There is a popular saying that the Igbo man never runs for shelter until he is thoroughly beaten by the rain. This saying simply echoes a saying of universal application: that prior preparation helps to avert unsavory consequences. The arrival of the novel corona virus disease (COVID-19) on the global stage beginning from the end of the year 2019 with increasing damages up to date has affected the entire humanity with unprecedented consequences but most especially for societies that never prepare for the rainy day, like Nigeria. Consequently, life would never remain the same for individuals, families, groups, businesses and nations across the globe. Humanity as a whole is therefore left with no choice than to take the painful but very necessary decision to adjust and move on with life in spite of COVID-19, rather than wishing it will go away soon. Indeed, life will never remain the same.
Recall that governments and health authorities worldwide introduced certain measures to curtail the spread of the disease, including: local and international travel bans; closure of schools, markets and business places; suspension of sporting activities and celebration of marriages and funerals all gatherings of large numbers of people. Because people were forced home and their means of income halted, hunger came with COVID-19. Communities that depended on food imported from elsewhere especially across national borders became stranded due to travel restrictions.
It is the opinion of the paper that there is no better time than now for families to start farming their own food. Such government initiatives as the Ugbo-Azu-Uno campaign and the CBN Anchor Borrowers of the federal government are steps in the right direction. It goes without saying that humanity will forever need food for survival until a cure to hunger is discovered. The sad reality is that the mouths to feed are disproportionately greater than the willing hands to work.
The value chain of food cultivation, transportation, processing and distribution remains the most reliable avenue of employment and revenue generation even from the time of Adam. Continuous innovation is the way to go as all hands must be on deck to achieve food sufficiency. Improved high-yield and quick-maturing crop varieties should be made available by government. Individuals can form cooperatives to access agric finance and farm input. Closure of markets and businesses during lockdown has thrown up the need to access goods without physically going to any market stall. This provides a goldmine for e-commerce operators. Farmers, distributors, transporters and ICT experts must synergize to use mobile technology to produce and deliver food and other items to people’s homes.
Restaurants and caterers in Awka for instance, learnt the hard way to quickly adopt home and office delivery during the lockdown. Likewise, many responsive businesses including Fides Media Ltd are exploring digital solutions to meet the needs of customers and to remain relevant in the COVID-19 economy.
We therefore call on all Nigerians, Ndi Anambra and especially the youth to take up agro-business to provide food for our teeming population and income for families. The options are inexhaustible: crops, fishery, poultry, vegetables, piggery, snail-rearing, animal ranching, online shops, delivery services, produce storage, mobile app development and so on.
While encouraging governments at all levels to take the welfare of citizens seriously by providing basic infrastructure and an enabling environment for enterprise, Nigerians must take their destinies intheir own hands. New skills, diversification, internet solutions and growing our own food are the new to go. Remember, when laziness hides a man under his mat, hunger will come to uncover him.