The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, believes the conversations in Nigeria and other developing countries must be all-inclusive and reflective of the situations that concern the people in order to tackle hunger and reduce diseases.
As the global community mobilises resources towards addressing the threats, he explained that such conversations were critical to ensure meaningful progress towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.
“I think that some of these issues are nuanced and we really need to take a closer look, especially at these dialogues so that our conversations are reflective of the issues that concern us as a nation, as a people, and especially as a developing country,” Professor Osinbajo stated at a virtual dialogue on the Nigeria Food System held on Tuesday.
Underscoring the point about the accessibility of the dialogues, he emphasised the importance of having an open conversation.
The vice president said, “We have to take all of these issues into account, especially because we are debating issues in the international community, we are contributing to a global conversation and it is so important that the nuances of our own society and situation are introduced into this conversation so that the conversation is richer and fairer and more just for our people.”
“I think we must also make it clear that this summit is about the entire value chain from farm to table and all that is in between, including retailers, food processors, technology providers and financial institutions.”
“All of these sectors are involved in the chain and so they are relevant in this summit, and all of their views have to be brought to the table.
“All of these shows the interrelatedness and we need to demonstrate this to show the interrelatedness of each part of the chain and how the weak links affect all, else this will be an important consideration in making this dialogue as accessible and inclusive as possible,” he added.
Poverty Has Deepened
Highlighting the significance of the summit, Professor Osinbajo was confident that it would address some of the fundamental challenges facing Nigeria, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19.
According to him, the issue of developing a sustainable food system has never been more urgent and more existential for Nigeria, perhaps more so than in many other countries.
“Why? We are faced with population growth that exceeds growth figures handsomely. Poverty has deepened, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. Malnutrition and unhealthy dietary practices create unique threats to health and productivity for generation after generation.
“So, it is a significant challenge to produce enough food for a rapidly growing population, especially given the changes required in modernisation of farming practices, mechanisation, and reduction of postharvest losses,” the vice president explained.
He noted that there were also questions around ensuring environmentally sustainable production practices, creating empowering jobs and livelihoods, as well as building capacities to ensure sustainable and healthy food systems.
“These issues require expertise and experience but also the views of those who will be at the receiving end of these plans. In other words, at these dialogues, we don’t just want to hear only the experts, we want to hear those who are at the receiving end – those for whom all of these plans are being made. The people across all strata of society,” the vice president stated.
He added, “The food we produce and eat, how we produce and eat, should be environmentally friendly and not destroy the environment for future generations. That seems simple enough.
“Aside from the inherent difficulties of recommending dietary changes, which is habit-forming and for most people, there are tough questions about what practices make sense in a high-income country and what will make sense in developing countries.”
Professor Osinbajo commended the organisers of the summit for their efforts, saying the outcome of the dialogue would be of great consequence because it would determine the shape of the future.
The dialogue was organised by the United Nations to raise global awareness and shape global commitments towards mobilising food systems to address hunger, reduce diet-related diseases, and strengthen plenary health.
Those present at the meeting included the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; and the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mr Clement Agba.
Others were the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, and the National Convener of the summit, Mrs Olusola Idowu, among others.