Food Insecurity In Nigeria: Implications On Poverty Reduction – Abdulmalik Iyabo B.

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Our Take: Despite increased food production in Nigeria, the bulk of the population, particularly rural Nigerians, remains food insecure. Unfortunately, to compensate for the food shortages, Nigeria has resorted to food importation and as a result of this reliance on food imports, significant amounts of much-needed foreign exchange intended for community development purposes are being spent on food imports. This further leads to increased poverty and food insecurity. To address food insecurity and poverty, the country must be self-reliant in food production and increase both consumer and producer incomes by investing in projects and technology to increase production.


Despite an increase in food production in Nigeria, majority of the people, especially the rural Nigerians, are still not food secured. Therefore, this paper examines the factors responsible for food insecurity in Nigeria and its implications on poverty reduction. Vector Auto regression model along with its devices: Impulse Response Functions and the Variance Decomposition Device were used. The study found that food insecurity is determined by domestic food production and per capita income. It is, therefore, suggested that, to alleviate poverty in Nigeria, there should be self-reliance in food and strict control on food imports.

1. Introduction

In countries with a high rate of undernourishment, a comparably high proportion of the population struggles to survive on less than US $1 per day (Christine,1999). Hence, hunger and malnutrition are serious problems for many people in most developing countries. Malnutrition results from absence of specific nutrients in a diet. Malnutrition and hunger are said to be closely related to poverty, as such, poverty leads to hunger. More so, hunger deprives people of their strengths and skills to carryout productive work (Obasi, 1997).

When the food deficit is very high, people’s diet tends to be deficient in protein, vitamins and carbohydrate-rich staple foods such as rice, cassava and maize that provide energy. The food situation in Nigeria has led to a tremendous increase in the price of food over the years with a decrease in the living standard of many families. Food deficit of Nigeria fell gradually from 75 Kcal per person per day in 1997 to 42 Kcal per person in 2016 (USAID,2011). A nation of weak and sick people cannot be productive. Therefore, provision of adequate food is required at all times for its teeming population. This means that a nation must be food secured, a family must be food secured and an individual must be food secured (Arosanyin, 2006).

Despite the advances that have been made in the huge, but growing body of knowledge on the poverty reduction in Nigeria (Okuneye, 2001; Ogwumike, 2000; Obadan, 1996; Aderibigbe, 2001), no concrete attempt has been made in Nigeria to relate food insecurity and poverty reduction. Yet, the two are closely linked in an inseparable manner. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to examine the factors that influence food insecurity in Nigeria and its implications on poverty reduction in Nigeria.

2. Conceptual Review

Food Insecurity and Poverty Reduction

One of the common features of food insecurity is poverty. Food insecurity is closely related to poverty in such a way that one enforces the other. Food insecurity refers to shortage in per capita daily calorie intake below the minimum of 2400 K/Pd per capita daily calorie intake recommended by FAO and WHO for maintaining the human body (Siamwalla& Valdes, 1994). Otaha (2013) defined food insecurity as “a condition of lacking the resources to acquire a nutritionally adequate diet”.

Poverty arises when there is lack of the means to satisfy critical needs. According to Encyclopedia Americana (1989), poverty can be seen from two different perspectives: (i) “Moneylessness”, which means shortage of cash to satisfy human basic needs such as nutrition, rest, warmth and body care; and (ii) “Powerlessness”, which refers to people whose lives are controlled by other persons. Poverty is categorized into absolute and relative. Absolute poverty is defined as the inability to obtain the minimum necessities for the maintenance of physical efficiency while relative poverty refers to the ability to attain a given minimum contemporary standard of living (Omobolanle& Ayodele, 2013). Poverty can also be grouped into temporary and chronic poverty. Temporary poverty is a short-term poverty. It arises from theft, drought, war, flood and fire. Chronic poverty is a long-term poverty used to describe the average life in a society. This kind of poverty may be transmitted from one generation to another and it is very persistent (Ogwumike, 1995). According to Olarinde and Kuponiyi, (2005), the most frequently used measurements of poverty are headcount index, poverty gap index and the squared poverty gap.

Most countries with widespread of food insecurity are assessed according to three indicators: low average levels of calorie consumption, large fluctuations and large numbers of absolute poor. Food insecurity leads to under nutrition, poor health, low productivity and low income (Adekoya, 2009). In addition, food insecurity leads to human suffering, misallocation of scarce resources, and inefficient or ineffective income earning decisions.

According to FAO (1996), poverty can be reduced through the following approaches.

