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Utomi, Iyere and Others Launch Food Security Program

Sunday 17th December 2023, witnessed the official launch of a new food security program in Nigeria known as FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE, whose drive is to compel access to quality foods and eradicate food poverty in Nigeria by ensuring that ordinary Nigerians are able to afford and access quality foods, which means the availability of quality foods at the cheapest prices. This laudable initiative is powered by FUND-YES Cooperative, which is a national grassroot cooperative movement of youth and women entrepreneurs dedicated to reducing unemployment, creating sustainable livelihoods and eradicating extreme and household poverty in Nigeria, using entrepreneurship as a viable tool. Prof Pat Utomi, Comrade Kennedy Iyere, Patience Ozokwor (Mama G), Paul Obazele, Capt Everest Nnaji (Odegene), Dr Orji Kanu Emmanuel and Dr Emmanuel Mgbekwute were among the speakers at the event.

FUND-YES Cooperative is coordinated through a high-powered Management Committee co-chaired by two iconic technocrats including Prof Pat Utomi, a globally renowned political economist and Ambassador (Dr) Josephine Ojiambo, a highly celebrated Diplomat who is currently the Rotary International Representative to UNICEF and had served as Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations and Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Ojiambo also served as Chief of the Executive Board and External Relations at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Management Committee which also comprises other highly accomplished technocrats, is the body that coordinates the operations and activities of FUND-YES Cooperative, where Comrade Kennedy Iyere serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It is crucial to remind us at this point that FUND-YES Cooperative is a subsidiary of Youths Off The Street Initiative (YOTSI), a registered non-governmental organization (NGO) in Nigeria whose mandate is to turn unemployed youths into entrepreneurs and support youths to become resilient and successful business owners.

Prof Pat Utomi delivered the opening remark at the unveiling ceremony of FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE which stressed the need for Nigeria to attain food security. In his opening remark, Prof Utomi emphasized that without food security, Nigeria’s efforts to build national security will remain futile. “An army fights on its stomach and a hungry army cannot win a war. Our country is facing many wars and these include wars of economic development, wars of political growth and maturity, wars of the environment, wars of inclusion and other wars whose drive is to ensure that Nigeria becomes one healthy nation. Until we can ensure that people are better fed, the dreams that we hold up will just be dreams that don’t get realized. Therefore, it is a very thoughtful thing that we are looking at food security because there can be no national security without food security”, Utomi said.

“The fact is that many people are able to do what they need to do not only because they are not malnourished but that in fact many people who are not nourished become available to be used. Food always come first! Therefore, an initiative that seems to feed the people by building food security is key and important to national development and wellbeing. We do know that growth and development are predicated on a number of things, one of which, is majorly how the social sector advance, especially in the areas of education and healthcare. Can we really make these happen when the people are hungry? It is totally impossible! This is why the creation of FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE is a necessity”, Utomi further buttressed.

Speaking at the official launch of FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE, Comrade Kennedy Iyere, a popular humanitarian activist, high-profile social entrepreneur and top philanthropist affirmed that Nigeria’s hunger level has risen to a dangerous point that deserves urgent reversal unless the country is ready for its worst social revolution. He said that the “hunger situation” in Nigeria is a ticking time bomb capable of exploding the country into a disastrous social revolution. He lamented that government both at federal and state levels have not shown enough concern and commitment towards addressing the hunger crisis in the country.

“In Nigeria today, there is food insecurity and acute hunger crisis. Millions of households starve and skip meals every day because they are unable to afford the high costs of food items. Within the past few months, the country’s cost of living, especially food prices have skyrocketed beyond what the ordinary Nigerians could easily afford and this is because of the current excess hike or increase in fuel prices and transportation costs engendered by the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy. Consequently, life has become far more difficult for most Nigerians. Millions of families in Nigeria live on low income and really finding it very difficult to afford one good meal per day”, Iyere lamented.

“Nothing else matters more than aggressive investment in agriculture and food production. Going by the country’s current harsh economic realities, it is certain that the year 2024 shall again witness additional rising cost of food items unless strategic efforts are put in place to pragmatically upscale investment in food production towards engendering food security and affordability in Nigeria. It is for this critical reason that we decided to launch the FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE”, Iyere said.

Iyere also said that FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE”, was formed out of the desire to solve Nigeria’s existing chronic hunger crisis. This goal is to be achieved by massively recruiting and engaging youths, women, families and communities in value-chain agricultural entrepreneurship aimed towards achieving sufficient food production, mass employment generation, unemployment reduction, wealth creation and household poverty eradication. According to Iyere, this initiative will address the first and second items of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, whose focus is to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve zero hunger. FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE shall serve as a national vehicle for driving food security, availability and affordability in Nigeria. The project will derive its funding through the interventions of donors, development partners, private sector investors and governments. Iyere said that FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE has a target to recruit and build a network of three million small-scale farmers and food entrepreneurs within its first two years of operation and they will mostly be youths and women. He said the time has come to take Nigeria back to Agriculture as its major source of revenue and earner of foreign exchange. “Agriculture is the raw material for Nigeria’s rapid economic recovery, growth and development. Agriculture is the new oil of Nigeria and its present and future currency. Sufficient investment in Agriculture is the key we need to unlock our economic greatness. With over 84 million hectares of arable land and a large youth population, Nigeria is capable of producing enough quality foods for the entire Africa, reduce unemployment to the barest minimum and grow its economy to become one of the world’s wealthiest. This is the vision behind the creation of FOOD4ALL INITIATIVE. I therefore call on all stakeholders and allies across Nigeria, the diaspora and the globe to join this revolution”, Iyere advocated.