Food Security Challenges in Nigeria

Mr. Alhaji Mohd Sabo Nanono

Executive Chairman of the Kuka Farm Enterprise, Nigeria

Mr. Nanono spent most of his working career in the development finance industry with a special focus on institutional and commercial banking. He served as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kano State Investment and Properties Limited (KSIP - LTD) from 1980 to 1983, as Executive Director of the Bank of the North LTD from 1984 to 1990 and as\ Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the African International Bank (AIB) in Lagos from 1995 to 2000. Mr. Nanono was also the Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Kano chapter and supported many non-profit organisations. He has since retired those offices and presently works as a full-fledged farmer alongside his responsibilities as Executive Chairman of the Kuka Farm Enterprise in Kano. The Enterprise is engaged in the production of fruits and vegetable, livestock and fish farming as well as cereals and grains production.\


What are the key challenges and constraints that you are facing as agricultural producer? 

The government's fiscal and monetary policy constitutes a major constraint for most of the farmers. These are the two government  instruments to regulate and influence the development of the agricultural sector and other related sectors. The large majority of agricultural entrepreneurs are convinced that the government neglects the provision of basic infrastructure that would create a favourable environment for the implementation of our business plans. We currently face serious limitations in terms of reliable energy supply. Sometimes it is not even possible to access the power supply grid at all. The government's pricing policy also seriously impedes the development of certain agri-food sectors. For example, Nigeria has a vast potential to cultivate rice, not only for our local consumption but also for export. The main rice-growing areas of Nigeria could potentially feed the whole West African region. However, rice remains primarily a cash crop in Nigeria, mostly because the government encourages the import of rice from Asia rather than investing in local rice production. Local rice farmers cannot compete with these large-scale businesses. I am convinced that the Nigerian market has a huge untapped potential which could be developed far beyond Nigeria.

What's the role of cross-border trade?

Cross-border trade is of course very important, - it is a reality! Cross-border trade is vibrant between Nigeria and Cameroon, between Nigeria, Chad and Niger, and between Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and the larger sub-region. It is particularly important in the area of food supply, for example, for poultry products. What preoccupies us at the moment, is that there are some security challenges, particularly in the North-Eastern part of the country, which seriously affect trade between Nigeria and Cameroon. Trade between these two countries is very viable and important, though mostly informal. Cotton and rice are the two key trading sectors.

What would need to be done to further promote cross-border trade?

One important thing would be to improve cross-border trading and regional trading in general, and to provide basic infrastructure, especially by developing a regional railway transportation network.This would boost trade in our entire region. But I don't think that this is a priority project for governments. Road transport networks have limitations in terms of transportation costs compared to railway which is cheaper and would further ease our existing trade relations with all other West African countries. Developping railway infrastructure is not something impossible; I think we can do it, for example, with some sort of private sector involvement.

What's Nigeria's role in the face of food crisis in West Africa?

Nigeria does not face any serious food crisis and I don't think we will ever face one. Nigeria is a buffer zone to absorb food production and food supply shocks for the whole West African region. Even in terms of imports, I believe that 30% of products imported into Nigeria find their way into the wider sub-region. You have to understand that Nigeria represents more than half of West Africa's total population and its GDP represents more than 60% of the regional GDP. Nigeria has never faced any serious food crisis and we are capable of absorbing crises that are happening in our neighbouring countries without anybody even noticing it. We are not a refugee camp in Nigeria but if there is a crisis in any neighbouring country, our neighbours are just merging into our  population.

How can regional economic integration be fostered ?

Any regional policy must built on evidence-based analysis and take into account the cross-border dimension. For example, if you are talking about trade, particularly in the area of livestock and cattle trading, you can not make any reliable, substantial contribution without taking into account cross-border trade between Nigeria and the rest of the region. Overall, if you don't take into account Nigeria's predominant position, you are likely to arrive to wrong conlusions for any policy decision that you might take in terms of regional trading.

Interview with: 
Alhaji Mohd Sabo Nanono, Executive Chairman of the Kuka Farm Enterprise, Nigeria