It is a disaster in the making to lockdown everyone inside the house without a sustainable plan. No amount of palliative can satisfy everyone. Palliatives are not permanent.
Why am I hammering on the farm palliative?
Many Nigerians engage in subsistent farming. This means that they employ few labourers and the rest of the workforce is household.
It is more sustainable to help people to be self-sufficient by growing food now for the next harvest since it is likely that there may be economic depression post-COVID-19 according to experts. It is likely that there are crops already due for harvest. Therefore, food security should become a matter of national strategy in developing countries such as Nigeria. States should also consider food security as a top priority.
Now, what are the chances of farmers who do not visit the same farm infecting one another? The risks of transmission are minimal and could reduce with proper education/awareness.
These are my suggestions:
- Farmers should be orientated to see themselves as critical agents in fighting post-COVID-19 warfare. I sincerely praise Nigerian medical practitioners in the frontline of winning the war against COVID-19 pandemic. The next set of people we need to prepare to serve the nation are the farmers. If we don’t have money to import food and we don’t have food stored/or ready in the farm, that is famine.
- I expect state governments to make use of the local vigilante groups to ensure that farmers stay safe in farms. The recent security creations such as Amotekun should be deployed now. What we see these days are people being bullied for disobeying COVID-19 laws. Can the same security protect the Agric sector?
- I think the COVID-19 laws should be amended to include food security. There is no social security package in Nigeria. My interpretation is that the best social security Nigeria can think of now is helping its citizens to grow food to eat and sell to each other.
- I make this assertion because Nigeria can not approach COVID-19 like the developed countries. I have always maintained this. Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s recent article in Premium Times elucidated this reality. The critical question government should be asking is what they can do for citizens to support themselves without the risk of increasing new cases of infection. Farming should be one of them.
- On a general note, governments should start planning ahead. Gather multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral teams and give them data and other inputs to start simulating how you might respond post-COVID-19. Models are predictive and could be useful. The time for evidence based decisions will soon be required to replace the current copycat approach which is not sustainable.
I hope that COVID-19 elicits new commitments from our politicians to build our institutions. Even the world can never return to business as usual post-COVID-19.