DIVERSIFICATION STRATEGY OF URBAN-HOUSEHOLDS FOOD SECURITY IN NORTH-EASTERN NIGERIA

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DIVERSIFICATION STRATEGY OF URBAN-HOUSEHOLDS FOOD SECURITY IN NORTH-EASTERN NIGERIA

Abstract

World Food Summit (1996) defined food security as ‘a situation when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life’. Within the context of this definition, four distinct variables are central to the attainment of food security which include, food availability and access to food (short-term dimension of food security), sustainability of access to food (long-term dimension) and food utilization. These four dimensions are pointer to the complexity of the concept of food security. At one level the concern is with national food security, which is the ability of countries to produce or import adequate food all year round to meet their requirements for both public and private distribution; while at another level, the concern is more about food security among individuals, and households. Food insecurity or lack of access to nutritionally adequate diet in a household or country exists in two forms, namely, chronic and transitory food insecurity. According to Gautam and Anderson (2016), chronic food insecurity exists when food supplies are persistently insufficient to ensure adequate nutrients for all individuals while transitory food insecurity exists when there is a temporary decline in access due to perturbations such as instability in food production, food price variations and income shortfalls (Oluwatayo, 2009; Tantu, Gamebo, Sheno and Kabalo, 2017). National food security is distinguishable from household food security, for aggregate food supply from domestic sources or import or both are a prerequisite but not a sufficient condition (Idachaba, 2006). In other words, adequate food availability in Nigeria on per capita basis does not necessarily translate into adequate food for all citizens. Food security at household level is a subset of national food security and it requires that all individuals and households have access to sufficient food either by producing it themselves or purchasing it by generating sufficient income to demand for it ideally through livelihood diversification strategies. Despite Nigeria’s foodproducing potential characterized by her vast agricultural endowment, food insecurity remains a very serious problem. This finds expression in the country’s colossal annual food importation bill varying from N=113.63 billion in 2002 to N348 billion in 2007. This figure got increased to a humongous N=1.31 trillion in 2010. In 2011 the figure got reduced to a whopping N=1.1trillion which got further reduced to still a staggering N=0.648 trillion in 2012 (The Nation, 2011; Ships and Ports, 2013). At the World Food Summit of 1999, Nigeria alongside 185 other countries of the world made a commitment to reduce the number of chronically undernourished persons by half in the year 2015 (Ashagidigbi and Yusuf, 2013). In Nigeria, the rate of increase in poverty is alarming. Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics have shown that poverty incidence in Nigeria had risen from 54.4% in 2004 to 69% in 2010. Giving an estimated population figure of 163 million, this translates into 113 million Nigerians living below the poverty line, with an estimated 94% of them living in the rural areas (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010). By implication, a large percentage of Nigerians and still a larger percentage of Nigerian rural dwellers are food insecure because they are poor. Therefore, in order to formulate effective policies aimed at ensuring sustainable food security a comprehensive study of factors that determine rural households’ food insecurity becomes imperative (Hoang and Pham, 2014; Amao and Ayantoye, 2015); Mada and Menza, 2015). Besides, identifying those who are food insecure as target groups and having a better understanding of the factors engendering food insecurity are critical to designing efficient and effective food security programs (Mutenje et al, 2010). The study thus addressed the following research questions; what are the livelihood diversification strategies and food security profile of households? What are the determinants of livelihood diversification strategies among households? What is the food security status of households? And what is the linkage between livelihood diversification strategies and food security in the study area?

A number of interrelated factors have made this study necessary. Following the World Food Conference in 1974, the concept of food insecurity has evolved, developed, and has become multi-faceted and diversified. The main focus has shifted from global and national to household and individual food insecurity and from food availability to food accessibility and sustainability of accessibility. This trend informs the current strategy of the Nigerian Government in ensuring food security and elimination of hunger through sustainability of accessibility to food among the rural populace. Therefore, this study which is focused on household livelihood diversification strategies and food insecurity in rural North-eastern Nigeria is consistent with current government food security focus. Livelihood constitutes household’s capability, assets and economic activities to secure basic needs (Loison, 2015). The accompanying increase in poverty levels has compelled residents of rural economies to embark on livelihood diversification strategies including on-farm, (crop, fisheries and livestock) and off-farm activities or market and non-market activities to mitigate risks inherent in unpredictable agro-climatic and politico-economic circumstances (Ifeoma and Agwu, 2014; Glory and Nsikak-Abasi, 2017; Asfaw, Simane, Hassen and Bantider, 2017). Agricultural insurance is a veritable instrument to mitigate the multitudinous risks farmers are exposed to in the agricultural production process. However, this has remained underdeveloped in Nigeria given the hazardous nature of agricultural production, particularly amongst smallholder farmers who are subject to severe resource and credit constraints. The significance of agricultural insurance in reducing production risks in agriculture has been reported by Vojinovic, Zarkovic and Arambasic-Camprag (2015) in Serbia; although still underdeveloped, the great potentials for crops insurance are accentuated. The inability of small scale farmers to take premium for crops insurance has made livelihood diversification strategies the most viable coping and risk reduction alternatives accessible to farmers in the study area. Livelihood diversification centres on a portfolio of diverse activities to achieve robust livelihood outcomes to fall back on in the face of unexpected shocks. It is a rational response by households to lack of opportunities for specialization which was considered not the most desirable option. Recent studies have, however, indicated that rather than promoting specialization within existing portfolios, upgrading them to augmenting income could be more realistic and relevant for poverty reduction (Babatunde and Qaim, 2010; Alkaakahol and Aye, 2014). Accordingly, an investigation of the livelihood portfolio of rural households in relation to the diverse decisions which they take with a view to enhancing their livelihood when faced with pressure on scarce available resources was made. The essence was to have an insight into both the asset status and livelihood diversification profile in order to assist in knowing areas to which social protection/safety nets could be directed.

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