Nigeria: Safe Food for a Healthy Tomorrow

World Food Safety Day (WFSD) is commemorated annually on June 7 and it contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, access to markets, tourism and sustainable development by drawing attention and inspiring actions to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. With this year’s theme as “Safe Food Today for a Healthy Tomorrow”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commemorated the day by urging everyone to zero in on five food safety-related Calls To Action (CTAs), namely: ensure it is safe, grow it safe, keep it safe, know what’s safe, and team up for food safety. This year’s theme is highlighting the importance of guaranteeing sustainable production systems to ensure a healthy life, a healthy economy, a healthy planet, and a healthy future.

There are many factors connected to food safety. In a world where the food supply chain is gradually becoming convoluted, the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2018, which birthed the WFSD, notes that there is no food security without food safety and that any adverse food safety incidence may have negative effects globally on public health, trade and the economy. The resolution also notes that improving food safety contributes positively to trade, employment and poverty alleviation. The resolution also considers the global burden of foodborne diseases and how it affects individuals of all ages, in particular children under five, and those living in low-income regions of the world.

Indeed, food safety, apart from being a crucial component to food security, saves lives as well as contributes significantly to a reduction in food-borne disease. In recognising the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and any safety adverse event that may have a global impact on public health, trade and economy, Diamond Development Initiatives (DDI) joins in this global call to ensure that the food we eat is kept safe by everyone on the food chain – the growers, harvesters, processors, storers, transporters, sellers, preparers, and servers. According to the FAO, food production will need to grow by 70 per cent to feed the world population which will reach nine billion by 2050, and that there is a need for an integrated and innovative approach to the global effort of ensuring sustainable food production and consumption.

With food safety as an integral part of food security and an important contributor towards increasing competitiveness in export markets, DDI has since 2002 provided agricultural value chain improvement and agricultural commodity market access services to farmers and producer groups. These services are delivered through the provision of sustained value chain development and improvement support to smallholder farmer groups and cooperatives, with access to best agronomic practices and a range of other services necessary for enhancing quality and safety of agricultural products as they move from farm to final consumer, while also assisting them with efficient product marketing and facilitating direct product-to-consumer interface. In ‘growing it safe’, DDI, in 2020 alone, provided this support to over 6,000 smallholder farmers across Nigeria including 19 cooperatives/farmer or producer groups.

In keeping it safe and teaming up for food safety, DDI is excited about its strategic linkages and works in ensuring sustainable food production and consumption in Nigeria through the provision of project management and business advisory assistance to off-grid energy entrepreneurs who occupy strategic positions in the food chain. Take for example Habiba Ali, who runs Sosai Renewable Energies, an off-grid energy company who identified some 90 per cent agrarian communities in Kaduna, who cultivate pepper and other perishable crops but lacked effective drying facilities due largely to lack of power, hence, they suffered significant post-harvest losses and loss of revenue. With a $100,000 grant from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), Sosai Renewables Energies came up with a solar energy solution that enables women to dry their farm produce using solar power. By September 2018, the company had deployed two 10kW mini-grids, solar kiosks and solar tunnel dryers – connecting a total of 93 rural households to electricity, while the dryers are serving rural women farmers in good stead for drying and preserving their produce.