Nigeria – A Quest for Survival 

(Part I).

A mere three decades away from today, Nigeria would be earth’s 4th most populous country. When that moment arrives, the country must provide enough food for over 400 million people to eat three times a day. Where will foodstuff come from, where will farmlands be, to cultivate and harvest enough grains to feed a hungry and ever-burgeoning multitude?  

Nigeria’s total arable land space of 34 million hectares: 6.5 million hectares for permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares on meadows and pastures is hardly adequate to feed its 200 million people. In course of the next three decades, arable land available for agriculture in Nigeria will expectedly shrink in size, due to the negative effects of desertification, deforestation, and environmental degradation. Demographic trends however suggest a 100% population growth in the country within the same period.

A cursory study of current trends in agricultural production, vis-à-vis consumption patterns in the local economy, suggests an emerging crisis situation that in thirty years’ time, might become dangerously unmanageable.

This seems sufficiently illustrated in the current production rate and patterns in rice consumption (Rice, mainly produced in northern Nigeria, is the country’s staple food, and the main dish of 65% of the country’s population). As assumed, on average a meal with 90 grams of rice is enough for an adult male. This individual, as assumed eats three times a day. For statistical purposes here, it is assumed that such an individual is fed on rice thrice daily, for a period of one year. Notwithstanding the actual demographic category he fits in, or his alimentary needs, the individual food needs, and intake is assumed on average as indicative of how much each of the 200 million Nigerians living in the country needs and consumes.

An output indication of 300 grams of rice per day, 2100 grams (2.1 kg) per week, 8.4kg per month, and 100.8kg per year is derived as rice consumption rate per the average Nigerian.

Rice consumed annually by 200 million such individuals would be in the region of  20 billion kg  of rice is consumed. How much rice is produced per hectare?

The average yield among all farmers is 3,388 kg per hectare. On average, 44,100,000 hectares are required to produce 20 billion kg of rice.

Thirty years from now when Nigeria’s population will expectedly be twice its current size, the aforementioned consumption figure would be 40 billion kg.

Three decades from now, Nigeria will be faced with a need to provide 40 billion kg for its populace, when available land to achieve production may just not be available. The situation will probably be worsened by projected conditions in the global markets for energy, with the value of the country’s principal export commodity, hydrocarbon fuel plummeting due to the switch to electrically generated power in economies of Nigeria’s trade partners.

 To bridge the gap between local capacity and consumption requirements, the country must resort to massive import of food – not just rice. But, where will hard currency for this be sourced?

(Rice is one of the most consumed staples in Nigeria, with a consumption per capita of 32kg). 

Nigeria is the largest producer of rice (paddy) in Africa with an average production volume of 8 million metric tonnes. As of 2019, Nigeria ranked as the 14th largest producer of rice in the world with China being the top producing country. As of 2019, Africa had a total production volume of 14.6million, Nigeria produced about 55% and Egypt produced about 30% of the production volume).

Northern Nigeria is the mainstay of beef production, another strategic sector of Nigeria’s local economy. Beef is the principal source of the daily protein needs of over 70% of Nigerians. The average woman eats about 46 grams a day. For males, the figure is 50.4 grams. In a year, an adult consumes about 50.4kg of beef.

 Nonetheless, reports on protein deficiency in Nigeria indicate that 45 percent of the population, translating to almost half of the 206 million Nigerians, do not consume protein daily as against recommended consumption. The food and agriculture organisation (FAO) recommended minimum per capita daily protein intake is 53.8g, while the daily intake is 64g globally, which is 45.4g in Nigeria.

Nigeria has a population of 34.5million goats, 22.1million sheep, and 13.9million cattle. Beef is estimated to supply about 55 percent of total meat consumed in Nigeria. The average weight of even the matured slaughtered cattle in Nigeria would be about 300 kg.

By a rule of thumb, 20 acres of land is needed to manage 10 cows a year, which translates to 26 million acres (or 8,093,712.84 million hectares) of prime grazing land.

A cow needs to have at least, 4% of its weight in forage each day, and on average, a cow consumes between 30kg and 50kg of green vegetation, dry and wet fodder daily. Cows drink cow drink about 30 to 50 gallons of water each day.

 Thus, Nigeria’s 13 million cows on average, consume as much as 3.9 billion and 5 billion kg of fodder and greens and drink between 3 and 5 billion gallons of water each day (Lagos State, Nigeria’s most populous and richest state with its estimated 20 million population posted a daily water supply-demand of 724 million gallons).

Yet, a huge gap currently exists between animal protein supply and the minimum need of Nigeria’s population. To cater to its 200 million population, 65-70% of them depending on beef as primary protein supply, there should be a cow slaughtered for the consumption of every 6 Nigerians yearly. This translates to an average of 33 million herds of cattle slaughtered annually in Nigeria. In 30 years‘ time, this figure should rise to over 60 million herds of cattle available for consumption annually in Nigeria.

The difference between what exists in reality and what the needs are is enormous. As an inelastic factor of production, there is only so much that can be done even if vast swathes of Savannah grassland of northern Nigeria come under cultivation.

Industrialisation of the process of resources transformation into capital and vice versa holds a key to Nigeria’s survival in the near future. Even at this, northern Nigeria holds the key.

 Industrialisation as a process would be the game-changer if it engenders a chain reaction with endogenous spread over a wider territory and among a greater number of people living within it. With the weak foundations of central political control in Nigeria, inefficient education system, and absence of companies equipped with technical know-how to drive the industrialisation process, it is easy and rational to assume that Nigeria is not moving in this direction.

If accelerated industrialisation will not provide the entire solutions required, perhaps, geography could. Beyond Nigeria’s northern frontiers lies the sparsely populated Sahel.


By  Ivan David Danisa

(Part II, to be published shortly)


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