, the core; the prime- mover. However, the goal is still not fully realized. Yes, more for income generation, particularly across the divide; that generates foreign exchange more so as emphasis has turned on value addition, youth employment generation. But with such income, would the poor have to need appropriateness? Even when we think we are talking about food security the closest we have got most of the time is food sufficiency. Numerous programs in the sector; how many of these vital components of food security do our food programs satisfy? In the formulation of programs and policies erroneously called food security, do we check and account for these components?
The tiny veil must be removed for development. We have a semblance of a semi- detached house – one house serving two homes. Agriculture caters more for the external side while food security attempts to ensure internal stability. Even the United Nations (UN) gave a loud hint in the naming of the parent sector Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is in seeing it this way and working accordingly that their full benefit can be realized. Part of its uniqueness is that once it is done right, the bills of other sectors will automatically be reduced because as the WHO has hinted, it will ensure massive wellbeing; dramatically boosting the attainments of the Sustainable Development goals thereby accelerating economic development.
So in the comprehensive development that the world so badly craves which would you rather prioritize? It is real development when all people, at all times, are lifted.