Falola urges government to banish poverty, hunger in Nigeria
An international renowned scholar, Prof. Toyin Falola, has said that negligence of agriculture and lack of national policies to banish hunger are responsible for increasing poverty in the country.
Falola stated this yesterday while delivering the 26th convocation lecture of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAB) titled: “Food and Us: Poverty, Policies and Politics.”He said: “About 11 million children under five in Nigeria are estimated to be stunted in their development. Poverty plays a prominent role; about 70 per cent of people in Nigeria live below the global poverty line.”
The professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin, at the event chaired by emeritus Prof. Anthony Asiwaju, said: “Given Nigeria’s vast resources, we should neither be hungry nor poor, but the state of poverty in Nigeria has reached incredible heights.”He noted that many Nigerians are getting poorer, hungrier and more desperate as deprivation has robbed so many of them of their dignity that food has acquired a larger-than-life status in the social consciousness.
He, therefore, urged the government to discourage importation of food because, “dependency on exports leaves an economy vulnerable to global fluctuations, which has grave consequences.
“Our political metaphors and measures of civic participation are connected to food: Stomach infrastructure, vote, and get to make a pot of stew, “jeun soke”. Corruption itself is the act of “eating or swallowing money. At some point, we must understand that keeping the poor populace hungry is a deliberate political strategy to make them easier to manipulate.
“Universities should produce agricultural research that is relevant to government decisions. The university should study the roots of the food crisis, including political and economic barriers to food security.”
Agricultural research should take inspiration from the Green Revolution, which was able to improve agricultural production in Latin America and Asia through improved fertiliser and genetically-modified crops. These two technologies were cheap and easy for farmers to receive and incorporate. Research should focus on the development of similar low-maintenance technologies specific to Nigeria’s climate.
“But the challenges posed by continued conflict, economic dependency and environmental disaster require aggressive research and intervention. Through inclusion, research, political advocacy and community education, agricultural universities can be the centre of the solution,” he stressed.