By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele has warned of the dire consequences of continued food malnutrition presently ravaging millions of children in the African countries.
Emefiele who spoke at the opening of a seminar for African Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Abuja on Monday said, “we must stop romanticizing food malnutrition in Africa, because it is evident that malnourished children today will lead to malnourished economies tomorrow”.
Represented by the CBN Director of Public Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor, the governor pointed out that, “malnutrition is abnormal and affects millions of children in Africa. These children are either underweight or stunted, wasted or micronutrient deficient”.
The two-day seminar, with the theme, “Agriculture and Food Policies for Better Nutrition Outcomes in Africa”, was organized by the African Economic Consortium (AERC) in partnership with the CBN.
Alluding to a recent Global Report, Emefiele disclosed that “an estimated 57.9 million or 36% of children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa have abnormal physiological condition resulting from inadequate food intake or a recent bout with illness that may hinder appropriate intake and absorption of nutrients required for an active, healthy life”.
Accoding to him, this situation may constitute a threat to the lives of 13.1 million children in the region, adding that, the effects of which include, “vulnerability to illness, difficulty In school, and eventually reduced adult labour capacity”.
The governor said, “Binding constraints, such as limited access to technology, markets, infrastructure, finance, amongst others – also need to be addressed, as these challenges continue to limit agriculture across the continent and reduce its potential as a wealth- creating endeavour.
“Access to and secured ownership of land remain major challenges particularly for women and smallholder farmers in general because they lack eligible collateral.
“The absence of policies to encourage the use of movable collaterals, rather than fixed assets continues to constrain attempts to scale-up requisite financing to smallholder farmers in the region”.
He however stated that in Nigeria, the CBN has adopted some measures to redress the trend, by forging alliances with financial and non-financial institutions to improve smallholder farmers’ access to finance in furtherance of its developmental mandate.
“In recent years the Bank has set up two major vehicles – The Nigeria Incentives-based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the National Collateral Registry (NCR), and currently leverages both in the implementation of intervention programmes in the agricultural sector such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS).
“Across the country, these programmes have been implemented with resounding success – expanding credits with single digit interest rate to about 1.5 million smallholder farmers cultivating over 1.6 million hectares of various agricultural commodities.
“The programmes have also helped to reduce the nation’s food import bill from about US $3.40 billion as at 2014 to US $0.59 billion in 2018”, he added.
The governor also stressed the need for governments in Africa to urgently develop innovative policies to unlock the wealth in agriculture, which market size in terms of food and agribusiness, could be worth US $1 trillion by 2030 according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).
In his welcome address, Executive Director, AERC, Professor Njuguna Ndung’u noted there is a dearth of quality data to properly inform policies on nutrition and called for combine forces to achieve the best nutrition outcomes.
“Global Panel of Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition point out, there is a dearth of quality data to properly inform policies on nutrition. This has tended to limit the effectiveness of agricultural policies in improving nutrition outcomes”, he said.
Speaking on data challenges, Ndung’u said there has been lack of high-quality policy analyses that explore the effect of agricultural policies on nutrition.
He further said AERC’s mission is to strengthen local quality for conducting independent, rigorous into problems Pertinent to management of economies to enhance the capacity of locally based researchers to conduct policy relevant economic inquiry context.
“Our vision is to sustain development in Sub Saharan Africa grounded in sound economic management and an informed society”.
Top policy makers present at the opening ceremony included, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sani Nanono; his Industry, Trade and Investment, counterpart, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo and Executive Director of AERC, Prof Njuguna Ndungu as well as eminent paper presenters.