THE rampaging poverty in Nigeria appears to be eroding the plan by the authorities to end hunger in the next eight years. Disturbingly, the ambitious target of the African Union (AU) to end hunger in the continent by 2025 is currently not on track.
Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report found that despite a prolonged decline, world hunger is on the rise again. The increase is linked to conflicts and drought that affected many countries and hit rural areas of developing countries particularly hard.
But in the case of Nigeria, poverty has been busy rising with more than 100 million people living on less than one US dollar (N370) a day, despite economic growth which statistics have shown. For instance, the National Bureau of Statistics had said that 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in "absolute poverty" - this figure had risen from 54.7% in 2004.
Interestingly, Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and among the biggest in the world but most of her peoples subsists on less than a dollar a day.
Yet, every day, around two million barrels of oil are pumped from the Niger Delta. At a conservative $60 a barrel, that's $120 million. Increasingly, natural gas is also being exported from the poverty-hit oil region, adding to the millions in revenues generated every day.
The International Monetary Fund calculated that Nigeria earned over $350 billion in oil revenues between 1965 and 2000. Since 2000, with oil prices soaring, billions more have been earned. The peoples of the Niger Delta see this wealth being pumped from around them but never had any significant effect physically and otherwise.
What they get in return, and what they have gotten for the past 57 years, is pitiful. Not only have they received little but they have been made even more impoverished by the hellish pollution, undying corruption and conflict that oil production has brought in their midst.
It is, therefore, against this backdrop that the Summit of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was a seeming important event that brought leaders together to discuss issues vital to the continent’s progress and prosperity. In that framework, several events related to ending hunger and boosting nutrition were held on the margins of the Summit, and at which the United Nations was represented.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva was in Addis Ababa. The highlight of the Director-General’s mission was the high-level meeting Achieving Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025, on Saturday, January 27. The meeting was co-organized by the AU Commission and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture with support from FAO and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The high-level meeting was a follow-up to a conference held in July 2013 in Addis Ababa during which the AU, FAO and the Lula Institute launched an initiative aimed at eradicating hunger in Africa by 2025. A year later, the results of that meeting were consolidated through the Malabo Declaration, backed by African leaders. Five years on, the Saturday meeting brought together the original attendees and other stakeholders to assess efforts so far, renew commitments and accelerate progress.
Participants at the high-level event included the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailermariam Desalegn, and leaders from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), UNECA, and others. Former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo and former President of Brazil and World Food Prize winner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (via video) also attended.
Obasanjo is a champion of empowering rural women in agriculture, which is widely held as a vital step towards eradicating hunger. Brazil sets an inspiring example after more than 30 million Brazilians were lifted out of extreme poverty in a 10-year period under their “Zero Hunger” programme, and is active in sharing its successes through south-south cooperation.
Also on the sidelines of the AU Summit, the Director-General signed an agreement with the Government of Senegal for the opening of a new FAO Sub-regional Office for West Africa in Dakar. The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, as well as other West African Heads of State, attended the signing ceremony on Sunday, January 28. The office will foster FAO’s presence at the sub-regional level and aims to further strengthen the long-standing collaboration between FAO and West African countries on food security, nutrition, agriculture and rural development.
On Saturday the FAO Director-General also attended an event on the Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA) initiative, led by the former President Obasanjo.
On Monday, FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo was billed to attend a meeting that was expected to endorse the African Leaders for Nutrition Initiative by the African Heads of State. The Initiative is intended to catalyze and sustain high-level political advocacy and build on the growing international commitments to tackle malnutrition on the African continent.