Nigeria food sustainability index shows citizens are severely undernourished

Nigeria food sustainability index illustration in an image

Happy new year to you, you’re welcome to 2017. It’s a new year, the holiday is over and the usual hustling and bustling have resumed. I hope you enjoyed your holiday? The fact is that we can’t have an enjoyable holiday without a nice blend of food and drinks. Food is an essential part of our living, but how sustainable is the global food system, particularly in relation to Nigeria food sustainability index.

Food is regarded as one of the basics or necessities of life and as paramount to human existence. Therefore, no life lives on earth without sustaining his or her self with regular food intake. In Nigeria, prices of food items have skyrocketed for sometimes now. And these rises make many households in the country to adjust compulsorily by taking less food and less nutritious ones.

The above experience by many Nigerians is a paradox of lack amid plenty. Because all-natural indicators show that Nigeria can feed itself and Africa. However, the reverse is the case. More Nigerians experience hunger and malnutrition than before. Especially since the start of a technical recession and actual recession under the APC government.

The Nigeria food sustainability Index Overview

OVERALL 54.25 17
   A. Food loss and waste   66.75 10
   B. Sustainable agriculture   49.34 20
   C. Nutritional challenges 52.91 24

The Economist Intelligence Unit and Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation release Food Sustainability Index (FSI) developed by in December 2016. The index is a ranking of 25 countries on food system sustainability.

Food system sustainability, according to Roberto Capone (2014), supports food security, the use of natural and human resources efficiently and effectively in producing food with respect to sustainable means of production, that provides consumers with healthy food for present and future generations. In other words, food system sustainability entails the process of producing healthy food in a way that enables the largest possible yields for given farm inputs.

In addition to the ranking of the 25 countries, the index contains three types of key performance indicators; environmental, societal, and economic. And four categories performance; overall performance, food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges. France tops all categories except sustainable agriculture where it ranks 11th and Germany taking first for that category.

The three best overall performers are France, Japan, and Canada while the worst three performers are India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Four African countries; Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt in the overall category rank 12th, 16th, 17th and 23rd respectively, hence only Ethiopia ranks a little above average which makes Ethiopia the best performer in Africa.

Food loss and waste in Nigeria

Nigeria ranks 10 out of 25 in food loss and waste category, this is the country best ranking in all categories. Apparently, it is because of Nigerians inability to afford three square meal so they do not have the luxury to waste any food available especially at the end-user level where Nigeria is rank high. However, food loss occurs most at distribution level because of lack of preservation, and processing of agricultural produce.

Post-harvest food loss in Nigeria is prevalence despite numerous food security policies such as the National Program for Food Security, and Agricultural Transformation Action Plan, which has not achieved their objectives. It is obvious therefore that we need more than policy to tackle the food loss that reduces the agriculture sector productivity.

Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria

This indicator measures how our land, water and air are impacted by the agricultural practices and how the present use of natural capital will not create a shortage in the future. From the 2016 FSI, the way Nigerian farmers go about their farming is unsustainable. Because of the unsustainable farming method, the country’s environmental biodiversity is rapidly declining, the environmental impacts of agriculture on land is increasing, and the climate change mitigation and adaptation cost gaps are widening.

All these indicators and others made Nigeria rank 20th in this category that is lower than the county’s overall ranking.

Nigeria agriculture sector cannot afford to continue with business as usual, the need to be self-sufficient in food calls for sustainable agricultural practices that will not only result in food security but also in ‘nature’ security.

Nutritional Challenges in Nigeria

Majority of Nigerians today can testify to the fact that there is hunger in the land. The quality of food consumption has become luxury to many and the quantity of food just to fill their stomach is the order of the day.

The index attests to this fact that Nigerians are poorly nourished. The country ranks 24 out of 25 countries only better than India that sits at the bottom of the table.

Factors like the high prevalence of under and malnourishment, micronutrient deficiency, poor purchasing power for fresh food and poor storage facilities are responsible for nutritional challenges that leave Nigeria’s average life expectancy below 50-year.

Improving Nigeria food sustainability index

Most of the sub-indicators that make Nigeria rank low in 2016 FSI are traceable to unsustainable nature of the country agricultural practices. Therefore, the pathway to ensure food security in Nigeria is to grow our crops and rear our animals in sustainable ways.

In this sense, the country needs to engage in quality R&D, efficient agricultural subsidy, proper land use and ownership. Also, improve quality water management, and women farmers’ conditions in order to improve food sustainability index for Nigeria.

