Banishing Hunger And Creating Wealth Through Osun Food Support Scheme
Banishing Hunger And Creating Wealth Through Osun Food Support Scheme By Adebayo Adedeji
Food is the basic necessity of man. It is the third most important thing for living beings after air and water. It is important because it promotes health and prevents diseases. It is for these reasons special attention, since the launch of World Food Programme (WFP) in 1961, is daily given to it by world leaders and policy makers. The WFP is a fully-fledged UN programme set up to provide food assistance to citizens of the world. The second of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals also centres around food: to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Through Action Against Hunger campaign, a decisive action is again being taken against the causes and effects of hunger. For 40 years, across nearly 50 countries, including our country Nigeria, the organisation has led the global fight against hunger. Just last week, The 1 Billion Meals initiative took off in Dubai. It is aimed to provide food support to the underprivileged and undernourished in 59 countries around the world, including Nigeria. Already, distribution of foodstuffs has begun in Lebanon, India, Jordan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Everywhere, the policy is focused on making food more abundant.
Sadly, the latest edition of the food security report published mid-2021 indicates that between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020. Of this number, 282 million live in Africa. Again, 2.37 billion people ( nearly one in three people in the world) did not have access to adequate food in 2020. Many of the affected population live here in Nigeria. So to combat this menace, there should be deliberate efforts by political leaders. One of the efforts is what the government of Osun is doing through Osun Food Support Scheme.
The scheme, flagged off Thursday April 1, 2021, was designed to alleviate welfare challenge and economic disclocation caused particularly by the COVID-19. Since inauguration a year ago, at least 30,000 needy and vulnerable citizens, including youths, widows, the aged and people living with disabilities across Osun State, have been consistently provided with 5kg of food items ranging from rice, beans, semo and garri. To ensure the donation reaches the monthly 30,000-target audience, the distribution is done in partnership with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Osun Muslim Community, recognised indigenous religion groups and trade associations, leaderships of ethnic affiliates and market leaders.
To date, no fewer than 360,000 persons have benefitted directly from the scheme. And according to Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties whose ministry is driving the project, Engineer Olalekan Badmus, it is estimated that by November 2022 when the phase one of Osun Food Support Scheme is projected to end, 570,000 beneficiaries would have been directly impacted across the 30 local government areas of the state.
One of the impacts of the food distribution, beyond providing succour to 30,000 vulnerable people every month, is stimulation of small and medium scale businesses ( SMEs) in the state. The active players in agriculture and food supply chain in the state, from where the government source commodities like cassava/yam flours, banana flours, poundo yam which cost the government =N=100m every month, are in better positions to tell their good story. Promoters of the SMEs are no fewer than 50. Raji Ahmed Adekunle, from Ode-Omu is one of them. He shares his experience:
“Recently, I was invited by the state government to be part of those that would supply garri in large quantity. We have done this and as you can see, we were able to meet up with government expectations in this regard.
“To me, this is highly unprecedented and commendable as it will go a long way to encourage us to continue to do our business, expand our production capacity and create employment opportunity for others.
“So, this initiative is well appreciated, as far as I am concerned. When I was contacted and later contracted for this, it first came as a surprise. I was shocked that someone like me that resides in Ode-Omu could be found worthy to supply garri to government.
“I find it very surprising that the State government will be so magnanimous to recognise my little efforts in far away Ode-Omu. With this alone, I have been elevated by the project as this would go a long way to project ‘Garri- Ode-Omu’ to the world and beyond.
“It is also worthy of letting the people know how magnanimous the government has been to us to have approved a take-off grant to execute the production. Indeed, this is very unprecedented because it is a plus to us as a people.
“I will advise the government to continue with this project because the impact is being felt across the nooks and crannies of the state. Take for instance, I have more than 12 local women working directly and indirectly for me and the implication is that these women have as well benefitted from this project.”
The laudation abounds: from the suppliers of the food items to needy market women to people living with disabilities and the aged which the project was conceived to service. Speaking during one of the distributions of the food items in Osogbo, some of the beneficiaries said Governor Oyetola has proven that his commitment to welfare of the people is genuine and beyond political show-off.
Chief Chinaka Bennett, representing Ohaneze Ndigbo, Alhaji Kelani Raji, of the Muslim Community, Adedokun Waheed, representative of the artisans, Madam Mustapha Mohiliat a widow from Aleshinloye Community, Oke-Ijetu, eulogised Governor Oyetola for initiating the food support scheme and for fulfilling his promises to the people.
The representative of Fulani Community and the PRO of the Miyetti Allah Group in Osun State, Mohammed Abdullah, also did not hide his admiration for the governor for extending the intervention to his ethnic group. ” Fulanis in the state are grateful, and we are praying to God that Governor Oyetola achieves a second term. We will support him.” Abdullah said.
Fashoto Oludare, speaking for the Osogbo Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, says: “we are grateful for the infrastructure, and we also very grateful for the food support programme which has more of personal impact on citizens.”
The food scheme, first of its kind in Nigeria, has significantly increased the support base of the Oyetola-led government, going by the positive feedbacks and surveys. It has further connected the people to the government. The project has created a double-barrel impact of hunger banishment and economic buoyancy. The successes are copius.
Therefore, as Oyetola, like other world leaders and policy enforcers, streamline his programmes to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, Samson Owoyokun, Governor’s Senior Special Assistant in the Ministry of Regional Integration and Special Duties, hopes Oyetola would be re-elected in July so the value which the initiative has added to citizens would be sustained when the second phase of a much bigger Osun Food Support Scheme kicks off later in the year.
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