  • Basic Need Approach: This calls for the provision of basic needs such as food, shelter, water sanitation, health care, basic education and transportation.
  • Economic Growth Approach: This approach focuses on capital stock, and human capital such as education, health, nutrition and housing needs of labour.
  • Rural Development Approach: This approach sees the rural sector as an important sector in terms of poverty reduction

Causes of Poverty in the Sub-Saharan African Countries

Sub-Saharan African countries are noted for the prevalence of absolute poverty in all its characteristic features. The main causes of poverty in the Sub-Saharan African includes: unemployment, inadequate loan facilities, lack of transportation, environmental degradation, inadequate access to the means of supporting rural development in poor regions and participation by the poor in the designing of developmental programmes (ljaiya& Bello, 2001). Therefore, poverty contributes to many crimes in the society. The increasing rate of crimes such as armed robbery, advanced fee fraud (419), corruption, prostitution, nepotism, drug trafficking, cultism and other social vices strongly correlates with the rate of poverty in the society.

Food Insecurity Situation in Nigeria

Food security is one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in improving the wellbeing of the people in Nigeria. Local production or importation or both are the two main sources of food for any nation. The lack of self-sufficiency in local food production and comparative cost advantage usually provide justification for food importation with the ultimate goal of making the nation food secured (Arosanyin, 2006).

Nigeria, an exporter of food in the 1960s, became a net importer of food in the 1970s due to the inconsistencies in government agricultural policies. The country continues to depend on food imports to support domestically produced food supply. The implication of the high food import bills is that substantial proportions of the much needed foreign exchange meant for importing capital for development purposes were spent on food importation. This has made the country to be vulnerable to economic shocks, which in the long run, lead to food insecurity. According to Babatunde and Qaim (2005), “Nigerian citizen are hungry and the cost of meeting basic food needs is prohibitive”, thus, there is danger of food insecurity in Nigeria due to increasing cost of food stuffs. They opined that the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the country are more severe now than ever before. “The percentage of Nigerian households that are food insecure” continued Babatunde and Qaim (2005), “has increased from 18% in 1995 to over 40% in 2005”. This finding supports the earlier studies of Egbuna (2001) and Francis and Musa (2020) that Nigeria is food insecure because population is greater than domestic aggregate production, which makes demand side to be higher than the supply side. To address food insecurity problem in Nigeria, government introduces programmes such as National Special Programme on Food Security, FADAMA (Wetland farming) and the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), etc.

Theoretical Background

The cause of food insecurity in underdeveloped countries is explained by Population-Driven Theory. This model is based on the Malthusian work. According to this approach, the cause of food insecurity was a tendency for population to outstrip resources particularly land, over a long period of time. Population pressure pushed production into more labour-intensive techniques and eroded the surplus that would be needed to fund innovation and growth. Malthus’s model is an example of a model with one variable and one parameter. In the model, the variable is the population and the parameter are the population growth rate. Malthusian population model is given as:

X(i+1) = (1+r)X(i)

Where X(i) =  the population size during time period i r = the population growth rate per unit time

A model in this form is said to be a difference equation model.

Empirical Review

The nexus between food insecurity and poverty reduction has received considerable attentions in the literature. Alaimo (1998) examined the health effects of food insufficiency for children using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES Ill). The study showed that food-insufficient children are more likely to be in fair or poor health. Clover (2003), Smith (2007), Swaminathan (2008) and Craig & James (2015) examined the food security in developed and developing countries and discovered that growing global food production could help to enhance GDP per capita, increase purchasing power and access to food.

Eempirical studies from Nigeria on the relationship between food insecurity and poverty reduction include the findings of Obasi (1997), Egbuna (2001), Hassan and Shola (2006), Arosanyin (2006), Oshodi and Oloni (2006), Eneta (2008), Omotor (2009), Oriola (2009), Abubakar (2013), Oni and Fashogbon (2013), Otaha (2013), Emmanuel, Otu and Odey (2017), Ahmed and Waibel (2019) and Lamidi (2019).

Obasi (1997) used Ordinary Least Square Method to examine the factors that influence food insecurity in Nigeria for the period of 1976 to 1994. The result showed that domestic food production is the main variable explaining food insecurity in Nigeria. He concluded that 87. 21 % of the Nigerian food problem would be solved by promoting domestic food production. Studies by Okunmedewa, Olomola and Adubi (1999) revealed that the risk of food security was more felt by wage earners, particularly in urban areas, which, thus, resulted in their dependence on less nutritious food items. Hassan and Shola (2006) examined the relationship between food insecurity and the National Question in Nigeria. He observed that food production has been on the increase, but the increase has not been proportional to the demand for food, and, thus, constitutes a major threat to the security of the nation.

Arosanyin (2006) emphasized the roles of transportation in making food available to the final consumer, once it is accepted that production of any food item is not complete until it gets to the final consumers. He concluded that an efficient transportation system is a core element in Nigeria’s quest for food security. Oshodi and Oloni (2006) used the Vector Autoregression model (VAR) to examine the impact of agricultural food policy on food security in Nigeria from 1970 to 2003. They found that agricultural food policy contributes both directly and indirectly to food security with environmental factors playing a more significant role. Their study, therefore, recommends that agricultural food policy should target environmental supported programmes such as provision of virile irrigation programmes and construction of rain silos.

