• Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

National Assembly Committees Retreat Addresses Critical Food Challenges In Nigeria

A comprehensive two-day retreat organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), E-Health Africa, and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has addressed critical issues affecting food fortification, workforce nutrition, and food systems transformation in Nigeria. The retreat took place at the Marriott Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos, on the 15th and 16th of February 2024.

BACKGROUND:
The retreat, facilitated through a Third-Party Advocacy Campaign (TPAC), aimed to equip members of the National Assembly (NASS) with the knowledge and tools necessary to develop and implement effective policies and bills to drive positive changes in the nation’s food systems.

KEY FIGURES AND ORGANIZATIONS:
The event witnessed the presence of 16 legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives, along with 14 clerks from various Committees of NASS. The opening session included welcome remarks from the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), and the Chief Executive Officer of NESG, represented by Dr. Seyi Vincent. Notable figures such as Hon. Regina Akume, Chairman, House Committee on NAFDAC, and Senator Kaila Samaila Dahuwa, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, provided goodwill messages. Dr. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN, delivered a keynote address.

OBSERVATIONS:
After thorough discussions during technical sessions and a panel discussion featuring industry experts, several critical observations were made:

1. FOOD-RELATED CHALLENGES: Nigeria faces significant challenges related to poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and diseases.
2. INSECURITY IMPACT: Activities of armed groups create multi-dimensional security challenges, impacting food production, distribution, and workforce efficiency.
3. POST-HARVEST LOSS: High post-harvest food loss, stemming from poor storage and processing, hampers food security.
4. SOARING FOOD PRICES: Escalating food prices have resulted in increased hunger and starvation, worsening the country’s food insecurity.
5. LIMITED AWARENESS: While a “National Pathways to Food Systems Transformation” document exists, awareness about it among stakeholders is insufficient.
6. WORKFORCE NUTRITION DEFICIENCY: The absence of a workforce nutrition policy has adverse effects on health, productivity, and economic development.
7. FORTIFICATION COMPLIANCE: Despite regulations mandating food fortification, compliance remains inadequate across sectors.
8. POLICY GAPS: Existing policies lack comprehensiveness and coherence, with gaps in addressing current dietary habits and connections to climate change.
9. HUMAN RESOURCE SHORTAGE: Insufficient human resources hinder efficient action on food systems, workforce nutrition, and fortification compliance.
10. COORDINATION CHALLENGES: Low collaboration and coordination among stakeholders result in poor information access, hindering effective action.
11. FINANCIAL SHORTFALL: Adequate financing for food systems and nutrition is lacking in all MDAs with relevant mandates.

RECOMMENDATIONS: The retreat concluded with a set of recommendations to address the identified challenges:

1. SPECIAL ADVISER POSITION: Strengthen the Special Adviser to the President on Food Systems and Nutrition with tools, technical assistance, and increased funding.
2. NATIONAL FOOD SAFETY BILL: Revisit and improve the National Food Safety Bill through a five-member committee.
3. FOOD FORTIFICATION BILL: Develop and process a comprehensive Food Fortification Bill.
4. WORKFORCE NUTRITION POLICY: Draft a National Workforce Nutrition Policy in collaboration with stakeholders.
5. PUBLIC AWARENESS: Conduct evidence-based campaigns to raise awareness about workforce nutrition and interventions.
6. NATIONAL AGENCY ON NUTRITION: Develop and champion a Bill for a National Agency on Nutrition.

The communiqué was signed by key figures representing CISLAC, NESG, GAIN, and influential senators and representatives, emphasizing the commitment to addressing these critical issues for the betterment of Nigeria’s food landscape.

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor is a seasoned journalist and the CEO/Founder Belch Digital Communications, publishers of Hybrid News Nigeria.

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