FOOD SYSTEMS PROFILE NIGERIA --Catalysing the sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems

Key messages

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the fourteenth largest country in the world. Its
population exceeds 210 million people, and it covers an area of 923 768 km2, which is surrounded by
the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Sahelian countries of the Niger and Chad to the north. The
agriculture sector employs more than one-third of the population and accounts for approximately 23
percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), comprising mainly smallholder farmers who tend to be
highly dependent on rainfed agriculture. Given its very large deficit between local food production
and demand, the country is highly dependent on imports to meet its dietary requirements. This
situation is aggravated by a high population growth rate and ur banization, which also intensifies
pressure on natural resources.
The major staples of Nigeria are cassava, yam, maize, sorghum, rice and millet, which cover about 65
percent of the cultivated area. The major cash crops are cocoa, oil palm, cotton, groundnuts, ginger
and sesame.
Nigeria relies on its substantial oil and gas resources, which, combined with the entrepreneurship of
its mainly young population, have contributed to a changing, more business-friendly environment
over two decades of civilian rule and nearly 60 years since independence (Oxford Business Group,
2019). The challenges of economic inclusivity and wider equity remain; most Nigerians living below
the poverty line.
Several aspects of food systems of Nigeria require urgent attention:
High dependence on oil revenue and food imports to feed its people, high population growth (the
rate of growth is 2.5 percent and the population is projected to reach 400 million by 2050) and
urbanization (more than 4 percent annually), which has been occurring for several decades, pose
formidable challenges to the food system. Food imports have more than quadrupled in recent
decades, from a value of USD 964 million in 1995 to USD 4.57 billion in 2016 (Posthumus, et al., 2019),
resulting in a substantial trade deficit for the agrifood sector. The most imported commodities are
rice, wheat, milk and fish.
Extreme poverty with high regional inequalities (e.g. in Sokoto state, 81 percent of the population is
poor; in the Niger state, poverty incidence is 34 percent). In 2020, about 40 percent of the population
was at the national poverty line (forecast to reach 45.2 percent in 2022 due to the COVID-19
pandemic), and 39.1 percent were living in extreme poverty (less than USD 1.90 per day). More than
one-fifth (21.4 percent) of the population was estimated to be severely food insecure in 2019, sharply
higher than 6.6 percent recorded in 2015. Factors contributing to this were continued internal
conflicts, high unemployment and the effects of climate change.

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