The meeting was to identify practices and policies that would impact on achievement of the desired vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the local food systems.
The programme, tagged: ”Rural Community Stakeholders Food Systems Dialogue” was held at Adogo community in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi.
Stakeholders at the meeting included: rural farmers, artisans, business women and men, market women, youths and health workers.
Others are LG Chairmen, traditional and religious leaders, rural food processors, marketers, value chain leaders and input service providers.
In his remarks, the National Programme Coordinator, IFAD-VCDP, Alhaji Garba Bala, said the rural food system dialogue was to enable stakeholders rub minds, encourage creativity, equity, connections, elaborating pathways, intentions and commitments.
Bala, who was represented by Mr Sunday Agama, National Marketing Officer, IFAD-VCDP noted that the dialogue had been done at national and regional levels.
He said that it was discovered that the policy document that was produced was not effective because it was developed through a top-bottom level approach.
”But this time around, the UN Food Systems in collaboration with the Federal Government have come up with this dialogue by using the bottom-top approach to get views and opinions of stakeholders in rural areas who are directly involved or affected.”
According to him, the aim of the dialogue is to identify practices and policies that will have the greatest impact on the achievement of the desired vision within the local food systems.
He, therefore, urged the participants to express all their challenges and also make suggestions on ways to proffer solutions to them, so as to make quality food systems available and affordable to all by 2030.
The Kogi Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr David Apeh, who was represented by the Managing Director, Kogi Agricultural Development Project (ADP), Mr George Ogirima, noted that Gov. Yahaya Bello, remained an agriculture friendly governor who believed that Kogi should be one of the high rated states in agricultural production.
According to him, by the state government’s estimation, Kogi is capable of feeding the North Central zone and by extension the country at large.
He assured the organisers of total support of the state government for the programme to achieve the desired success.
Mrs Stella Adejoh, Programme Coordinator, Kogi State IFAD/VCDP noted that the programme was put together by UN IFAD-VCDP country office in collaborations with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning.
She emphasised that the food systems programme was a UN programme aimed at making quality food available and affordable for everybody by the year 2030 according to the SDGs target.
According to her, five local government areas are already benefiting from the first phase of the IFAD/VCDP intervention in the state, which include: Lokoja, Ibaji, Ajaokuta, Olamaboro and Kabba/Bunu.
Adejoh appreciated the stakeholders for honouring the invitation, assuring them that all identified challenges and suggestions would be conveyed to the Federal Government and to the UN for necessary actions.
The Chairman, Ajaokuta coumcil, Mr Aliyu Mustapha, commended the UN, FG and Kogi government for the initiative and for choosing Ajaokuta as the pilot LG, stressing that the dialogue was timely as far as the food systems were concerned.
He urged the Federal Government and the UN to give adequate consideration to views and suggestions expressed by the stakeholders so that the aims of food systems in making food available and accessible to everybody would be achieved by 2030 according to the SDGs target.
Also speaking, the Ohi of Ajaokuta and Chairman, Ajaokuta Traditional Council, Alhaji Musa Isa, commended the Federal Government and UN for the initiative, saying it was the first of such gesture in his domain.
”We are so happy for the dialogue, we have attended the meeting and expressed our challenges, views, ideas and suggestions to proffer solutions to our problems,” the traditional ruler said.
On his part, Mr Isa Yakubu, Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Ajaokuta, urged the Standard Organisation of Nigeria and NAFDAC to ensure that standard and quality farm inputs such as chemicals and seeds were sold to farmers.
The stakeholders urged the Federal Government and the UN to make adequate provisions for quality farm inputs, loans, storage and processing facilities and ensure security of farmers in rural areas.
The participants unanimously appealed to the Federal Government and UN to urgently address the issue of insecurity across the country, especially kidnappings and farmers/herders clashes.