The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Tuesday signed agreement with the Federal Government aimed at strengthening sustainable, inclusive food safety and agriculture systems.
The Permanent Secretary, Mr Ernest Umakhihe of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and FAO Representative in Nigeria Mr Fred Kafeero signed the agreement in Abuja.
Kafeero said that FAO had secured funds for the implementation of three Technical Cooperation Programme (TCPs), in line with the priorities of the federal government as outlined in the FAO Country Programming Framework (CPF) for Nigeria, from 2018 to 2022.
The TCPs included focusing on the implementation of the Hand in Hand Initiative in Nigeria for sustainable and inclusive food and agriculture systems to build resilience and alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
“The Hand in Hand initiative aims to enhance the capacity of communities and rural institutions to take advantage of the unexploited opportunities effectively and sustainably to address structural constraints and build resilience of populations in territories under crisis.
“On the other hand, the other TCPs aim to provide technical support to aflatoxin management and mitigation in Nigeria.
“It is expected to help the Government of Nigeria to address food security and nutrition issues, support the national economic diversification drive, ensure food safety and provide imports substitution, among other benefits,’’ Kafeero said.
FAO Assistant Representative in Nigeria, Abubakar Suleiman, said the initiative was developed by the UN organisation but “it is a country owned initiative to develop and identify investment gaps and develop territorial approaches that will target specific value chains, specific commodities and specific entry points.’’
He said Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) expressed interest to join the Hand-in-Hand initiative “and for that we have constituted a core team and a technical task team to support Nigeria.”
“The Hand-in-Hand will work very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Trade and Investment and Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
“The Hand-in-Hand has a two-track approach that will focus on investment and impact programme implementation in defined crops and other commodities that will be later developed and identified in the course of the implementation.
“The second is the humanitarian track that will fast-track resilience, building a livelihood recovery programme particularly in territories that are facing different forms of crises,” he explained.
On aflatoxin mitigation, Suleiman said the FAO in Nigeria received request of the Federal Government through the FMARD to support technically in the mitigation effort of aflatoxin.
“As we all are aware, aflatoxin is one of the major constraints that is responsible for the rejection of Nigerian products, particularly cereals and other defined crops in the EU market.
“The two projects and the implementation will run for the biennium, which is 24 months, normally beginning from June 2022 to June 2023,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary, FMARD said that the support on aflatoxin management and mitigation was timely to protect the health of people and secure international markets farm produce.
He however commended FAO and promised that the ministry would implement the Hand-in-Hand initiative to accelerate agricultural development in the country.