This study was intended to analyze food security and poverty status in Households and the country as a whole. This study was guided by the following objectives; to examine the relationship between poverty level and unemployment in Nigeria, to examine the effect of poverty level on agricultural output in Nigeria, to identify the effect of poverty and unemployment level on sustainable agricultural output in Nigeria.
The study employed the descriptive and explanatory design; secondary data sources were used and data was analyzed using the correlation statistical tool at 5% level of significance which was presented in frequency tables and percentage. The study findings revealed that there is a relationship between and unemployment level in Nigeria; poverty level has an effect on agricultural output in Nigeria based on the findings from the study, efforts should be made by the Nigerian government and stakeholders in promoting agricultural output policies.
Food security in a broad sense consists of having at all times an adequate level of basic products to meet increasing consumption demand and mitigate fluctuations in output and prices. According to Moharjan and Chetri (2006), food security is widely seen as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active life, while food insecurity is the inability of a household or individuals to meet the required consumption levels in the face of fluctuating production, price and income.
2.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
At the national level, food security exists when all people at all times have the physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for active and healthy life, while at the household level, food security implies physical and economic access to food that is adequate in terms of quantity, safety and cultural accessibility, to meet each person’s need (Ingawa, 2002). A country can be said to be enjoying food security when people’s fear of not having enough to eat is removed and the most vulnerable group, namely women and children, in the marginal areas have access to adequate quality of food they want. According to the World Bank (1986), food security refers to access to food resources by each individual at all times for healthy and active life. Food demand in Nigeria has generally grown faster than either food production or total supply. C. B. N. (2001) reported that the rate of increase in food production of 2.5 percent per annum does not keep pace with the annual population growth rate of 2.8 percent per annum. Fakiyesi (2001) also maintained that Nigeria’s domestic food supply has been far short of the need of the population. This could result in reduced consumption among the poor. The urban poor in particular are lacking in education, basic technical skills and unemployment. Consequently these category of persons belong to the low – income groups and are therefore most vulnerable to food insecurity. Given the high cost of social services, nutritional level and food purchasing capacity tend to deteriorate as relatively large proportion of income goes to meeting these social services (Olayemi, 1998). Ali (1994) stated that the African poor have common characteristics of facing the most severe difficulties in relation to production of food and access to food market which make them most vulnerable to food security crisis. In Nigeria, the issue of food in security is of a major concern. This is particularly more in the northern Sudan Savannah and Sahel zones which have the highest prevalence of under nutrition (FAO, 1998) and where the study area lies. Fakiyesi (2001) also estimated that about 66% of Nigeria’s populations live below poverty line as portrayed by their level of food security.
Worldwide, about 852 million men, women, children are chronically hungry due to extreme poverty; while up to 2 billion people lack food security intermittently due to varying degree of poverty (FAO, 2003). More than two-thirds of Nigerian people are poor, despite living in a country with vast potential wealth. Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods; and an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (i.e. without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies). Aside from food production, which a large proportion of the Nigerian populace is involved in, accessibility is very important to attain food security level. Food security at national level does not therefore guarantee that all people, especially the poor, will have access to the minimum nutrition requirement because of existing regional, economic and social inequalities, (Alderman and Garcia (1993). There may be food insecurity for some rural populations because they do not produce sufficient food and/or do not have sufficient purchasing power to cover their food needs. Rural poverty is a very important issue in Nigeria, that needs redress as over 90% of agricultural production is from the rural farming households with little access to productive resources(resource poverty), (Obamiro et al, 2003). Many factors which may vary from region to region are known to be determinants of poverty. However, household endowments (assets) which help households to diversify their sources of income and thus reduce the risk of overall income failure have been identified as important determinants of poverty, (Ellis, 1998). This study, therefore, seeks to identify the proportion of sampled rural households that is food secure; the factors that determine household food security status; develop a poverty profile of the study area and determine the effect of household assets on household poverty.
2.3 THE CONCEPT OF FOOD SECURITY
Food security is a concept that has evolved during the 1990s far beyond a traditional focus on the supply of food at the national level. This concept has been given general definitions in time past but in recent times, there has been a divergence of ideas on what food security really means. According to , food security was defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active and healthy life. The committee on world food security defined it as physical and economic access to adequate food by all household members without undue risk of loosing the access. However, the definition adopted by the countries attending the world food summit of 1996, and reconfirmed in 2002, accepts the USAID’S concept which has three key elements viz; food availability, food access and food utilization. However, a fourth concept is increasingly becoming accepted namely, “the risks that can disrupt anyone of the first three factors” There are therefore four major elements of food security. They are food availability, food access, food utilization and not losing such access. Availability, access and utilization are hierarchical in nature. Food availability is necessary but not sufficient for food accessibility and access is necessary but not sufficient for utilization. In a larger sense, two broad groups of factors determine food security. These are supply side factors and demand side factors. The supply-side factors are those that determine food supply or food availability. In other words, they are determinants of physical access to food at national, household and intra-household levels. The demand side factors on the other hand are factors that determine the degree of access of countries, households and individuals to available food. They are, in other words, determinants of economic access to food or determinants of entitlement to available food. Common to these two sets of factors however is another set of factors that affect the stability of both physical and economic access to foods. Food insecurity or lack of access to nutritionally adequate diet in a household or country can take various forms. For example, chronic food insecurity exists when food supplies are persistently insufficient to supply adequate nutrient for all individuals. Transitory food insecurity occurs when there is a temporary decline in access to adequate food because of instability in food production, food price increases or income shortfalls. We may distinguish between national food security and household food security. This distinction is necessary because an aggregate supply of food, from domestic sources or import or both, are prerequisite but certainly not a sufficient condition for a food secure situation in a country. In other words, adequate availability of food in Nigeria on a per capita basis does not necessarily translate to sufficient and adequate food for every citizen. Food security at household level is a subset of the national level and it requires that all individuals and households have access to sufficient food either by producing it themselves or by generating sufficient income to demand for it. Food availability is a function of the combination of domestic food stocks, commercial food imports, food aid, and domestic food production, as well as the underlying determinants each of these factors. Use of the term availability is often confusing since it can refer to food supplies available at both household level and at a more aggregate (regional and national) level. However, the term is applied most commonly in reference to food supplies at a regional or national level. Food access is influenced by the aggregate availability of food through the impact of the latter on supplies in the market and therefore, on market prices. Again, figure 1 above indicates that access is further determined by the ability of households to obtain food from their own production and stocks, from the market and from other sources. These factors are in turn determined by the resource endowment of the household, which defines the set of productive activities they can pursue in meeting their income and food security objectives. Food utilization, which is typically reflected in the nutritional status of an individual, is determined by the quantity and quality of dietary intake, general childcare and feeding practices, along with health status and its determinants. Poor infant care and feeding practices, inadequate access to, or the poor quality of, health services are also major determinants of poor health and nutrition. While important for its own sake as it directly influences, human well being, improved food utilization also has feedback effects, through its impact on the health and nutrition of household members, and therefore, on labour productivity and income earning potential.
