Nigeria struggles with food security as declining affordability and availability push more into food poverty.
The Global Food Security Index (GFSI), developed by Economist Impact, with the support of Corteva Agriscience, aims to investigate both the state and drivers of food security globally. The report finds that since 2019, global food security has not improved after steady progress between that year and 2012, indicating a worsening food security situation globally.
The four main pillars used to evaluate the index are affordability, food quality and safety, sustainability and adaptation, and availability. These are composited to create an index score which tops out at 100. In 2022, the global average index was 62.2, plateauing since 2019’s 62.6 after rising every year since 2012. Nigeria has a composite index of 42, worryingly ranked 107 out of the 113 countries analyzed and 20.2 percent below the global average.
When viewed over ten years, from 2012 to 2022, Nigeria is one of the few countries that has bucked the global trend. On average, global food security has risen since 2012, despite the 2019 to 2022 plateau. Nigeria, however, is one of ten countries that has seen its food security decline in the period. The country’s performance varies across the different pillars of the index, showing better results in some than others.
Affordability is where the country suffers the most. The affordability pillar considers factors such as average food costs and the percentage of the population under the poverty line, agricultural trade, and food safety net programs. Nigeria has struggled with food costs recently, with food inflation rising by as much as five percentage points between 2020 and 2022. About 62 percent of the country’s population is multidimensionally poor, and food insecurity is the second leading contributor to poverty, only behind healthcare.
The country’s internal food supply is often unable to meet the demands of its population, necessitating food trade. The country lost one of its major food import partners in Russia due to that country’s war with Ukraine. As a result, it has had to find new trade partners, possibly creating the need for new trade agreements. As a result of all these, Nigeria ranked last among all analyzed countries in the affordability index for 2022 with a score of 25, 44% below the global average.
The country is also close to the bottom in terms of food availability, with an index score of 39.5 being considerably lower than the 57.8 global average. Food availability is a producer-based metric, leaning heavily on farming performance. A good rating here demands inputs for farmers like finance and community organizations, infrastructure for planting and storage, good supply chains and spending on agricultural research and development.
Nigeria struggles in this area as most of its agriculture is carried out by smallholder farmers, with farm sizes of five hectares or less. Most farming is not mechanized, leading to low efficiency and harvest rates. The Nigerian government has not spent sufficiently on agricultural research and development, with low innovation in farming technologies and a lack of adoption of best practices.
Storage facilities are often crude or absent entirely, and poor transport and logistics facilities make it difficult to move food around the country. Interstate travel is limited to a few railways and poor roads. These conditions are reflected in the high levels of food loss between harvest and consumer purchase. The country also experiences insecurity in most of the country’s farming-intensive regions, with clashes between farmers and cattle herders along with tribal conflict and kidnappings.
The country performs better in the areas of sustainability and adaptation. Per the World Bank, the country contains nearly 35 million hectares of arable land, over 38 percent of its total land mass. 23.7 percent of its land area is forested, helping to store groundwater and acting as carbon sinks, preserving its ecosystem. While the northern part of the country can be arid during the dry seasons, the country rarely suffers droughts. There are, however, increased flooding risks, especially in the areas along the banks of the Benue, the country’s second-longest river.
The country’s Niger Delta region has seen its land and rivers suffer in past years due to oil pollution. However, efforts have been made to remediate contaminated soil and minimal use of fertilizers has prevented eutrophication of water systems. Soil degradation does appear to be a growing concern, as well as increasing desertification in the North. Management of these issues with practices such as the application of inorganic fertilizers, intentional gullying, and crop rotation has helped restore some of the lost farmland. As a result, the country index score of 53.7 is nearly on par with the 54.1 global average.
The country’s index score of 55.6 in the quality and safety pillar may seem substantial, but it is significantly below the 65.9 global average and only good for 79th among all countries analyzed. The government instituted a five-year nutrition plan in 2020 titled the “National Multi-Sectoral Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (NMPFAN) 2021-2025" in a bid to address malnutrition, particularly among children. Specific targets of the plan include reducing the malnutrition proportion by 50%, investing a total of NGN294.75 billion in nutrition-specific interventions, and reducing the stunting rate in children under-five by 18%. It remains to be seen if the country can achieve these.