Advocates of healthier environment and unadulterated food have canvassed the preservation of Nigeria’s food culture and water, maintaining that only such steps would guarantee a healthier populace and natural habitat.
Speaking on the sidelines of World Food Day, which is held on October 16 every year, they argued that one big challenge before the country is protecting its food and water from the new wave of colonialism that is systematically taking hold of food systems across the globe.
They lamented that transnational corporations were leveraging the current food crises to advance an atrocious agenda to gain control over the world’s food systems, adding: “World Food Day is an essential international observance held every year on October 16. It is dedicated to raising awareness about food security and hunger while promoting action to ensure everyone has access to safe, nutritious and affordable food.
The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) states that marking World Food Day should encourage people, organizations, and governments to unravel the root of hunger and malnutrition, address food injustice, and abuse of farmers’ rights. The day is a reminder of the avoidable fate of millions worldwide who suffer from hunger despite abundant natural and human resources.
Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, noted that modern agricultural biotechnology directly undermines our pursuit of food sovereignty, posing a threat to our dignity and our fundamental right to refuse foods laden with uncertain health consequences and an agriculture
system that stresses our ecosystems.
He canvassed the removal of genetically modified foods from our shelves, insisting: “GMOs are being pushed into our food system without stringent government regulations. People do not know the implications of growing or eating GM foods because the population is not given information on the risks related to the technology.
“In Nigeria, approvals for importing GMOs are granted without adequate public notice and proper and independent health and environmental impact assessments. It is improper for our farmers to be given seeds to grow without telling them what they are planting or what eventually will end up on the consumer’s plate.”
Bassey further charged Nigerians to be intentional about what is on their plates. “We must not fail as individuals to ensure that what goes into our stomachs is safe. We must demand accountability from regulatory agencies to ensure that food products approved for import are wholesome, meet the dietary requirements of the people, and support the local economy.”
HOMEF’s Director of Programme, Joyce Brown echoed that agroecology can feed the world, cool the planet and help local farmers adapt to climate change impacts. “Governments worldwide who want to address food insecurity and take meaningful climate action must invest in agroecology foundation for a positive transformation of food systems.
Agroecology ensures optimum water and other resources use, revives soils and the ability to hold in carbon, uses renewable energy, and promotes shorter food supply chains while making healthy and nutritionally diverse food available to all”.
Deputy Director, Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, said: “Food is a central and integral part of any society, and it creates a connection between our beliefs, ethnicity, and cultural heritage. Food is not just a part of culture; it defines culture. What we eat and how we eat provides much information about specific cultures. Food, water, and soil are all interconnected and are not commodities. They are a sacred, life-affirming, and central composite of every existing society.”
Orovwuje stressed that our food and producers must be treated with respect and dignity. She called for policies that celebrate the smallholder farmers who produce over 70 percent of the food consumed globally.
“We need deep-rooted changes in how agriculture is practised and how the food system is organised and regulated. We need to wean our food system from corporate control and concentration and keep seeds in the hands of small-scale farmers.”
HOMEF recommends that while celebrating this year’s World Food Day, the country must squarely face and find ways to resolve the underlying structural and systemic issues behind hunger and malnutrition-poverty, food waste, conflicts, inequality, imperialist plunder and poor public policies.
“We must champion an agriculture system that minimises environmental impact, ensures food security for present and future generations, reduces food waste and promotes responsible consumption.
It also urged the Federal Government to increase support for farmers by protecting their rights to seeds, as well as providing extension services and security in crisis-prone areas of the country.