How Food Insecurity Fuels Climate Change, Energy Poverty, and Insecurity in Nigeria

Clean Technology Hub
6 min readFeb 16, 2024

*Desmond Bardeson

Nigeria is expected to become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, when its population surpasses that of the United States, according to a recent UN report. Nigeria is projected to have the fastest-growing population in the world — it is currently the seventh most populous — growing to 398 million by the middle of the next 33 years.

Similar to numerous other developing nations, Nigeria has encountered a scarcity of food as a result of unstable economies, intense droughts, and ongoing conflicts. Additionally, many households are no longer able to afford three square meals a day due to ongoing price increases in food.

Image: Financial Nigeria

Nigeria is facing a severe food crisis that threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. According to the United Nations, nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023. This is a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk of food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life. It has four dimensions: availability, access, utilisation, and stability.

Food insecurity in Nigeria is driven by multiple factors, such as conflict, climate change, inflation, rising food prices, and energy poverty. Energy poverty refers to the lack of access to modern energy services, such as electricity and clean cooking fuels, that are essential for human development and well-being. These factors are interrelated and mutually reinforcing, creating a vicious cycle of hunger, poverty, and violence.

Food Insecurity and Climate Change

Nigeria relies heavily on agriculture, with approximately two-thirds of its labour force dependent on farming or herding to make a living. Since both activities rely heavily on weather patterns like rainfall, Nigeria’s agriculture industry is very susceptible to the effects of climate change. Nigeria is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural hazards. It has experienced a variety of climate disasters, such as rising temperatures, gully erosion, drought, and increased flooding.

Climate change affects food security in Nigeria in several ways. First, it reduces the availability of food by affecting crop yields and livestock productivity. For instance, 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. The floods also damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands, which diminished harvests and increased the risk of food insecurity for families across the country. Second, climate change affects access to food by affecting income, purchasing power, and market functioning. For example, droughts and floods can disrupt the transportation and storage of food, leading to higher food prices and lower food quality. Third, climate change affects the utilisation of food by affecting health, nutrition, and sanitation. For example, extreme weather events can increase the incidence of waterborne and vector-borne diseases, such as cholera and malaria, which can impair the absorption and use of nutrients by the body. Fourth, climate change affects the stability of food by increasing the variability and unpredictability of weather patterns, which can lead to shocks and stresses on food systems.

Food Insecurity and Energy Poverty

Nigeria is also facing a chronic energy crisis, with more than 80 million people lacking access to electricity and more than 120 million people relying on traditional biomass for cooking. Energy poverty in Nigeria is a result of inadequate and unreliable energy supply, high energy costs, low energy efficiency, and poor energy governance. Energy poverty affects food security in Nigeria in several ways. First, it reduces the availability of food by limiting the use of modern agricultural inputs and technologies, such as irrigation, fertilisers, and mechanisation, that can enhance food production and reduce post-harvest losses. Second, it reduces access to food by reducing the income and purchasing power of the poor, who spend a large share of their income on energy services. Third, it reduces the utilisation of food by affecting the quality and safety of food as well as the health and hygiene of consumers. For example, the use of traditional biomass for cooking can cause indoor air pollution, which can lead to respiratory infections and other diseases. Fourth, it reduces the stability of food by increasing the vulnerability and exposure of the food systems to external shocks, such as power outages, fuel shortages, and price fluctuations.

Food insecurity and insecurity

Food insecurity in Nigeria is also closely linked to insecurity, which refers to the absence of peace and stability and the presence of violence and conflict. Nigeria is facing multiple security challenges, such as the insurgency of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the north-east, the armed banditry and kidnapping in the north-west and north-central, the farmer-herder clashes in the middle belt, and the separatist agitation and militancy in the south-east and south-south. These conflicts have resulted in thousands of deaths, millions of displacements, and widespread human rights violations.

Food insecurity and insecurity in Nigeria have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that they cause and are caused by each other. On one hand, food insecurity can contribute to insecurity by creating grievances, desperation, and competition over scarce resources, which can fuel violence and conflict. For example, the farmer-herder clashes in Nigeria are partly driven by the competition over land and water resources, which have become scarcer due to climate change and population growth. On the other hand, insecurity can contribute to food insecurity by disrupting food production, distribution, and consumption and by undermining the governance and institutions that are essential for food security. For example, the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east has disrupted the agricultural activities and livelihoods of millions of people and has hindered the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.

What can be done?

Addressing food insecurity in Nigeria requires a holistic and integrated approach that tackles the root causes and the immediate effects of the problem. Some of the possible actions that can be taken are:

  1. Enhancing the resilience and adaptation of the agricultural sector to climate change by promoting the use of improved seeds, irrigation, fertilisers, and other inputs that can increase crop yields and reduce losses.
  2. Improving the access and affordability of food for vulnerable populations by providing social protection, cash transfers, food vouchers, and other forms of assistance that can boost their income and purchasing power.
  3. Improving the nutrition and health of food-insecure people by providing micronutrient supplements, therapeutic feeding, and health services that can prevent and treat malnutrition and related diseases.
  4. Improving the governance and coordination of the food security interventions by strengthening the capacity and accountability of the government and the humanitarian actors and by enhancing the data collection and analysis of the food security situation.
  5. Promoting peace and stability in the conflict-affected areas by addressing the underlying drivers of violence and conflict, such as poverty, inequality, marginalisation, and exclusion, and by supporting dialogue and reconciliation among the different groups.
  6. Enhancing the access and availability of modern energy services by expanding and diversifying the energy supply, reducing energy costs, increasing energy efficiency, and improving energy governance.
  7. Promoting the use of clean and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydro, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In conclusion, food insecurity in Nigeria is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires urgent and sustained action from all stakeholders. Food insecurity is both a cause and a consequence of climate change, energy poverty, and insecurity in Nigeria. These factors are interrelated and mutually reinforcing, creating a vicious cycle of hunger, poverty, and violence. To break this cycle, Nigeria needs to adopt a holistic and integrated approach that tackles the root causes and the immediate effects of the problem. This approach should include enhancing the resilience and adaptation of the agricultural sector to climate change, improving the access and affordability of food for the vulnerable populations, improving the nutrition and health of the food-insecure people, improving the governance and coordination of the food security interventions, promoting peace and stability in the conflict-affected areas, enhancing the access and availability of modern energy services, and promoting the use of clean and renewable energy sources. By working together, we can ensure that every Nigerian has access to enough food for an active and healthy life.

Desmond Dogara is Senior Manager, Energy Access at Clean Technology Hub

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