In the heart of Nigeria, a nation teeming with potential, there lies a significant challenge that hampers its quest for food sufficiency and economic growth – flood and water pollution. The clarion call for intervention has been sounded by the Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, who passionately advocates for the Federal Government and the United Nations to address this menace comprehensively. In this article, we delve into the intricate web of issues surrounding flood, water pollution, and their profound impact on food production in Nigeria.
The 2023 World Food Day Celebration
On a bright Monday morning, at the Cenotaph in Asaba, the capital city of Delta State, Governor Oborevwori highlighted the urgency of the situation during the 2023 World Food Day Celebration. The theme for this event was profound: “Water is life, water is food, leave no one behind.” It is a message that underscores the pivotal role water plays in our lives, and by extension, in food production.
The Vitality of Water
Water, the elixir of life, is at the core of food production. It constitutes over 50 percent of our bodies and blankets approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. However, a mere 2.5 percent of this water is fresh and suitable for essential purposes such as drinking, agriculture, and industrial use. This scarcity underscores the preciousness of the resource.
Governor Oborevwori draws attention to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which reveals that a staggering 72 percent of the world’s fresh water is consumed by agriculture. Furthermore, a significant portion of the global population, approximately 600 million people, relies on aquatic food systems for their livelihoods. The challenges to water security are mounting due to population growth, urbanization, economic development, and the ever-present specter of climate change.
Delta State’s Bountiful Potential
Delta State, in the southern part of Nigeria, boasts an environment teeming with agricultural potential, particularly in the realms of fish production. With a landmass spanning 17,698 square kilometers, including 1,770 square kilometers of fresh water swamp and 5,840 square kilometers of mangrove swamp, the state offers a rich canvas for agricultural activities.
However, a looming specter overshadows this potential: pollution. The aftermath of oil exploration activities has left its mark on the state, rendering many of its water resources underutilized. Rivers and streams, instead of being pristine sources of nourishment, have become dumping grounds for waste. The consequences of poor water quality reverberate through the lives of the people, the economy, and the environment.
The Recurrent Threat of Flooding
Floods have become a recurring nightmare in Delta State, as well as many other states across Nigeria. Farmers, the backbone of food production, are unable to predict whether they will reap the full economic benefits from their annual agricultural pursuits due to this persistent threat. The losses incurred by these farmers are immeasurable, not only in monetary terms but also in the psychological toll it takes on the affected communities.
Governor Oborevwori emphasizes that Delta State has been marked as one of the states at risk of flooding this year. While the State Emergency Management Agency and the State Flood Disaster Management Committee have implemented measures to mitigate the effects of potential floods, the situation remains dire.
The Way Forward
Governor Oborevwori recognizes the international demand for agricultural produce from Delta State, ranging from oil palm, maize, cassava, yam, fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, pepper, poultry, and fish, to a variety of agricultural products and by-products. He underscores the commitment to empower the people through programs aimed at building resilient food systems. This includes utilizing flood-tolerant crop varieties, implementing soil and water conservation techniques, and adopting climate-smart agricultural practices.
There exists immense potential to expand export capacity by harnessing the state’s abundant water resources and arable land. This expansion will not only create new jobs but also significantly contribute to economic growth and bolster food security. As a result, agriculture takes center stage as one of the priority areas of Governor Oborevwori’s administration.
The State’s Agricultural Initiatives
Mr. Perez Omoun, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, underlines the State Government’s unwavering commitment to enhancing the agricultural value chain. These efforts are intricately woven into the MORE (Making Our Roads, Economy, and Environment Work) Agenda, aimed at ensuring that all Deltans have access to an adequate quality and quantity of food and water.
Through the Delta State Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS), the government is developing three sites for greenhouse farming across the three agro-ecological zones: Mbiri in Ika North-East LGA, Deghele in Sapele LGA, and Kpakiama in Bomadi LGA. This move is poised to elevate agricultural productivity and create new economic opportunities.
In the domain of oil palm production, over 1,490,000 oil palm seedlings have been nurtured in the past six years, with plans to establish an additional 9,933 hectares of oil palm plantation. This signals the state’s commitment to tapping into the immense potential of the oil palm industry.
Aquaculture has become a vital sector, engaging over 5,000 youths in cluster fish farms managed by cooperative societies across the state. The conducive environment and incentives provided for aquaculture have catalyzed its growth and made it a source of livelihood for many.
The Path Forward
In conclusion, the challenges of flood and water pollution cast a shadow over Nigeria’s food production potential. However, Governor Oborevwori’s clarion call serves as a beacon of hope. By addressing the issues of pollution, improving water management, and enhancing agricultural practices, Delta State is poised to unlock its agricultural potential and contribute to food security, job creation, and economic growth.
The road ahead is challenging, but with the right strategies, cooperation from governmental agencies, organizations, and individuals, and a steadfast commitment to the MORE Agenda, there is optimism that Delta State, and indeed Nigeria, can rise above these challenges and usher in an era of abundant food production and prosperity.