Nigeria, once considered the giant of Africa, is currently facing a severe food security crisis. Years ago, the country was self-sufficient in agriculture and was known for its production of cocoa, cotton, groundnut, and palm oil.
However, the discovery of oil and its subsequent easy revenue has led to a decline in the Nigerian agricultural industry, resulting in rising levels of food insecurity.
Back in the early years of Nigeria’s independence, agriculture served as the backbone of its economy. The sector employed over 70 percent of the country’s labour force and accounted for around 62.3 percent of foreign exchange revenue. However, as oil became the primary focus, the agricultural sector fell by the wayside.
Over the past five decades, various Nigerian administrations have attempted to revive the agricultural sector, but a lack of will and continuity in governance has hindered progress. Without a comprehensive approach and a dedicated timeline, any interventions or policies put forth have failed to deliver sustainable results.
One of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s agricultural sector is the issue of waste. It is estimated that 40 percent of the country’s food production goes to waste each year due to poor logistics, bad road networks, and inadequate infrastructure for storage and processing. This wastage not only contributes to the food security crisis but also leads to significant economic losses.
Another contributing factor to Nigeria’s dwindling food security is the lack of effective policies that create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Inadequate policies and regulations in areas such as land ownership, access to credit, and market access make it difficult for farmers and agribusinesses to operate efficiently and profitably. Additionally, the continuous decline of the nation’s currency has made it increasingly challenging to access funds for importing necessary inputs and machinery.
To address the food security crisis in Nigeria, a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach is needed. It is crucial for the Nigerian government to prioritise the agricultural sector once again and provide consistent support and investment. This includes implementing effective policies that promote sustainable farming practices, improving infrastructure for storage and processing, and investing in research and technological advancements.
During the farming seasons of 2022 and 2023, the cost of farm inputs doubled, prompting President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to declare a state of emergency in the agricultural sector in order to reduce the prices of major staple foods in the country. However, some analysts have deemed this effort futile without the necessary political will. The President’s plan includes the distribution of fertilisers and seeds to farmers every farming season.
Experts in the sector have opined that the mere distribution of inputs will not suffice, and the government needs to think outside the conventional ways it has used to address food security in the past. The need to develop solutions that generate and guarantee efficiency is crucial.
According to the 2022 edition of the Global Food Security Index (GESI) publication, Nigeria ranked 107 out of 113 nations, indicating that 12.9 percent of the global population of citizens in extreme poverty was found in Nigeria. It is estimated that 88.4 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty and survive on less than $1.90 per day.
Apart from extreme poverty, some of the major contributing factors to Nigeria’s food insecurity include conflict and insecurity, weak policy implementation, rising population, post-harvest losses, inefficient agricultural practices, low budgetary allocation to agriculture, floods, droughts, and more. These factors not only impact food production in Nigeria but also globally.
Worsening insecurity and conflict in the northern region have displaced farmers and disrupted agricultural production. The activities of bandits and herdsmen have hindered food production and distribution. In addition, bad rural access roads, inefficient transportation systems and storage facilities, and more contribute to Nigeria’s food security woes.
Amid dwindling food production, Nigeria needs massive investment in preservation infrastructure that could help mitigate against huge post-harvest losses. Despite having a growing population and not producing enough to complement local consumption, a massive chunk of food grown by farmers gets wasted as a result of supply chain disruption and bad logistics.
Budgetary allocation to the Nigerian agricultural sector has been extremely low, with less than 2 percent of the annual budget allocated to agriculture between 2014 and 2022, despite wastage and corruption. Experts have warned that based on current economic realities, 25.3 million Nigerians will likely face acute food insecurity.
To tackle food insecurity, the government must address these limitations head-on and support farmers and processors through catalytic initiatives. These initiatives must be accompanied by tangible action plans and clear timelines.