At the beginning of 2012, we committed ourselves to bringing nutrition to the front burner of governments in Nigeria.
And in line with the SUN initiative, it’s necessary for government to do at least three things to show commitment and political will.
The three indicators of commitment, I believe, are:
- adequate funding
- effective policies/initiatives
- creation of effective institutions.
And so the announcement, during the last Nutrition Partners forum on 9 October, of the resolve of the Nigerian Minister for Agriculture is one of the most important developments this year.
The minister must be encouraged to prioritise nutrition, as he is doing at the moment. Three of the minister’s initiatives stand out and are the reasons why I’m so excited.
Creation of nutrition department
For the first time, a department will be created to coordinate nutrition in the ministry. This is a welcome development given that we’ve been advocating for nutrition-centered Agriculture policy.
This will ensure that whatever decision is expected from the Ministry of Agriculture in the coming years, nutrition will feature prominently in the plans and policies.
It’ll also ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture will be able to play its expected role in shaping the nutrition policy of Nigeria. This is indeed good news for our advocacy.
Gender mainstreaming into agriculture
Great news! For a long time, women have been involved in farming especially nutrition-related agriculture. But to a large extent, women haven’t had the type of support that will help them to be large farm owners and ward off poverty.
Empowering them will solve a lot of problems and ensure that women are able to take decisions. Aside from that, empowering women in nutrition-related agriculture will ensure that children in Nigeria will be fed nutritious food and ensure survival in a country where 53% of under-five deaths are malnutrition-related.
I understand that a laudable initiative, ‘Women in Agriculture’ is being introduced by the minister. I hope these initiatives are prominent in the budget just presented to the National Assembly by the President this week.
And the youth aren’t left out
In a country with massive youth unemployment, abundant arable land and sufficient rain, it appears as if the time for the youth to smile is near.
The policy of government on youth empowerment through agriculture, if properly implemented, will mean that the President’s reformation agenda is on course. And so the initiative, whereby youth will be trained and given starter packs to pursue their dream in agriculture, especially nutrition-related ones, is in the right direction.
All these government initiatives are laudable and will need to be supported by all well-meaning partners. Implementing them effectively will ensure that Nigeria is able to reduce its unacceptable rates of stunting and wasting and in a few years start to reverse all the other bad health indices which are nutrition-related.