By Patience Aliyu
To ensure food security for citizens, at least 2.4 million households will benefit from the Federal Government’s post-COVID-19 stimulus package, a presidential aide says.
Dr Andrew Kwasari, Senior Special Assistant (SSA), to the President on Agriculture, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Sunday in Abuja.
Kwasari was speaking against the backdrop of the number of projects anchored by the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Committee (NESC), to secure the economy against the effects of COVID-19.
NAN reports that the stimulus package would be provided through the Agric for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), under the Agricultural Sector of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), headed by the SSA.
The NESP, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2020, is being chaired by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, with members from key sectors of the economy, to forestall the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on the economy.
“The Economic Sustainability Committee needed to be very strategic in utilising the minimal resources, overall, not only for the agriculture sector.
“So for the Agric Sector, we decided that we will use this strategy to utilise available cash to work with financial institutions, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“To see how we can get stimulus packages to about a minimum of 2.4 million households or to fund 2.4 million hectares of land that will be cultivated during this 2020 wet and dry season farming,” he said.
Kwasari added that it was in a bid to answer the question – “What must Nigeria do to ensure food sufficiency in the wake of COVID-19?” that the agricultural sub-sector of NESC decided to clearly define and understand the global scenario of the pandemic.
“The Nigerian economy was already disrupted; we had lost a large share of our GDP income which comes from oil.
“So with this reduced GDP, even if there is stable food systems supply, Nigeria may not be able to afford importation of food in order to feed over 200 million people.
“Imagine then where we have both global food system disruption in productivity and output and the loss of national income from oil revenue losses.
“Then we are in a more dangerous situation,” he stated, adding that Nigeria opted for large scale food production to cushion the effects of COVID-19, due to dwindling resources.
“Nigeria has a plus in terms of a large population that can be channeled into food production, so we capitalised on it to grow food during this 2020 wet season and dry season farming,” he said.
Kwasari noted that in tackling the problem of the impending economic depression, the committee also had to increase its limited resources to reach the larger population of indigent Nigerians.
NAN reports that the households to benefit from the Agric for Food and Job Project are small scale farmers with farmlands ranging from 1-5 hectares across the 36 states of Nigeria and the FCT; and enumeration is already in progress.