Currently, Nigeria stands as the most populous country in Africa at approximately 200 million. The United Nations (U.N.) projects a short-term baby boom in sub-Saharan Africa. However, as Nigeria’s population increases, it food systems cannot keep up. In fact, 60% of Nigeria’s population lives below the poverty line. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 20% of Nigeria’s population suffers from moderate acute malnutrition, and another 6% experiences severe acute malnutrition. In a country that dedicates 78% of its land to agriculture, how is this possible? Here is information about Nigeria’s food system along with measures to improve the situation.
Nigeria’s Need for Sustainability
Periodic droughts and floods affect rural areas lacking infrastructure. In addition, the northeastern conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, which began in 2009, significantly impacts Nigeria’s food system. According to the U.N.’s Resolution 2417, hunger perpetuates conflict and vice versa. War and displacement can also interrupt food systems. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s struggle mainly occurs in rural, agricultural areas.
As of July 2021, Nigeria’s conflict displaced 2.9 million people. Medecins Sans Frontieres describes the conflict as a “war without wounded” because many Nigerians suffer malnutrition. The WFP found that 4.4 million Nigerians required food assistance from June to September 2021. Along with aid that international organizations like World Food Programme, Medicins Sans Frontieres and UNICEF are providing, Nigeria is working to develop its food system in other ways.
Nigeria’s Food Systems Summit Dialogues
Nigeria works to support itself by participating in the United Nations’ first Food Systems Summit, which launched in September 2021. The Summit aims to create sustainable food systems adhering to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In preparation for the Summit, Nigeria began its Food Systems Dialogues in February 2021. Vice President Osinbajo stated that the meetings serve to “effectively articulate feasible pathways to sustainable, resilient, and equitable food systems for Nigeria.” Nigeria intends to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade.
The Food Systems Dialogues gathered Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; U.N. representatives; bipartisan political representatives and non-governmental organizations. With more than 4,000 participants, the discussions considered issues and goals for improving Nigeria’s food system. Some stakeholders in attendance included rural citizens, women, private businesses and youth groups. The meetings resulted in 50 short and long-term actions drafted in the “National Pathways to Food Systems Transformation.”
Improving Nigeria’s food system involves reforming land tenure systems, developing food systems pathways, investing in alternative power and paving rural roads. Infrastructure development remains key in developing Nigeria’s human capital and reducing poverty. For instance, Nigeria only has 60,000 kilometers of paved roads. Paving roads would increase food accessibility and ensure better agricultural pathways. Moreover, Nigeria also intends to provide opportunities for youth and women. More than half of Nigeria’s population is between 15 and 64 years old. Investing in youth and women would benefit future agricultural workers and impact population growth.
Looking Ahead in Nigeria
Fulfilling the actions that the Food Systems Dialogues have laid out would greatly benefit Nigeria. Without change, Nigeria will continue to struggle to feed its population. Revamping Nigeria’s food system would curb population growth and help to bring 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. Further participation in the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit will enable Nigeria to adopt agricultural methods from other member states. Nigeria’s pre-summit efforts prove its willingness to pursue a sustainable food system.
– Dana Gil