In the 40s and early 50s, Nigeria did not have to contend with the problem of food insecurity. The system was able to feed her citizens and at the same time export the surplus food items. Every regions of the country specialized in the production of one or two major crops, whether food or cash crops, and together the country was relatively self-sufficient in food production. Nigeria had the groundnut pyramids in the North, the cocoa maintains in the west, oil palm and kernel heaps in the East and the rubber plantation in the mid-west (see, Tell, August 3, 2009:2). But when oil was discovered in 1956 and exportation of it started in 1958, things started changing gradually, and later furiously. It was like declaring holiday for hoes and machetes. As oil prices went up, interest in agriculture waned which marked the beginning of decline into the abyss as a polity. The consequential effect of the decline like some countries of the world, the nation’s economy is feeling the brunt of the rising cost of food items, especially the rise in the prices of staple foods. Significantly, the price of rice has increased by over 100 per cent since 2006. It is instructive to note that Nigeria requires 2.5 million metric tones of rice annually while local rice production is less than half a million metric tones per year (Teel, May 5, 2008:23). With these figures as released by Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nigeria is short of two million tones of rice, which it has to source from other countries. It is estimated that Nigeria spent a whopping $2billion dollars importing about six million tones of wheat, $750 million on rice $700 million on sugar and $500 million on milk and other dairy products (Tell, May 5, 2008:23). As things stand now, Nigeria is likely to spend even more. With the global rise in food prices, the United Nations Food Security Information Note, (FOSIN), of November 2007 showed that “market tensions manifest, in part, through price increases would be most acutely felt by vulnerable households, where difficulties in accessing cereals would lead to localized food security problems (see Tell, May 5, 2008:23). Beyond high prices of staple food items in Nigeria, drought and political situation in neightbouring countries like Chad, Cameroun and Niger seem to pose a threat to a state like Borno as they rely on the state for their food supplies. Another problem according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, responsible for the food crisis in Nigeria is not unconnected with the fact that “Nigeria’s agriculture is mainly rain-fed and she has not taken full advantage of its irrigation potential estimated between two and 2.5 million hectares”. The area under irrigation is officially estimated at about 220,000 hectares or less than one per cent of the total areas under crops. The contribution of irrigated agriculture to crop production is, therefore, very small (see, Tell, May 5, 2008). In contrast, while drought presents a major problem for the affordability and availability of food items, excessive rain has also contributed significantly to the current hike in food prices. Statistics from Gombe State alone as compiled by Gombe State Emergency Management Agency (GSEMA) show that about 999 farmlands in the state were affected by floods which destroyed yams, maize, vegetable, sugarcane and cassava farms in 2007 (Tell, May 5, 2008), when data from other states are added together, no doubt, the ripple effect becomes staggering. Whereas, climatic conditions favour the rising food prices, the deficiencies in the delivery of farm inputs also come to the fore as a major challenge to farmers. Another factor is the low usage of fertilizers, occasioned by using the poor level of availability resulting in low crop yield. The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources has disclosed that current use of fertilizer is about 1,000,000 metric tones per annum, while the projected demand estimate is 3.7 million metric tones. While the “average worldwide rate is 93kg per hectare of NPK, the rate for Nigeria is around 13kg per hectare” (Tell, May, 5, 2008).
Indeed, these are challenges threatening the food security of nations. While the federal government has instructed that the strategic grains reserve be released to ameliorate the scarcity and rising prices, Abba Ruma, Nigeria’s Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, has indicated that even this may have its shortcomings. In the sense that this short-term solution may not work because the reserves do not have the essential food items such as rice, wheat and sugar, whose prices are increasing in the global market steadily (Tell, May 5, 2008). According to the minister, 65 per cent of the Nigerian population is suffering from lack of food security, adding that 40 per cent of children under five are stunted and 25 per cent are under weight. In fact the poverty situation of the country is brought home by the 2006 Global Index of Hunger which ranked Nigeria as the 20th poverty-stricken nation.
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