Nigeria will take part in historic United Nations Food Systems Summit.
In September this year, the UN Secretary General will convene the first ever UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), a historic moment for centring food in many critical issues facing people all over our planet today: from hunger and malnutrition; to environment and nature; to livelihoods and human rights; to resilience to shocks and stresses like Covid-19 and the climate emergency.
Nigeria is a vast and diverse nation, and Africa’s most populous country. While Nigeria enjoys a rich food culture increasingly recognised around the world, its food and nutrition issues remain significant. These must be overcome to achieve prosperity for all. Home to the second highest population of stunted children under five in the world, Nigeria also faces natural challenges and climate change challenges. Increases in temperature, variable rainfall, sea level rises and flooding on the one hand and drought and desertification on the other will conspire to make the impacts of climate change on Nigeria’s people and environment significant.
Marking the passing of the milestone of the UNFSS pre-summit at the end of July, we reflect on Nigeria’s engagement so far.
As a nation, Nigeria joins over 125 countries that have embarked on coordinating efforts for inclusive, multistakeholder Food Systems Summit Dialogues to engage around the vision of the "people’s summit".
All over the world, countries have been holding – and in some cases continue to hold – national and sub-national dialogues to surface and prioritise needs and actions. These convenings bring stakeholders from different areas of public sector, national and subnational, representing ministries like agriculture, food, health, and environment together with private sector players like food industry bodies or small and medium-sized enterprises; together with UN agency representatives from the likes of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); together with academics and representatives from international and national Non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations (NGOs and CSOs); and finally and very crucially, together with representatives of stakeholders from groups with voices that too often go unheard – women’s groups, consumer groups, young people and farmer organisations.
Nigeria’s UNFSS Dialogues: Raising awareness, connecting stakeholders, prioritising actions
In preparation for the UNFSS, Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, supported by a technical group consisting of academic experts, UN agency representatives and representatives of NGOs like GAIN, have convened a total of 40 dialogues with over 4,000 participants. Twenty-six of these dialogues were convened by the Nigerian government, while 14 dialogues were independently convened by other country stakeholders. The government dialogues included one inception dialogue, 12 zonal dialogues that together achieved participation from all states and the Federal Capital Territory, eight rural dialogues to engage community level participants, two value chains/private sector dialogues, one women dialogue, one youth dialogue and a consolidatory dialogue.
The independent dialogues convened addressed specific aspects of food systems which included child and adolescent nutrition, fortification, and civil society organizations roles. In addition to these national dialogues, there were seven international dialogues that included Nigeria as a focus country. The international dialogues covered topics including indigenous vegetables, local initiation of and participation in food systems research, securing land tenure rights, and needed policy innovations.
Emerging from the member state and multistakeholder engagements, Nigeria has drafted a vision of 'National Pathways to Food Systems Transformation' which highlights the current state of Nigeria's food systems as well as the expectations of Nigerians – for instance that food systems will deliver higher incomes and reduce poverty, facilitate better education, better access for women to productive resources, lower prices of nutritious foods, better availability of foods in off-seasons and so forth. This pathway also includes an emerging longlist of transformative actions to be taken in both the short- and long-term.
Emerging Priorities for Nigeria
The 50 transformative actions tentatively identified are too many to list here, but they are wide ranging and ambitious – catalogued under each of the UNFSS Action Tracks, as well as cutting across them.
In the short-term, some of the key priority actions to be undertaken would include training of agricultural extension agents to improve extension services, provision of incentives to businesses investing in the nutrition value chain, improvement of the national food fortification programme by ensuring increased compliance monitoring and enforcement, strengthening, and scaling up of conditional cash transfer programmes, amongst several others.
Long-time priority actions on the other hand will focus on the development and deployment of policy and legislation to institutionalise the national food systems transformation pathways, reform of the land tenure system for easy access to land by youths and women, expansion of the mandatory fortification programme by inclusion of new fortification vehicles and also promotion of public-private partnership to address infrastructural deficits, including increased investments in storage facilities, food reserves, alternative power sources, cold chain logistics, and construction of rural roads to facilitate easy access to farming communities and enable shorter turnaround for off-taking activities.
Nigeria at the UNFSS Pre-summit
On the occasion of the UNFSS Pre-summit convened in Rome and virtually with participants from all over the globe, Nigerian Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba said:
"We especially support the emerging coalitions of actions around zero hunger, children’s diet and nutrition, sustainably meeting food and nutrition demand. We expect to engage with the solution clusters connected to these coalitions. In the weeks looking up to the Summit we will be taking a closer look at the solution clusters then refining our immediate next steps including actions to strengthen our human resource capacities for food systems transformation."
Here at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in Nigeria, we are ready to support multistakeholder efforts to transform our food systems – to deliver on multiple fronts that this transformation promises, including nutrition, livelihoods, equity, resilience, and social and environmental sustainability.