The Government of Nigeria and the United Nations system have reiterated their commitment to ensuring substantial and positive changes in Nigeria’s food systems.
“Nigeria is working with the UN and other stakeholders to ensure that the nation’s food systems are more sustainable, inclusive and resilient,” said the National Convenor of Nigeria Food Systems Summit Dialogues, and Permanent Secretary, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Olusola Idowu, at a webinar for journalists, held on Monday, 9 February 2021.
To achieve this, Mrs. Idowu explained, National Food Summit Dialogues would be organized across Nigeria and there would be a harvest of contributions towards shaping the pathways that will lead to collective determination of sustainable food systems and how they will contribute to achieving food security in Nigeria.
She further noted that the dialogues would consider how it would be possible to assess progress towards improved food systems as well as determine who needed to be involved in achieving the overarching objective of building effective food systems in Nigeria.
The National Convenor added that Food systems touched every aspect of human existence. ”In Nigeria and elsewhere in the world, the management of food systems profoundly affects the health of the people, as well as the health of the environment, economies and cultures.”
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, emphasized the importance of sustainability of the food system. “We need to put in place systems to ensure that we produce enough food for the current generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to have access to adequate food and proper nutrition.” He said, “As the population continues to grow, and with the many players in the food industry, there is greater need for all of us to understand how we will ensure availability of quality food in quantities that will cater for the needs of all people in a sustainable way.”
Mr. Kallon underscored the importance of the media in ensuring sustainable food systems. “Without the media, all dialogues would be likened to ‘winking in the dark’, no one sees what you are doing. Nigeria is blessed with a vibrant press in a pluralistic media ecosystem and populated by professionals who constitute one of the world’s best.” He explained and urged media partners to get in the flow of the UN Food Systems Summit, and to support “our efforts by encouraging debate and discussion among the population on issues of sustainable food systems for the country.
On COVID-19 and the food systems, the Resident Coordinator noted that coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the connection between food, health and quality of life, and also how many of our food systems are failing us, especially where inequality is most prevalent. “The pandemic has powered an unprecedented global appetite for change that must be channeled into transforming food systems to be more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable. We must come together as stakeholders to build back better.” He said.
“While we must understand the purpose of current food systems, their functions and our own vision in the next decade. We need to also know the changes that need to be made for food systems to meet the SDGs expectations by 2030 and how stakeholders need to effectively work together or differently for collective action,” said the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, Mr Fred Kafeero.
He explained that Government, Food producers and processors, traders, donors and all partners needed to evaluate the current realities, to know what is currently working or not and the lessons learned from what is not working, make recommendations for improvement and take action towards achieving sustainable food systems for Nigeria by 2030.
Speaking on the UN Food Systems Dialogue and ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all, Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, underscoring the importance of safe and nutritious food, said: “ One out of every 3 children in Nigeria is stunted; 1 in 10 children is wasted. This is not only a personal tragedy for families but also has a direct impact on human resources. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s food system has failed children, young people and adults in delivering safe, nutritious food.’’
“The UN is looking at a fundamental shift from feeding people, particularly children, to nourishing them. This would require transforming food systems and moving away from food production as a goal to looking at production as a tool to ensure nutrition security. UN is committed to working with the government, communities, traditional institutions, private sector and civil society, to achieve this.” He added
WHO Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo noted, “Nigeria already has a good number of policies and regulations, but what we need now is implementation. There is a need to generate game changing solutions that can catalyze shift in consumption through changes in food policy, food environments, private sector and offering and consumers behavior.”
Highlighting that Non-Communicable Diseases are the most common causes of death and disability worldwide, Dr Mulombo who was represented by Dr Kelias Phiri Msyamboza, called for a transition towards diets which are healthier and more sustainable, economically equitable and socially just, taking into account the local context and cultural identity.
"Around the world, more than enough food is produced to feed the global population—but over 690 million people still remain hungry" said, Mr. Mohamed Yahya UNDP Resident Representative for Nigeria. He observed that successfully tackling these challenges required a major shift from our current consumption patterns to sustainable nature-positive production at scale. “This has become a necessity, as our food system is currently limiting our ability to achieve the SDGs". He added.
The Representative of IFAD in Nigeria, Ms Nadine Gbosa, called for inclusion of pro-poor nature-based solutions and climate change and environment policies to improve the capacity of the poor to manage risks. “Effort must be focused on making value chains inclusive through the generation of decent employment and improving resilience through social protection; while food systems transformation should be anchored in small- and medium-scale production, family farmers, women and workers in food value chains” Ms Nadine who was represented by Ms Florence Iseko, said and highlighted the need to address specific barriers to inclusive, equitable livelihood development; as well as the legal, institutional and market constraints to the realization of equity within food systems.
Speaking on “Building Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses”, Representative and Country Director, WFP Nigeria, Dr. Paul Howe, noted that “We need to explore solutions to ensure that if there’s a shock, vulnerability or stresses, food systems maintain their functionality and keep going. Or, if there’s a disruption, it’s able to recover quickly.”
He informed that the UN would work with stakeholders from across society to build food systems that withstand future shocks and stresses; as well as food systems that are truly resilient and will be strong taking us into 2030 to help us achieve Zero Hunger.
In September 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Ahead of the summit, UN Member States have been asked to convene national dialogues. Nigeria’s inception dialogue on the UN Food Systems Summit, therefore, holds on 23 February 2021.