Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Tearfund home

Food insecurity in Nigeria (and what we're doing to help)

With 25 million people in Nigeria facing food insecurity, find out how Tearfund is helping make a difference.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 06 Jul 2023

Two women in brightly-coloured dresses sell potatoes and other root vegetables in a street market in Nigeria where inflation of food prices reached 23 per cent in September 2022.

Women in Nigeria selling potatoes at a market. Around 25 million people in the country are facing food insecurity. Credit: Steve Goddard/Tearfund

Violent conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices have all contributed to making accessing enough food each day a struggle for approximately 25 million people in Nigeria who are currently facing food insecurity.


What is food insecurity?

Based on the 1996 World Food Summit, food security is defined by four characteristics. These are: 

  • food should be physically available (there is enough food that actually exists);
  • people should be able to access the food – both physically (they can get to it) and economically (they can afford to buy it);
  • food is used effectively (the body is able to make the most of various nutrients in the food); 
  • the first three characteristics should remain stable over time. 

Sufficient food for an adult female is considered to be between 2,200–2,300 calories per day, and for an adult male 2,900–3,000 calories per day. 

Where people cannot access enough food – whether as a result of things like adverse weather conditions, political instability, or economic factors such as unemployment or rising food prices – this can lead to people becoming food insecure.

Food insecurity in Nigeria

In Nigeria, food inflation rose to 23 per cent in September 2022 pushing millions more people in the country into a state of food insecurity and a World Food Programme report at the end of 2022 stated that more than 5.9 million children in northwest and northeast Nigeria were acutely malnourished. 

Findings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed that some of this can be attributed to the war in Ukraine. The ongoing conflict there has caused problems with food supply and resulted in sharp price increases for wheat and other staple foods in countries, like Nigeria, that rely heavily on imports. 

Climate change

Alongside this, Nigeria has also faced a variety of climate disasters. In 2022, Nigeria was hit by devastating floods that killed more than 500 people, displaced more than 1.4 million and destroyed about 90,000 homes. 

With two-thirds of the country’s labour force involved in farming or herding, weather patterns and disasters (like the flooding) have a significant impact on the livelihoods of a large proportion of the population. 

Between extended droughts and sudden floods, along with soil erosion and increased temperatures – all linked to climate change – food security has been severely affected as crops fail and animals starve or are washed away.

‘With two-thirds of the country’s labour force involved in farming or herding, weather patterns and disasters have a significant impact on the livelihoods of a large proportion of the population.’

Conflict within the country

Adding to this, there has been an escalation in violence from armed groups in parts of the country. Although ethnicity and religion play a role in these conflicts, they have been made significantly worse by competition for increasingly stretched resources as nomadic herders – who have lost their grazing lands because of the climate disasters – are forced to move in search of new pastures and enough water for their livestock.

Because of this, it is reported that at least 78,000 farmers in Nigeria have been forced to abandon their farmland. The violence has also made transporting crops unsafe for farmers which has caused problems with food supply chains in the country. 

Young children play around the trunk of a large tree in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria. Conflict and climate disasters have left millions of children under the age of five acutely malnourished.

Children play in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria. The country faces high levels of food insecurity and a World Food Programme report at the end of 2022 stated that more than 5.9 million children in northwest and northeast Nigeria were acutely malnourished. Credit: Ruth Towell/Tearfund

What is Tearfund doing?

Tearfund and our local partners are responding in various ways to help make a difference to people in Nigeria facing food insecurity.

Timely cash assistance

Adaeze* is married with six children. She used to provide for her family through farming the large piece of land that they owned. But then Boko Haram militants invaded their community, killing and injuring many people – including Adaeze’s father, who died in the attack. 

The family fled to another village to find safety, but Adaeze says they had no access to farmland and no source of income.

When peace returned to their village, Adaeze and her family went back, but everything had been stolen or destroyed and they could no longer access their farmland. The family was struggling and only managed to eat one meal a day. 

