According to a recent report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Nigeria has 70.8 million hectares of agricultural land. In 2021, agriculture contributed more than 22 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The World Bank suggests that agriculture is perhaps the country’s most prosperous sector. It is definitely the largest employer, contributing to more than 24 million livelihoods. More than 70 percent of Nigerians engage in the agricultural sector, but many of them at a ‘subsistence’ level.
Despite the sector's robust performance, the country remains vulnerable to food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse, disrupting supplies and leading to higher food prices. Many factors reduce Nigeria’s agricultural performance. They include security threats, low technology, high production costs, poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses, and poor access to markets.
Various government programs aim to address these challenges. This is vitally important, because Nigeria is already Africa’s most populous country, and the population is estimated to reach 400 million by 2050. Government interventions seek to increase agricultural productivity in order to provide enough food both for domestic demand and export. The programs focus on access to new technologies and high-quality inputs. Policies are geared towards encouraging farmers and investors. Investment incentives support private-sector participation.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s 2022 budget allocates only 1.8% to agriculture. This figure includes both capital and recurrent expenditure. This budget allocation is not only inadequate but also far below the 10% that Nigeria targeted under the Maputo Declaration. (As of 2022, Africa as a whole is falling short of this target).
More than 80 percent of Nigeria’s farmers are smallholders. They grow some 85 percent of domestic production and contribute heavily to GDP. Many, however, live on less than $1.50 per day. According to the World Bank, smallholders account for the poorest 40 percent of the population. They are in general much worse off than wage workers. Smallholder poverty is often due to inadequate market information as well as a lack of access to credit and to good inputs such as fertilizer and seed. Climate change — as marked by irregular rainfall and rising temperatures — is now making rural life even harder.
Small-scale farmers in Nigeria face economic, political, and financial constraints. Their earnings are often below the cost of production. Due to a lack of technology, smallholders irrigate a mere two percent of their land. Only 16 percent have access to machinery.
In 2019, the Syngenta Foundation surveyed farm input supply and distribution. The findings show that farmers are willing to pay for high-quality seeds and fertilizers – if these are available. Frequently, however, such inputs are inaccessible. Surveys from other sources highlight further challenges. These include poor access to markets and finance, together with inadequate knowledge of improved farming practices. In response, our Nigerian team decided to adopt the Farmers' Hub model.
A Farmers’ Hub is ‘a one-stop shop’. It offers smallholders access to a wide range of products and services to meet local needs. Each Hub serves 500-1000 farmers, linking them to 10-20 buyers. Smallholders go to their nearest Hub for seedlings, machinery hire, post-harvest handling, marketing information, and agronomic advice. They thus raise their yields and income. Buyers benefit from product aggregation and reliable supply. Hubs also represent a new business opportunity for rural entrepreneurs and provide local employment.
Our current Nigerian Hubs are in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Abuja, Ondo, and Oyo. Their smallholder clients grow tomatoes, onions, pepper, cabbage, sorghum, rice, cowpea, and soybean. The many services include tractor rental at a highly competitive rate, thanks to partnerships with Hello Tractor, Agridrive, and others. On the training side, young farmers have profited, for example, from the Dutch ‘Seed 4 Change’ program on establishing vegetable nurseries. For more on tractor rental, read our news story.
Results by June 2022 included the following:
- Hub managers have increased their revenue by approximately 85%, notably through sales of vegetable seedlings and other inputs. (See our news story).
- Thanks primarily to good seeds, farmers have raised their production and income.
- Smallholders coming in for one particular product or service (e.g. equipment rental) typically also take the opportunity to benefit from other Hub offers.
- The Foundation has trained more than 120 Hub entrepreneurs, directly or indirectly creating about 1200 jobs.
To improve smallholders’ livelihoods, we are also partnering with OCP Africa. This major fertilizer company is running part of its broad Agribooster project in cooperation with our Farmers’ Hubs. This partnership focuses on tomato growers. The work includes encouraging the use of improved varieties. Training also plays a big role – in seedling propagation, staggered planting, and other aspects of good greenhouse management. The aim is to increase smallholders’ productivity and income. Having started in northwestern and north central states in 2020, Agribooster is moving southwest during 2022.