The Federal Government in collaboration with the United Nation (UN) organised a ”Rural Community Stakeholders Food Systems Dialogue”, aimed at identifying practices and policies that would have a lasting impact on the achievement of the desired vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the local food systems.
The Food Systems Dialogue summit was held on Tuesday at Adogo community in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi State.
The stakeholders at the meeting included: rural farmers, artisans, business women and men, market women, youths, health workers, LG Chairman,traditional and religious leaders,also at the summit were rural food processors, marketers, value chain leaders, input service providers, among others.
In his remarks, the National Program Coordinator, IFAD-VCDP, Alh. Garba Bala, said that the rural food system dialogue was expected to enable the stakeholders rub minds together, encourage creativity, equity, connections, elaborating pathways, intentions and commitments.
Bala, who was represented by Mr Sunday Agama, the National Marketing Officer IFAD-VCDP, noted that the dialogue had been done at national and regional levels but it was discovered that the policy document that was produced was not effective because it was developed through a top-bottom level approach.
”But this time around, the UN Food Systems in collaboration with the Federal Government have come up with this dialogue by using the bottom-top approach to get views and opinions of stakeholders in the rural areas who are directly involved or affected.
According to him, the aim of the dialogue is to identify practices and policies that will have the greatest impact on the achievement of the desired vision within our local food systems.
He, therefore, urged the participants to feel free to express all their challenges and also make suggestions on ways to proffer solutions to them, so as to make quality food systems available and affordable to all by 2030 in tanden with the SDGs.
The Kogi State Commissioner for Agriculture Mr David Apeh, who was represented at the occasion by the Managing Director, Kogi Agricultural Development Project (ADP), Mr George Ogirima, noted that Gov. Yahaya Bello, remained an Agriculture friendly governor who believed that Kogi should be one of the high rated States in Agricultural production.
According to him, by the state government’s estimation, Kogi is capable of feeding the North Central zone and by extension the country at large.
He stressed that the coming of the IFAD-VCDP programmes to Kogi had further boosted the initiative of the Governor by investing so much in the sector to making it the most agrarian state.
He opined that the Kogi ADP had a lot of man power of that can drive and give professional support when needed. Saying, ”I am confident that the coming of this program will definitely partner with ADP”.
The commissioner assured the organisers of total support of the State Government for the program to achieve the desired success.
In her remarks, Mrs Stella Adejoh, Program Coordinator, Kogi State IFAD/VCDP, noted that the programme was put together by UN IFAD-VCDP country office in collaborations with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning.
She emphasised that the Food Systems Programme was a United Nations programme targeted towards making quality food available and affordable for everybody by the year 2030 according to the Sustainable Development Goal target.
According to her, five local government areas are already benefiting from the first phase of the IFAD/VCDP intervention in the state.These include: Lokoja, Ibaji, Ajaokuta, Olamaboro and Kabba/Bunu LGAs.
She added that Adogo community in Ajaokuta LGA was selected in Kogi State as one of the pilot communities in the country.
Adejoh further appreciated all the stakeholders at the meeting for honouring the invitation, assuring them that all the identified challenges and suggestions would be conveyed to the federal government and to the UN for necessary actions.
In their separate comments, the stakeholders urged the Federal Government and the United Nations (UN) to make adequate provision for quality farm inputs and ensure security of farmers in the rural areas.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Ajaokuta LGA, Mr Aliyu Mustapha, commended the organisers the UN, FG and Kogi State Government for the initiative and for choosing Ajaokuta as the pilot LGA, stressing that the dialogue was timely as far as the food systems was concerned.
He urged the FG and the UN to give adequate consideration to the views and suggestions expressed by the stakeholders so that the aims of food systems in making food available and accessible to everybody would be achieved by 2030 according to the SDGs target.
”We want to assure you that Ajaokuta LGA is safe, and we are ready to give you the necessary support in whatever area you need our collaboration”, Mustapha said.
Also speaking, the Ohi of Ajaokuta and Chairman, Ajaokuta Traditional Council, HRH, Alhaji Musa Isa, commended the FG and UN for the initiative, saying it is the first of such gesture in his domain.
”We are so happy for the dialogue, we have attended the meeting and expressed our challenges, views, ideas and suggestions to proffer solutions to our problems.
”We are looking up to the federal government to do everything we have asked them to do, so that farmers and other stakeholders can begin to enjoy themselves and food will be available and accessible to all.
”The high level of insecurity in the land has made it very difficult for our farmers to go to their farm lands. This issue of security challenges should be properly addressed”, the monarch reiterated.
On his part, Mr Isa Yakubu, the Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Ajaokuta, called on the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC to ensure that standard and quality farm inputs such as chemicals and seeds are sold to farmers.
According to Yakubu, most of the pesticides, herbicides and seeds the farmers were buying are substandard products which according to him, are having negative effects on their farm produce.
Another participant, a Fulani Herder and Farmer, Mr Bello Umar, urged the federal government to ensure that the activities of fake herders were checkmated especially the strangers among them.
Umar also noted that the destruction of farm lands mostly occurred when cattle were left under the control of minors who do not have the capacity to control the cows, and urged the FG to prohibit such practice.
Other stakeholders such as market women, youths, religious leaders, artisans, who spoke during the dialogue, stressed the need for government to provide farm inputs, soft loans, food processing and storage facilities.
They also enjoined the government to ensure adequate security.
Again, the participants unanimously appealed to the federal government and united nations to urgently address the issue of insecurity across the country especially the kidnappings and farmers/herders crises.