The Problem of Food Security in Nigeria: A Plant Pathologist’s View

Nigeria – a country in Africa – is blessed with an arable land of 34 million hectares with 70% of its workforce employed in agriculture. However, insufficient food production in Nigeria has been a perennial problem. The 2021 Global Hunger Index placed Nigeria 103 out of 116 countries while the 2020 UNDP Human development index placed Nigeria 161 out of 189 countries. Considering the 14.6% of Nigerians who remain undernourished while around 21.4% experience hunger, Nigeria’s dismal ranking comes as no surprise. At this point, it becomes important to understand why a country blessed with abundant agricultural resources is still plagued by food insufficiency. 

Plants account for more than 80% of the human diet and are therefore important for food security. The declining agricultural productivity in Nigeria is largely as a result of the fact that 90% of agricultural production is the output of small-scale farmers who lack the requisite knowledge, resources, and expertise to ensure quality crop production amidst the increasing effects of climate change. Thus, over 40% of crop loss is recorded yearly due to the attack of pests and diseases. This means that even though ample food crops are planted, many people still go hungry because the food crops are ruined before they get to market. Farmers are then forced to use available chemical pesticides to aid food production despite their toxicity and hazardous effects to non-target organisms, including beneficial insects, livestock, and humans. Ultimately, the quality of food produced and the economic status of many resource-poor farmers who produce a large percentage of the crop for consumption is further exacerbated. 

Achieving a sustainable economic development in Nigeria will continue to be a mirage without well-nourished and healthy people. With a 2.5% population increase rate and an estimated population size of 400 million by 2050, there is an urgent need to direct efforts toward improving the quality and quantity of food production in Nigeria to avoid the looming food insecurity driven population crash. The population dynamics of pests, pathogens, or weeds in the context of the whole agro-ecosystem and their impact on cropping systems need to be taken into account. Reducing crop loss due to insect pests and diseases through improved crop management strategies thus becomes the first step towards attaining food self-sufficiency in Nigeria. Therefore, there is an imminent need for well-trained plant scientists (esp. plant pathologists) and entomologists to drive the advancements in agricultural research with a specific focus to control insect pests and diseases, develop effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, and design improved plant management systems. 


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About the Author:

Abdulkabir Abdulmalik is a graduate student at the CEPLAS Graduate School, Germany and a 2023 Plantae Fellow. He has research interest in molecular plant biology, and computational biology. Abdulkabir enjoys writing and shares a passion for science communication.  You can find him on Twitter at @Omeiza_PlantDoc.