In Nigeria, the average farm size for subsistence farmers varies between 1 to 3 hectares, with a noticeable distinction between the Northern and Southern regions. The North boasts larger farm sizes than the South, a trend that shapes the agricultural dynamics within the nation. The diversity in farm sizes often reflects the region’s climate, land availability, and historical agricultural practices.
Nigeria’s agricultural area spans an impressive 70.8 million hectares, encompassing diverse land uses. Of this vast expanse, 34 million hectares are dedicated to arable land, 6.5 million hectares nurture permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares are allocated to meadows and pastures. The major crops cultivated in Nigeria include maise, cassava, guinea corn, and yam, with crop farming engaging around 70% of households. The Southern region embraces fishing (7.3% of households), while livestock ownership prevails in the Northwest (69.3%).
Livestock production remains underutilised, with small-scale farm families primarily rearing animals. This trend indicates untapped potential within Nigeria’s livestock sector, potentially requiring innovative approaches to enhance animal production and overall farm sustainability. Nigeria’s journey toward self-sufficiency in rice production has been noteworthy. Over the years, rice production increased from 3.7 million metric tons in 2017 to 4.0 million in 2018. Despite this progress, a significant gap remains between local production and consumption. Approximately 57% of the 6.7 million metric tons of rice consumed annually in Nigeria is domestically produced, leaving a deficit of approximately 3 million metric tons. This gap necessitates imports or illegal rice smuggling to meet the nation’s consumption needs.
Nigeria stands as one of the nations most susceptible to the far-reaching ramifications of climate change, with its agricultural sector bearing a disproportionate brunt of the impact. Yet, amidst these challenges, Nigerian farmers have displayed commendable resilience and flexibility in the wake of ever-shifting climate dynamics. Their ingenuity shines through many strategies to combat climate change while bolstering food production.
One such approach involves strategically altering planting schedules, wherein smallholder farmers adeptly modify planting times to preempt droughts or floods. The deployment of robust crop strains equipped to endure stress, be it drought or heat, constitutes another vital tactic, enabling cultivation even under adverse conditions. Farmers also exhibit adaptability by transitioning to alternative crops tailored to the evolving climate, an example being the northern Nigerian farmers embracing drought-resistant sesame over sorghum. Enhanced water management strategies, including rainwater harvesting and targeted irrigation, have gained traction to counteract erratic rainfall patterns.
Simultaneously, the diversification of income streams through non-agricultural work presents a means to mitigate climate-induced shocks. These supplementary earnings contribute to investments in climate-resilient farming practices, such as advanced seeds and irrigation systems. While progress is evident, Nigerian farmers grapple with considerable obstacles in their climate adaptation journey. Challenges spanning irregular rainfall, soil degradation, and tensions between farmers and herders underscore the complexity of their tasks. Notwithstanding these hurdles, Nigerian farmers persist in pioneering inventive solutions, epitomizing their determination and tenacity to construct a more ecologically sound future.
Learn More Resources
- Smallholder agriculture and challenges in Nigeria: A review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9384864/
- Farmers in Nigeria Improve Productivity Through Sustainable Farming Methods – https://resilientfoodsystems.co/news/farmers-in-nigeria-improve-productivity-through-sustainable-farming-methods
- Nigeria at a Glance – https://www.fao.org/nigeria/fao-in-nigeria/nigeria-at-a-glance/en/
- Seeing is Doing: How Smallholder Farmers in Nigeria are Living This Reality – https://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/story/seeing-is-doing-how-smallholder-farmers-in-nigeria-are-living-this-reality/
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Nigeria Country Manager Juwonlo Michael