Adaeze says, ‘We had to depend on whatever menial job my husband could get to get food on the table. When we had enough food, we only fed the children. All hope was lost. I was troubled and worried. It was scary. There was no one to help. I used to cry almost every night.’

‘All hope was lost. I was troubled and worried. It was scary. There was no one to help. I used to cry almost every night.’
Adaeze, farmer, Nigeria

Thanks to the giving of Tearfund supporters, our local partner was able to help by providing the family with cash assistance. 

‘I was very excited when I received and withdrew the money,’ Adaeze says. ‘Firstly, I bought food for my family and I used some for farming. The assistance came at the right time. It really made me feel happy and positive about the future, that my family and I can have food for it. Secondly, with the cash received, I acquired a piece of land for farming to grow crops for food and to sell so I can take care of other needs. I also bought books for my children. Finally, I have hope that things will be better from now, since we can get food without begging or depending on neighbours. Today, I am very grateful.’

Climate-resilient farming

For Abba, a husband and a father of four who relies on farming to provide for his family, support came in the form of training to help improve his crop yield. 

As the population has increased, the farming community where Abba’s family lives has needed more and more land to cultivate. This has led to trees and bushes being chopped down to make space, but this has brought further challenges. It is now really hard for people to find wood for building and to make fire, and the deforestation has also resulted in reduced soil quality and caused the stream that supplies the land with water to reduce in size. This, in turn, has meant that farmers use more chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

With the high costs he faced in his farming and the long distances he was having to go to find wood for cooking, Abba says ‘I felt stressed out trying to meet my family’s needs. The cost of fertilisers are on the increase and the farmlands are not producing as they used to with poor vegetative cover around the community.’

With many people in the community facing a similar situation to Abba, Tearfund, working with our local partner Rurcon, conducted training for 20 farmers in the area on climate-smart agriculture. 

New coping strategies

Farmers studied the health hazards of using chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and learnt how to make compost manure and biocides as cheaper, safer alternatives.

Ways of farming that can help reduce weeds – such as mulching – were discussed, and crop rotation was highlighted as an easy way of controlling insects that destroy crops in the ground.

The training also taught farmers how to store grains without using chemicals, as well as discussions about the impact of climate change and the need to adopt new coping strategies and find ways of farming that will not make the situation worse. 

Other input included livestock production, farming as a business and record keeping, which Abba says he found extremely helpful. 

Trees were also distributed and planted in Abba’s community.

‘I was able to cut the cost of purchasing chemical fertilisers and diversify my source of income and build up a tree planting culture,’ says Abba.

‘This training I received has really helped me change the way I see things and how I work. ’
Abba, farmer, Nigeria

Now, Abba says he knows how to care for the environment by planting and nurturing trees around his house (and he has planted over 1,000 palm trees). He has also understood the importance of integrated farming and he has some chickens and goats. His costs have been reduced as he is able to use the organic droppings (from his animals) to reduce the amount of chemicals he applies on his farmland. This quickly improves the soil and its yield – which helps Abba have more money to meet his family’s needs. 

Abba also uses the knowledge he has gained to encourage and share with other members of his community.

‘This training I received has really helped me change the way I see things and how I work,’ he says. ‘I feel I will soon have multiple sources of income when my oil palm trees start proper production. I feel blessed and I thank God for his grace upon myself and my family.’

* Name has been changed for protection

Pray for food security in Nigeria

    • Pray for people in Nigeria who have been affected by continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices, as well as vulnerable displaced populations and returnees, who are struggling to get enough food. Ask God for his provision and for peace.
    • Pray for the estimated 25 million people in the country who are currently food insecure. Ask God that people will be able to access the resources they need to find ways to feed themselves and their families.
    • Pray for farmers as they face the challenge of climate change. Ask God for more solutions and that these would be implemented at every level to help alleviate the effects of the changing climate.

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

Share this page

Share this page to spread the word and help support those in need.

Get our email updates

Learn about our work and stay in touch with Tearfund. Hear about our news, activities and appeals by email.

Sign up now - Get our email updates

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.