Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with about 162 million people, has great agricultural potential with 76 million hectares of agricultural land. Yet this major oil producing country is a net food importer, having neglected the agriculture sector which employs about 23% of the national workforce mostly in subsistence smallholdings and generates a third of the national GDP.
Poverty is huge. Sixty-eight percent of the population lives on less than US$ 1.25 a day, mostly in rural regions. The fast demographic growth remains a big challenge for the country to improve human development indicators; the fertility rate (6 children per woman) is amongst the highest in the world.
From South to North, the country's climate becomes progressively drier, reaching semi-arid savannah lands at the border with Niger. Agricultural productivity is lower in semi-arid Northern Nigeria due to harsher agroecological conditions and poorer infrastructure. The traditional food crops are sorghum, millet and maize in the north, and cassava, yam, plantain, maize and sorghum in the central and southern regions. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava, yam and cowpea - all staple foods in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Agricultural Transformation Agenda launched in 2011 aims at increasing national food production, supporting import substitution (such as cassava flour replacing wheat imports) and market-driven agricultural development using innovative approaches to reach out to the poorest farmers. For instance, 5 million smallholder farmers benefited from subsidized seeds and fertilizer using mobile phone-operated vouchers to fill the yield gap. This strategy showed results: The agricultural sector reportedly grew by 7% a year between 2003 and 2007, and at a slightly lower rate in recent years.
Key documents on Nigeria agriculture
Nigeria rural poverty country profile (IFAD)