AFRICA/NIGERIA - The bishop of Sokoto: "Let us develop agriculture to give dignity to our people"

Wednesday, 3 April 2024 farmers   economy   bishops  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "No one should queue for help when we are not at war" says Matthew Hassan Kukah, bishop of Sokoto, in his Easter message, entitled "It is time to heal". In the message Msgr. Kukah lists what he believes are the evils that the Nigerian nation must face to heal: food deficit, corruption, nepotism and insecurity. Regarding the first point, the bishop of Sokoto states: "Let us return our people to their farms and develop a comprehensive agricultural plan to bring our country back on the path of honor and human dignity."
Msgr. Kukah's request is explained by the fact that Nigeria's enormous agricultural potential is not being adequately exploited, to the point that, according to the World Food Program (WFP), "26.5 million Nigerians will suffer acute hunger in the lean season between June and August 2024." "This is a staggering increase compared to the 18.6 million people who suffered from food insecurity at the end of 2023," says the WFP. The insecurity caused by jihadist groups and criminal gangs in the northeastern region has forced millions of people to abandon the fields where they practiced subsistence agriculture. Added to this are climate changes that cause droughts and floods. In any case, the underlying problem of low investment in the agricultural sector in an economic system dominated by oil exports remains. Oil revenues encourage food imports from abroad more than investments in the local agricultural sector. As a consequence, Nigeria, which has 70.8 million hectares of agricultural land, planted with maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, millet and rice, cannot be self-sufficient to feed its 220 million inhabitants. Nigeria's rice production increased from 3.7 million tonnes in 2017 to 4.0 million tonnes in 2018. Despite this, only 57% of the 6.7 million tonnes of rice consumed annually in Nigeria is produced locally, causing a shortfall of about 3 million tonnes, which is imported or smuggled illegally. Nigeria imports $10 billion worth of food annually from the European Union, Asia, the United States, South America and South Africa. There are plans to improve Nigerian agriculture, which accounts for about 23% of the Gross Domestic Product and employs about 70% of the workforce. The plans include the adoption of modern agricultural techniques with the use of improved seeds. The latter, however, are produced by dozens of global companies that, in fact, exercise a global oligopoly over food production. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 3/4/2024)