The hunger crisis in Nigeria: A deepening challenge

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is facing a severe hunger crisis. Millions of Nigerians struggle to access adequate and nutritious food, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and malnutrition among citizens.

A complex mix of factors, including economic instability, conflict, climate change, and governance policies fuels this situation. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development non-governmental organisation, says that around 16 per cent of Nigerians will face severe food insecurity or hunger between June and August 2024.

Also, according to the United Nations, around 84 million Nigerians, representing about 37 per cent of the total population, live below the poverty line.

However, despite being one of the largest economies in Africa, the wealth disparity is stark, and economic growth has not translated into widespread prosperity.

The latest food inflation rate released by the National Bureau of Statistics confirmed a continuous hunger crisis in the country. According to the data, Nigeria recorded an average of 38.5 per cent of food inflation rate in 2024, with April showing the highest rate of 40.53 per cent.

While local farmers lament their inability to access farmlands due to insecurity, particularly in the northern part of the country, processors and other actors in the value chain attribute the rising food prices to increased transport fares following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

Our market survey data on food price changes over the last 12 months shows a continuous price increase without any drops.

Currently, a mudu of staple foods like rice, beans, and Garri sells for N2,500, N2,200, and N1,300, respectively, compared to their previous prices of N1,000, N800, and N400. Meanwhile, the minimum wage for civil servants remains at N30,000 despite rising fuel prices.

This means that many households in the country struggle daily to provide food for their families, especially given the current food inflation rate.

The major factors contributing to the country’s hunger crisis include:

Economic instability

Economic instability is a major driver of hunger in Nigeria. The country heavily relies on oil exports for revenue, and fluctuations in global oil prices can drastically impact the national economy. For instance, the drop in oil prices in 2014 led to a recession in 2016, which had a lasting impact on food security.

Inflation, which affects food prices, has been another critical issue. When basic food items become too expensive, many families cannot afford sufficient food, leading to widespread hunger.

Conflict and Insecurity

Conflict, especially in northeastern Nigeria, has heightened the hunger situation. The Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, has displaced millions of people. The conflict disrupts farming activities, reduces market access, and destroys infrastructure.

Displaced people often end up in overcrowded camps with inadequate food supplies. The conflict in the middle belt, primarily between herders and farmers, has also led to loss of livelihoods and increased food insecurity.

In November 2023, at least 15 rice farmers were reportedly killed in Borno state after suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked three villages in the state, and it is estimated that farmer-herder clashes have led to the loss of over 60,000 lives over the years, with the north-central region mostly affected.

 Climate Change and Environmental Factors

Climate change is increasingly affecting Nigeria’s agricultural output. Irregular rainfall patterns, droughts, and floods have become more common, making farming unpredictable.

The arid northern region faces severe water scarcity, while the southern areas are prone to flooding. These environmental challenges reduce crop yields and livestock production, impacting food availability and affordability.

Poor Agricultural Practices and Infrastructure

Nigeria’s agricultural sector, which employs about 70% of the population, is characterised by low productivity due to outdated farming techniques, limited access to modern inputs like fertilisers and seeds, and inadequate infrastructure.

Poor storage facilities lead to significant post-harvest losses, and underdeveloped roads and transportation networks make moving food from surplus to deficit areas difficult.

Current State of Food Insecurity

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have reported alarming levels of food insecurity in Nigeria.

According to a report by Cadre Harmonisé, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis, around 25 million Nigerians were at risk of acute food insecurity as of 2023, especially during the lean season. The northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe were the most affected, with millions in need of urgent food assistance.

The World Food Programme projected that about 26.5 million people across Nigeria would face acute hunger in 2024, an increase from the figure projected in 2023.

However, despite the presence of numerous government intervention programs, both international and local, as well as non-governmental charity organisations focused on improving food security in the country, the hunger situation remains severe.


To effectively tackle the hunger crisis in Nigeria, these critical approaches are necessary;

  1. Enhancing Agricultural Productivity

Investing in agriculture is critical to ensuring improved food productivity. Modernising farming techniques, improving access to quality seeds and fertilisers, and training farmers can boost productivity. Also, developing robust storage facilities and efficient transportation networks will help reduce post-harvest losses and ensure food reaches all regions.

  1. Policy and Economic Stability

Diversifying Nigeria’s economy beyond oil can reduce vulnerability to global price fluctuations.

Therefore, promoting sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and services can create jobs and improve household incomes, thereby enhancing food security, tackling inflation, and stabilising food prices in the country.

  1. Resolving Conflicts

The government must make more intending efforts to end conflicts, particularly in the northeast. This requires comprehensive peacebuilding efforts, addressing the root causes of insurgency, and ensuring security for displaced populations. If stability is restored in these areas, displaced people can return to their homes and resume farming activities.

  1. Climate Adaptation

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in Earth’s average weather patterns and temperatures, which can be natural.

There is a need for proper sensitisation for farmers on climate change adaptation through climate intelligent practices. This includes promoting drought-resistant crops, efficient water management techniques, and agroforestry. Therefore, these practices will help to mitigate the impact of climate change.

  1. Social program and Collaboration

Social and humanitarian safety programs should be scaled up to protect vulnerable populations. Ensuring transparency and accountability in these programs is essential to prevent corruption and ensure that resources reach those in need. Additionally, greater collaboration between the government, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector can enhance the effectiveness of hunger alleviation efforts.