Food Security in Nigeria: Can Community Based Advisors pave a way? (1), by Professor MK Othman



At the risk of bugging my readers with the demographic analysis of population in Nigeria, which I have discussed several times in the past, I still have to discuss it for emphasis. Food security cannot be discussed without discussing the number of people needing such security, their current level of food security and their potential to attain food security need through analysis.

Today, Nigeria has over 200 million people from a mere population of 37,860,000 in 1950, which overshot to 159,708,000, equivalent to 422 percent in 2010, became 186,988,000 in 2015 and bypassed 200,000,000 people this year (2019).

The Nigerian demographic rate expands at alarming rate of 850 babies per hour with an average death rate of 280 people per hour giving a population increase of 570 people per hour that is 13,491 people per day and 4.92 million people per year. This statistics indicates that a child is born in every 4 seconds in Nigeria while one person dies at every 13 seconds with an addition increase of one person in every six seconds.

At this rate, Nigerian population will be 262,977,337 by the year 2030 and 401,315,000 by 2040, which will make it the third most populous country in the world after India and China. In 1950, Nigeria was the thirteenth most populous country in the world but today, Nigeria holds the seventh position in the world population raking. Nigerian population accounts for 2.7 percent of the World with a total of 195 countries. Furthermore, the population amounts to 16 percent of the African population with 58 countries. It seems the only two countries Nigeria cannot beat on population ranking are China and India.

Naturally, the population explosion in Nigeria came with catalogue of challenges such as increase in crime rate, poverty rate, hunger and other social vices. Among these challenges, the most disturbing is food insecurity with her twin sister: extreme poverty.

Readers may recall of my article in this Column last year titled “World Food Day: Goalkeepers’ Report and Food Security in Nigeria” ( or World Food Day: Gate Keepers Report and Food Security in Nigeria, Professor MK Othman. In the article, I quoted Goalkeepers (Bill and Melinda Gates) report presented in October 2018. The report provides a rather gloomy picture on Nigeria’s stride against poverty. “Nigeria will have 152 million people in extreme poverty out of a projected population of over 400 million by the year 2050”, the report further indicated “going by this figure, it means that Nigeria will represent about 36% of the total number of people in “extreme poverty” Worldwide”.

Again, the report revealed that, “Extreme poverty is becoming heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries. By 2050, that’s where 86 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world are projected to live. The challenge is that within Africa, poverty is concentrating in just a handful of very fast-growing countries, more than 40 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. Even within these countries, poverty is still concentrating in certain areas”.

Poverty in these areas is rooted in violence, political instability, gender inequality, severe climate change, and other deep-seated social crises. Poverty is also to high rates of child mortality and malnutrition. As a result, poorest people have significantly fewer opportunities to get out of poverty than most of the billion of people who escaped poverty. So, the system makes poor to be poorer until a concerted effort is designed to take people out of poverty. Hardly people get themselves out of poverty.

The current heinous crimes of kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry and insurgency have strong correlation and permutation with the high level of poverty in the country. It is therefore important that all hands have to be on deck to prevent Nigeria attaining the position of “Headquarters of the extreme poverty” in the year 2050 as prophesized by the Goalkeepers.

What is extreme poverty? “Extreme poverty” refers to people living below the international poverty line of $1.90/day, equivalent to N674 a day in 2011 prices, equivalent to $2.07 (N735 a day in 2017 prices as set by the World Bank.

Surprisingly, Nigeria has all it takes to be a great nation as extensively discussed in my article last month “Nigeria, Creativity in Nigerians and the Missing Link” ( or Nigeria and Nigerians’ Creativity – the Missing Link (I), by Professor MK Othman. In this article, three important issues in the country were presented. The first issue is Nigeria as a nation with her very rich and unquantifiable natural resources in all crannies of the country. The second issue is Nigerians as citizens with their unlimited ingenuity, resourcefulness, capacity and making waves in all nooks and corners of the seven continents of the World. The third issue is the missing link that is supposed to connect the country with these special breeds of Nigerians to transform the country into a true giant of Africa and acclaim its rightful position of one of the 20 economic colossus of the world among the comity of nations.

Among all the natural resources endowed to Nigeria, agricultural resources are the most versatile, easy to exploit and with great potential to transform large population from level of poverty to the level of prosperity, greatness, economic prominence and prodigious social stability. Yes, agriculture has a magic wand for unlocking unlimited richness for all and sundry.

On Agricultural resources, Nigeria has seven distinct climate zones, which provide average annual rainfall ranging from 700 mm in the far north (Sahel Savannah) to 4,000 mm in riverine and mountainous areas in the south. Rainfall provides billions liters of water annually in addition to several other billions liters of water from River Niger.

The river passes through the country and drains an average discharge of 5,589 m3/s into the Atlantic Ocean. River Niger with a length of 4,180 Km and drainage basin area of 2.1 million Km2 is the third largest river in Africa after River Nile and River Zaire.  River Niger has six major perennial rivers as tributaries crisscrossing the length and breadth of Nigeria making it the most endowed country with unlimited water resources available for all kinds of agricultural development and even transportation.

With the network of rivers in the country, it is possible to travel from Maiduguri to Lagos through boat transportation thereby reducing the pressure on the road network. Only very few countries in the world have these rare opportunities.

Land resources are similarly in abundance in Nigeria. The country has 91 million hectares of arable land with merely 50 % utilization despite the quantum of water resources, soil fertility, favorable topography and climates.

Despite the resources, agricultural sector is grossly under performing as manifested in food insecurity, malnutrition at the household and national levels. Studies have shown that 90 percent of agricultural production in the country is the output of inefficient methods and very low use of improved agricultural inputs by small-scale farmers.

For instance, studies conducted by NAERLS revealed that as at January 2019, average fertilizer use in Nigeria was 18Kg per hectare compared to African average of 48 Kg per hectare, Asia average of 150 Kg per hectare and the global average of 100 Kg per hectare. Similarly, mechanization intensity in Nigeria stands at 10 tractors per 100 hectares, which is lower than African average of 22 tractors per 100 hectares, Asia 64 tractors per 100 hectares. Again, only 5 percent of farmers in Nigeria were found to be accessible to and can use improved seeds. Thus, 95 percent of farmers in Nigeria are hardly aware of improved seeds.

The low agricultural productivity in Nigeria is largely due to absence of agricultural extension services in several places. In few places where such services exist, they are poorly and untimely done. Agriculture cannot grow without adequate and well-timed agricultural extension delivery services along the value chain of the various agricultural commodities in the country. The absence of agricultural extension services is largely due to comatose condition of a hitherto vibrant and perfect extension service structure; the Agricultural Development Program (ADP) in all the 36 states and FCT.

The structure popularly known as “ADP – System” is almost completely dead and very difficult to revive; perhaps, the system has outlived its usage. This is why the need to strategize and innovate a system that can withstand the test of time cannot be overemphasized. Thus, the development of an innovation called “community based advisors” as a viable and sustainable option to the ADP system becomes handy. What is the concept of community based advisors? How can it be a pathway to food security?

Read also: Food Security in Nigeria: Can Community Based Advisors pave a way? (II), by Professor MK Othman

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.


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