Food and nutrition situation in Nigeria was studied by Omotor (2009). It was observed that more Nigerians live below the poverty line and are food insecure. The study suggests that agriculture deserves all necessary support to raise its output. Also, in 2009, Oriola examined the relationship between irrigation system, food production and poverty. The study showed that natural endowment, soil and water resources of the nation for productive agriculture and irrigation technology as remedy to vagaries of water as militating factors against adequate food production.

Abubakar (2013) carried out an empirical analysis of household security in Gombe, using household expenditure and consumption surveys containing both objective (quantitative) and subjective (qualitative) data. The outcome showed that on average, less than 50% of the household could afford to consume the minimum dietary requirement of 2400 Kcal. Analysis of factors of food insecurity with a sustainable livelihood approach in rural Nigeria using nation-wide cross-sectional data of Nigerian Living Standard Survey (NLSS) was done by Oni and Fashogbon (2013). The result revealed that, on the whole, farming is the predominant livelihood activity.

Emmanuel, Otu and Odey (2017) examined the implication of food insecurity, poverty and hunger on national security. It was discovered that reinstalling peace and security in Nigeria can only be achieved through careful identification and proper address of casual factors.Lamidi (2019) demonstrates that higher risks of severe food insecurity occurs among households with children and those with elderly persons living with a disability. The study also shows that financial support from friends, relatives, and money lenders were associated with higher, rather than lower risks of food insecurity. Ahmed and Waibel (2019) showed that homestead aquaculture increases household food consumption, improves dietary diversity, generates additional income and stimulates higher fish consumption from home production.

The empirical research in this study differs from the earlier ones, since none of the linear work has attempted the link between food insecurity and poverty, except Obasi’s (1997) work. However, this study is also different from Obasi (1997) on the basis of methodology that was used. This study used Vector Autoregression model while Obasi (1997) adopted Ordinary Least Square Method.

Vector Autoregression model is employed for this study because of its ability to characterize the dynamic structure of the model as well as its ability to avoid restrictions associated with different economic theories. In addition, the model is employed for this study because of its ability to characterize the dynamic structure of the model as well as its ability to avoid restrictions associated with different economic theories.

Discussion of Result and Implication of Findings

The outcome of the analysis indicates that domestic output of food and per capita income are the only variables that are significant and inversely related to food insecurity. It shows that about 98% of the Nigerian food problems would be solved by promoting domestic food production and better income for consumers and producers, which will to a great extent, alleviate poverty in the country. This supports the findings of Braun et al., (1992), Odusola (1997), Okunmadewa et al. (1999) and Egbuna (2001). Another discovery from this research is that food imports play a negligible role in controlling food insecurity in the country, The policy implication is that an increase in the standard of living of the people would be achieved if the national resources committed to food import are used for a better source of national food security, namely, domestic food production. Therefore, food importations should be strictly controlled and the private sector should also be encouraged to invest in food production. This calls for incentives, which will make farming a more profitable venture without gender bias.

The study also revealed that export earnings do not have a significant effect on food insecurity in the country. This might be explained by the Nigeria’s balance of payments problem over the years, whereby export earnings no longer cover the payments for imports. Therefore, the inclusion of food imports and exports earnings in the food insecurity model would only bring a negligible improvement, since they are not statistically significant. However, the overall implications of these variables (DOftand PCt) for poverty reduction is that self-reliance in food will alleviate poverty by increasing the incomes of the majority of Nigerians who live in poverty without any significant losses sustained by others.

4. Conclusion and Recommendations

The study examined food insecurity and its implications on poverty reduction. It has been discovered that domestic food production and per capita income are the only variables that are statistically significant and inversely related to food insecurity. This means that self-reliance in food production and improvement in the incomes of both the consumers and the producers are the best policy for the nation, if food security and poverty reduction must be attained. Other policies that are needed for achieving food security and poverty reduction include:

– Food production policies should include women, if there must be increase in output, increase in incomes and poverty reduction.

-Price support scheme for the staple food crops and improvement in transportation, marketing and storage facilities would go a long way in addressing the situation.

-Food importations should be strictly controlled and the private sector should be encouraged to invest in local food production.

-Government policies, which improve the social conditions of the farmers, ceteris paribus, will raise their productivity. This calls for direct government intervention in providing subsidized health care delivery services in the rural areas, as a well as other social-economic infrastructures which the farmers lack.


• For an increase in output and reduced poverty, policies on agriculture should be expanded to include women in agriculture as they have a significant contribution to agriculture. relevant policies should also be expanded to cover the welfare concerns of farmers specifically those in rural areas.
• Price support scheme for the staple food crops and improvement in transportation, marketing and storage facilities would go a long way in addressing the situation.
• Food importations should be strictly controlled and the private sector should be encouraged to invest in local food production.

Source: Al-Hikmah Journal of Economics (AJEC)

Keywords: Food insecurity, Hunger, Malnutrition, Poverty

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