The Importance of Agriculture in Nigeria’s Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

There is hardly any nation on Earth that does not benefit directly or indirectly from agriculture. That holds true in Nigeria as well. After all, our food resources are cultivated through agriculture. Agriculture in Nigeria’s economy accounts for over 30% of employment opportunities. Additionally, agriculture has remained the foundation of the Nigerian economy, in spite of the hard focus on Petroleum for foreign exchange. Year in year out, the agricultural sector has continued to provide raw materials, food products and jobs to millions of Nigerians. That includes both the learned and uneducated classes of workers.

Agriculture in Nigeria's economy

It would also interest you to know that agriculture contributes a higher percentage to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product than Petroleum. Truth be told, Petroleum makes up about 80% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. Nevertheless, the 2-year statistics on Gross Domestic Product below reveals the immense contribution of agriculture to this nation. We have ignored the statistics of previous years, but the trend has generally been in favor of agriculture.


GDP Statistics


Agriculture: 24%

Oil & Gas: <9%


Agriculture: 25.88%

Oil & Gas: <10%

Nigeria has an estimated 70.8 hectares of arable land in total. Also, agriculture in Nigeria is largely based on food crop production; livestock rearing is not yet fully exploited. 

Agriculture in Nigeria’s Economy: The Challenges

Food production in Nigeria faces some serious challenges. Let’s identify the key issues hampering food production and food security in the country.

Inadequate usage of fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers are rarely used by farmers. Because the geographical locations where animals are reared usually do not coincide with where crops are produced. Thus makes it difficult to harvest and use animal waste for manure. On the part of chemical fertilizers, Nitrogen, phosphate and potassium are often used. However, the quantity of chemical fertilizers being applied per hectare of land is very low. Perhaps we could blame it on cost and resulting shortage of supply. 

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Investment in animal husbandry is quite low

The availability of animal protein for consumption is on the low side, in spite of the seemingly large number of animals being reared. Nigeria has a significant number of farmers that have invested in fishery, rabbit, poultry, sheep, goat and cattle rearing. However, animal husbandry constantly faces threats. 

Animal epidemics in the last few decades have been particularly damaging. The repeated occurrences of these epidemics have heavily depleted the number of animals. Virus attacks and tsetse fly disease are typical culprits. And rather unfortunately, there is a shortage of veterinary doctors and services.

Food production presently falls short of the needs of Nigeria’s teeming population. 

Out of the huge population of Nigeria which has exceeded 250 million citizens already, about 70% of the population are actively engaged in farming. Farms in Nigeria mostly owned by individuals (many of them are not so young) account for 80% of all the food produced in the nation. However, the quantity of food produced is hardly enough to meet the needs of the people. And equally very low quantities of food and cash crops are available for export.

The impact of communal conflicts

In recent years, there have been serious clashes between farmers and cattle rearers. These nomadic cattle rearers have allowed their animals to invade and graze on farmlands. The affected farmers reacted by warning off these nomads and their animals, but were met with stiff resistance. 

The resulting quarrels have led to violence of shocking proportions that have resulted in the loss of numerous lives. Some of these communal conflicts have prolonged long enough to prevent the affected farmers from returning back to the farm, as they fear for their personal safety. 

Other Common problems facing Agriculture in Nigeria’s economy include:

  • Poor road network
  • Poor transportation system
  • Unpredictable climate conditions
  • Storage facilities in short supply
  • Shortage of adequate financing
  • Hindered access to improved seeds, farm materials and advanced farm tools
  • Hindered access to farmlands
  • Aging farmer population and farm hands
  • Poor farming systems and techniques
  • Lack of education

The list of challenges as stated above is not exhaustive. But it provides a broad enough glimpse into how difficult it has been to sustain agriculture in Nigeria’s economy. 

Agriculture in Nigeria’s Economy: Opportunities

Farm mechanization and agricultural technology development

To improve productivity, more mechanized farming tools need to be provided by investors. Manual hoe and cutlass traditional farming implements have been in use for centuries, and these should be reduced to the barest minimum.  

Food processing and preservation methods

There is a huge loss of about 45% of farm produce in Nigeria at post-harvest stage due to poor preservation. There is a need for more dedicated and effective food processing and preservation methods to stop this trend. For instance, Nigeria is the second largest producer of tomatoes in Africa at 2.3 metric tonnes per year. Yet still the country imports tomato paste in large quantities, due to severe wastage of the crop. 

Provision of more jobs

There are many opportunities to train and employ graduates in the agritech sector. We need younger folks to actively participate in farming. For now, a large proportion of the farmers and traders involved in agriculture production and value chain are elderly people and uneducated persons. They know little about improved food production and preservation methods.  With time the aged ones will be too old to continue, and who would replace them? It is high time we start training more educated people to handle and improve the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Investing in land irrigation 

Mechanized land irrigation is in dire need in Nigeria, as only 1% of cultivated land enjoys modern irrigation facilities. It is strictly dangerous to rely upon seasonal rains to nourish our crops, in the wake of unpredictable climate changes and irregular rainfall. 

Internal and external trading opportunities

Food crop production aside, Nigeria has huge potential to produce and export high-quality cash crops. They include crops like cocoa, ginger, cashew, and palm oil. Nigeria is also reported to be the largest producer of cassava and yam worldwide. We need more investors to exploit this great export opportunity. 

Improved logistics

Some of the biggest losses in food supply in Nigeria is as a result of bad roads and poor means of transportation. In-between bringing fresh farm produce from farms to the final consumers, much of the food is either spoiled or lost on the way. But with better logistics arrangements (which should include cooling vans to preserve the food), there would be much less wastage. It would also reduce the problematic inflation in food prices due to uncontrolled wastage of food. Because traders seek to make gains and cover their losses – the very reason for the hike in food prices. 


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About the author

Robin Okwanma

Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.

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