Quality Research and Development

The government can make good policy towards diversifying Nigerian economy from the oil and gas sector towards the agricultural sector. But in a situation where there is no quality research and development in the agricultural sector, there can only be one or two years of bumper harvest before there will be a breakdown in the agricultural production processes.

Agricultural research institutions need to be a focus in their various specializations. They need to develop workable research proposals so they can secure funding from development institutions. And lessen their over-dependent on government funding. Still, the government need to fund these institutions in a project-based manner where value for money (welfare) is computed.

In addition, agricultural universities need not be turning out more lawyers and social scientists graduates than the agriculture scientist graduates who should be equipped with relevant skills to practice what they are thought.

The efficient agricultural subsidy regime

An agricultural subsidy is helping Nigerian farmers but more still need to be done for smallholder farmers for them to benefit from the subsidy. For example, Nigeria has a long history of subsidizing fertilizer. However, smallholder farmers buy it at the market price while large and medium-size farmers buy fertilizer at the subsidized price. On this metric, agricultural subsidy in the country is inefficient.

About a month ago, Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Moroccan state-owned company that will yield one million tons of fertilizer through local production for next farming season. This initiative sounds great but FEPSAN, which will strengthen capacity to ensure a timely supply of quality fertilizers in adequate quantities and in a cost-effective manner to rural areas as well as an efficient supply chain and improvement of logistics management in this MoU fails as a major stakeholder in implementing Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme that left many farmers in rural areas out of reach.

The social safety net program of the Federal Government N-power Agric can help in this sense. The N-power volunteers will need to enumerate smallholder farmers who need these subsidize farm inputs. Consequently, there will be an efficient supply chain and improvement of logistics management that people who need them more can get these farm inputs.

Sustainable Nigeria’s team with some women farmers in Agwa Hakimi, Oroso, Abuja.

Improved land use in Nigeria

In working with smallholder farmers in rural Abuja, we discover that one of their challenges is access to land. Their response is always the same when asked to prioritize their agricultural need. They claim that the government has taken their land from them and the remaining farmlands have become less fertile.

This is one of the many challenges posed to farmers all over Nigeria. However, there is another tune to land use by the farmers, which is the farming methods employ by rural farmers. This becomes relevant because of dwindling arable land frontier. At this point, a review of 39 years-old Land Use Act is paramount to farmers especially those in rural areas who cannot contend with money bags that buy hundreds of hectares of their farmlands.

One major measure the government can take is to design rural development policies that incorporate soil conservation techniques into farming systems. These techniques according to I.E. Ahaneku (2010) may include indigenous conservation; ridging, terracing and multiple cropping, minimum tillage or zero tillage and agroforestry. All these methods will help in sustaining the country farmlands resulting in better yields of agricultural produce.

Quality water management

Sustainability of water withdrawal as a result of agricultural practices is not threatening to sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. In other words, agricultural water withdrawal as a percentage of total renewable water resources looks relatively sustainable in the country.

However, to meet future food needs, farmers must make better use of all available waters. This is achievable by employing water harvesting, conservation and efficient irrigation methods. This is necessary because Nigeria’s water storage capacity looks relatively low. It stands at 339 cubic meters per capita, compared with 838 cubic meters per capita for Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank, 2011).

On irrigation, there are needs for FADAMA program to modernize and to cover more communities. In addition, the World Bank Group’s Nigeria Irrigation and Water Resources Management Project have to achieve its objective of improved performance of irrigation and water resources infrastructure and institutions.

Improve female farmers’ conditions

Finally, for Nigeria’s food sustainability index to improve, women farmers’ conditions need to improve. For example, a report by the World Bank Group; Levelling the field: Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa states that women in Nigeria have relatively limited access to productive agricultural land, inputs and services compared with men.

These factors create a huge gender gap in the Nigerian agricultural sector. Despite the fact that women farmers are estimated to be half of the labour force for the sector. Therefore, inclusive initiatives have to come from various development agencies. Additionally, the government need to reduce this gap by tailoring policies that specifically take care of women farmers in Nigeria.


In sum, for Nigeria to improve its food sustainability index, a multiple policy-mix is needed. Nigeria must embrace value for money kind of funding for agriculture research and efficient agricultural subsidy. Furthermore, a modern and sustainable land use, new sustainable water management and irrigation infrastructure. And more importantly, inclusive initiatives to close the gender gap in Nigeria’s agricultural sector are necessary for guaranteed food security and continued sustainable agriculture to materialize in the country.

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