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Food Security And The Support Of Global Agri-business

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As I muse over what to write on this week, I’m confronted by a plethora of issues affecting our Political, economic and social landscape.  I am confounded by the signals being sent out by our leaders in different spheres over what should be. A keen observer drew my attention to the fact that Nigeria must be one of the few countries in the world that ranks highest in holding talk shops that never get translated into action.

We are in a season of anomie, the people are losing their patience but not (entirely their faith) necessarily faith with the leadership; particularly on the economic front.  As discordant tunes keep ringing on the fact that we are in a deep recession.  My grouse is the lack of a visible action plan to get us out of the woods; without the usual pontificating from those running the economy.

This is where the Global Agri-business Alliance (GAA); a private sector initiative comes in to help remedy the situation. The Alliance seeks to forge partnerships and collaborations that stimulate the economy and consequently help alleviate poverty; and in this case, chiefly from a food security point of view.

The Global Agri-business Alliance; a voluntary Ceo- led coalition of agri-business companies from the private sector, was launched in September in Singapore.  It comprises of thirty-six global companies. Prominent among them; Mitsubishi Corporation Of Japan, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Olam International Of  Singapore as well as Wilmar International equally from Singapore. They seek to end hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.  In addition to these, they desire to collectively tackle the major environmental and social challenges facing agricultural supply chains and rural communities across the world.

This Global Alliance in its view operates against the background that in the process of providing food and raw materials, the agricultural sector has a central role to play in pursuit of sustainable development due to its influence on people and the planet.  The agricultural sector employs more than 2 billion people globally. It provides a foundation for rural development and underpins many national economies in terms of contributing to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment levels.

Nigeria talks about self- sufficiency in domestic production of major staples  like Rice, Cassava, Millet, Corn/Maize and Yam to name a few.. Surprisingly, on the local production of same we are not doing  too badly in primary production but we do not fare  well across the entire value chain, take cassava we are the largest producer yet we import a derivative  starch, same for Yam and even ginger which is not a staple but the major problem we have is the high cost of production and lack of improved technology  I  believe however this should be done in alignment with Agri-business companies who can help achieve scale, with their global reach in smallholder and large scale agriculture as well as extensive collaborations.  Self- sufficiency cannot be attained by government alone, but through effective public-private partnerships (PPP) with those who have the necessary expertise and cogent experience.

The Alliance, as stated in one of its policy documents recognizes the ability of the agricultural sector to boost global productivity levels and reduce food losses as critical to ensuring food security, inclusive growth and increasing world population, while simultaneously reducing impacts on natural resources. They see the Agri sector as a geo-political one, similar to the Energy industry; given the importance of the major developmental challenges like food security, water security, and impact of climate change that confronts the sector.

The role of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in achieving this lofty objective cannot be over emphasized; particularly with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 by Governments, Companies and other Critical stakeholders in the value chain. The following six goals according to GAA are quite critical.

Goal  1, which seeks to end poverty in all its forms. Goal 6, ensures access to water and sanitation for all. Section 12 speaks to sustainable consumption and production patterns, whilst Goal 13 seeks urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Furthermore, Goal 15 ensures sustainably managed forests, combats diversification, halt and reverse land degradation and put a stop to biodiversity loss.  Lastly, Goal 17 which seeks to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

It is important to state that this important private sector interventions are not trade bodies and  according to GAA are unique in the sense that they are global alliances that comprise private sector companies from the agricultural sector which includes growers and producers, traders and fertilizer and agro chemicals manufacturers, seed suppliers, primary processors and agri-tech suppliers from both food and non -food crops focused on dealing with sustainability and developmental challenges of the sector.

Evidently, the entire value chain is covered through this Alliance. This is an initiative that needs to be supported by all and sundry back home here in Nigeria as two of the major proponents Olam International and its local subsidiary Olam Nigeria-largest Agri-business company in Nigeria can help propagate that message not forgetting  the largest Flour/Wheat  Millers in the country Flour Mills of Nigeria.

Food security should not be a mantra or slogan but an initiative that we must collectively ensure we strive to promote, live and entrench.

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