IT HAS become imperative for the country to accord food preservation and storage the attention it deserves given that this is harvest season and if we do not make hay now that another sun shines, we may be the losers again. In view of the importance of food, should we ignore action now? This issue has also become salient given that hunger and emergencies beckon.
Even in the first republic when agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy; the respective regional governments engaged competitively in agriculture. Regions engaged in agricultural areas where they had comparative advantage over their peers in the natural resources for local consumption and foreign exchange earnings as well as for accelerated socio-economic growth and development. Notwithstanding the keenness for agriculture then and commitment to it, a lot of food was wasted because of lack of effective storage facilities, particularly as it relates to perishable and seasonal foods.
ALTHOUGH the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity and the consequent quantum leap in foreign exchange earnings through non-agricultural sectors resulted in relegation of agriculture to the back burner of the country’s economy, the global economy today has proved the folly of Nigerian leaders who thought that the earnings from the sale of oil and gas could meet all the needs of the country.
As things stand, the earnings from oil and gas have been subjected to occasional buffeting in the international market. This has forced many states and even the federal government to realise the import of agriculture in rebuilding the nation and its economy. But studies have shown that commitment to food sufficiency while pursuing an agro-economy is the last effective approach. Therefore, a situation where there is insufficient attention paid to food preservation and storage of surplus proceeds of harvest from farms for future use is worrisome.
Beyond the economic sense, storage of food makes for sustenance of agricultural production chain,; it saves a land from hunger and ensures that in dire times such as crises, health emergencies and environmental havocs, there would be food, even if momentarily for victims.
The essence of having stock to fall back on in times of hunger seems not to have been learnt over the years in Nigeria. The COVID-19 pandemic that ravage the entire world sending their economies into a tailspin has sent the message home. Within weeks of the plague, states and councils were in lack of grains, tubers and foods which would have been remaining in stores if the storage culture existed.
A TYPICAL example is when the federal government had to open the national grain store during the lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic to bring out food for distribution to the people.
It is on this score that communities, local governments and states should be encouraged to avail themselves the opportunity of harvest season across country to gather and store foods for the future. Now that we have food in abundance to gather, especially, the surpluses that could be available in markets, we should endeavour to store them in silos and barns, among others for the rainy day instead of leaving them to rot away in farm markets and communities where they are produced.
AN IGBO adage says that a child who laughs at spoilt yams in his father’s barn is only laughing at the hunger that will kill him later. It is equally said that one must save for the rainy day and it is well known that no community ever gets better by not preserving what they produce. This explains why culturally, Africans adopt the concept of preserving food as a custom. While Igbo people preserve yams, cocoyams, grains and other produce in barns, chimneys, among others, in some cultures, it is grains and vegetables.
HOWEVER, the main thrust of what could be perceived as revolution in this regard is the establishment of modern storage facilities like silos, barns, and use of products of researches from institutions of higher learning and agricultural research centres on the matter. The state-of-the-art storage facilities and innovations will act as buffer which will serve as food supply in emergency situations like massive and uncontrollable flood menace, pandemics that occasion internal displacement of persons, lockdown, inter and intra communal crises and sundry natural disasters like flooding, desert encroachment, which lead to mass migration of people and desertion of people whose lives are in mortal danger and the necessity of being evacuated to IDP or refugee camps.