The Kwara State Government has assembled experts from the various fields of agricultural production to immediately reverse the shortage of food in the state.

The experts drawn from across the ministries and agricultural institutes including Nigeria Stored Products Research Institute, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute, National Center for Agriculture Mechanisation and the Kwara Agricultural Development Project were brought together to work on how to achieve food production in the state under the ‘Cadre Harmonise’ programme.

The Cadre Harmonisé programme is a unifying tool that helps to produce relevant, consensual, rigorous, and transparent analyses of current and projected food and nutrition situations in the state.

Speaking at a one day event held in Ilorin, the state capital on Thursday, the discussants disclosed that Kwara is among states in Nigeria that are under pressure on food security.

The state Task Force Team Coordinator, Cadre Harmonise, Mr. Olusoji Oyawoye, while presenting the results of the analysis, pointed out that food and other essential commodities were very expensive and increasingly becoming out of the reach of the poor and other less privileged residents in the state.

According to him, half of the population in the state are currently under stress, as it is difficult to get food, pointing out that people were just managing and struggling to eat  these days.

He further explained that foods are very expensive and increasingly getting out of the reach of the very poor in Kwara.

“People are having minimal food consumption despite the bumper harvest of rice in Kwara North. Everything is exported out of the state to other states such as Lagos.

The coordinator maintained that were it not for the compassionate efforts of the state government through its various palliative programmes, the situation would have been worse.

Oyawoye identified increase in fuel prices and agricultural inputs, inflation, and activities of food crop merchants, as well as diversion of farmers’ interest to cash crops production instead of food crops, as being the main problem of food and nutrition insecurity in the state.

However, he recommended the need to step up dry season farming while observing that more is needed to be done in the area of peace and dialogue between farmers and herders to forestall future conflicts.

“The state government needs to create a market and mop up most of the farm produce from farmers. This will ensure that the food stays in the state and people get access to it at a discounted rate from the government,” Oyawoye noted.

He appealed to the farmers to balance between food crops and cash crops production so that one does not suffer at the expense of the other.

Oyawoye further warned that inaccessibility and unaffordability of food create insecurity, pointing out that in order to have a secured society, there must be food accessibility and afffordability in the country.

The Cadre Harmonise coordinator observed that more farmers are increasingly diversifying from food crops to cash crops, pointing out that some are leaving food crops such as yams for cash crops such as soyabean.

According to him, there is the need to step up dry season farming while observing that more needs to be done in the area of peace and dialogue between farmers and herders

Meanwhile, the Kwara State Government has also assured of its commitment to ensuring improvement in food and nutrition security for the healthy living of residents of the state.

The Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Muhideen Aliyu, gave the assurance that the state Governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has a significant bias for agriculture and has thus by created the enabling environment for farmers through its various intervention programmes in the sector and improved security network across the state.

He explained that the state is still relatively peaceful when compared to other states that are facing endemic insecurity, stressing that the state would continue to build on the existing security structure to ensure both food and human security.

“Though there have been records of some disturbances in some local governments, but  security operatives were able to curtail them.

“A committee was created comprising the community leaders, herders, and farmers to ensure that issues or confrontations were neutralised.

“Over 300 vigilantes and hunters were on government payroll to ensure that they were part of security networks in the state, while government is working assiduously to ensure that peace prevails in the state”, Aliyu explained.

In her contribution, the Managing Director, Kwara Agricultural Development Project, Dr. Khadijat Ahmed urged the government to employ more extension officers in order to reinvigorate the activities of the extension agents and also ensure appropriate funding for their activities.

She noted that most of the challenges facing the agricultural sector today are due to inadequate extension services and lack of knowledge on the part of the farmers in the country.

 Alhaja Afusat Ibrahim, the Permanent Secretary in the Kwara State Ministry of Environment, bemoaned the devastating effects of climate change on the environment with its adverse effect of farming.

She warned against tree felling and burning them into charcoals, even as she enjoined the people to increase tree planting.

Ibrahim disclosed that the state government is embarking on land resuscitation and pleaded all stakeholders to support it.

In his presentation, Dr Habib Lawal, the Kwara Coordinator of Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria project, asserted that food security comes first while every other intervention is secondary.

“When people have access to nutritional food, it will serve as protection against malnutrition,” he said.

Lawal warned that children who are stunted will never achieve their potential in life, adding that the future is shaky with these kinds of future population.

In his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary, Kwara State Ministry of Agriculture, and Rural Development, TPL. Ishiaq Oloruko-oba urged that all hands must be on deck to ensure food security in the state.

He warned that nobody would be safe when people find it difficult to feed themselves and their families.