Realizing a hunger-free Nigeria

In 2016, IITA was instrumental in the development of the “Zero Hunger in Nigeria” Strategy – a document that outlines what the country needs to do to achieve hunger-free status by 2030, in line with one the United Nations Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). However, this gargantuan goal is easier said than done.

In 2016, IITA was instrumental in the development of the “Zero Hunger in Nigeria” Strategy – a document that outlines what the country needs to do to achieve hunger-free status by 2030, in line with one the United Nations Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). However, this gargantuan goal is easier said than done.

The 2016 edition of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), show that Nigeria has steadily been reducing its GHI scores since 2000 (GHI score of 40.9, or alarming) but the severity of hunger in the country is still categorized as serious (GHI score of 25.5). Additionally, IFAD statistics show that poverty and hunger remains widespread, and in recent years even increased in some areas, with an estimated 70% of the population—or a staggering 133 million Nigerians—who are mostly rural area dwellers living on less than $1.25 a day.

The beginnings of the Nigeria ‘‘Zero Hunger’’ Strategy

Nigeria is party to the historic Millennium Declaration, which was signed by leaders of 189 countries at the UN’s Millennium Summit held in 2000. In this declaration, the signatories committed themselves to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—eight goals with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people and eradicating poverty and hunger—within 15 years. As the MDGs ended in 2015, they were replaced by a set of 17 SDGs which began in 2016.

One of the SDGs—specifically SDG 2, also known as Zero Hunger—is of importance to Nigeria and relates deeply to IITA’s work. This SDG focuses on food security and nutrition and calls on member-states to “…end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030”.

In February 2016, the former President of Nigeria and presently the International Goodwill Ambassador for IITA, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo met with Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP) to brainstorm on how Nigeria could best achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. This resulted in the agreement that Chief Obasanjo would head the Zero Hunger Strategic Review in Nigeria (ZHSRN). Chief Obasanjo then tasked IITA to be his technical advisor on this initiative and also serve as the Secretariat to the ZHSRN.

IITA DG Nteranya Sanginga (left) and former Nigerian President Olasegun Obasanjo (wearing blue headdress) with some government officials and partners in IITA.

As an initial step, IITA organized an inaugural ZHSRN meeting on 29 April, which convened Nigerian partners and stakeholders concerned with food and nutrition security. During this convention, nine operational ZHSRN subcommittees were formed, each tasked with specific assignments to do data collection, research, and formulate recommendations related to food and nutrition security.

By September, the subcommittees completed their preliminary work and submitted their findings to IITA. In early October, IITA convened the second ZHSRN meeting in Abuja, during which the individual subcommittee reports were reviewed and refined. And by the third ZHSRN meeting also held in late-October in Abuja, the revised individual reports were deliberated and integrated into a synthesized report.

On 15 December, after incorporating further inputs from all participants in the review process, IITA finalized and produced the “Synthesis Report of the Zero Hunger Strategic Review in Nigeria”, which was officially launched by the institute on 11 January 2017.

Elizabeth Parkes, cassava expert, leads the team from Ebonyi, Nigeria, on a tour around IITA facilities.

Full steam ahead

At the launch of the ZHSRN Synthesis Report in January 2017, Chief Obasanjo indicated that the initiative “is not an attempt at changing any government policy. The ZHSRN was undertaken to support and encourage the Nigerian Government to implement the policies, strategies, plans, and programs that itself and partners have formulated over the years, all with the focus of achieving SDG 2 by 2030, if not earlier.”

According to the IITA Goodwill Ambassador, Nigeria has no shortage of good prescriptions and studies for reducing hunger but their implementation has been poor. This time around—especially with the establishment of the Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum based at IITA—this initiative will ensure that the recommendations in the ZHSRN Synthesis Report are fully implemented.

As outlined in the ZHSRN Synthesis Report, the IITA-based Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum will initially support, encourage, and monitor progress in Benue, Ebony, Ogun, and Sokoto states in 2017 and 2018, whose governors have agreed to prioritize the implementation of the report’s recommendations. By January 2019, eight more states will follow suit. Finally, by January 2021 all 36 states plus Abuja are expected to be implementing the Zero Hunger in Nigeria Strategy

Kenton Dashiell, IITA DDG, Partnerships for Delivery (left), presents the implementation document of the Forum to His Excellency, Engr. Dave Umahi, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State.

The need for a collective will

Chief Obasanjo emphasized that the collective will of the Nigerian people is key to the successful implementation of a Zero Hunger Strategy in Nigeria. He reiterated that no single Nigerian sector or entity on its own—whether it is government, civil society, or the private sector— could make such a strategy work as intended. There must be strong support particularly for farmers, producers, and/or farmers’ organizations at all levels and from all sectors, with the government providing enabling policies, regulations, and incentives that will create an environment conducive to the strategy’s implementation.

The Strategy is going to need the combined efforts of all Nigerians if it is to achieve its intended impact. To make this happen, however, will also require a major and collective shift in the mindset of the people to, first, be able to identify and, later on, maximize on the opportunities.

To put the Strategy in the right path at its onset, Chief Obasanjo emphasized the importance of providing farmers with sufficient and good quality farm inputs such as fertilizers and seeds in a timely manner, especially for the coming 2017 planting season which is the take-off period for the Zero Hunger Strategy. This is crucial if the country is to produce enough nutritious food for Nigeria’s large and still booming population, while at the same time have enough raw materials to feed other agriculture-based industries.

A multilateral effort

The development of the ZHSN Synthesis Report, which forms the basis for the Zero Hunger in Nigeria Strategy, would not have been possible without the cooperation, dedication, and commitment of a diverse blend of development partners, Federal and State Governments, legislators, NGOs, farmers, farmer groups and other actors representing sectors relevant to food and nutrition security in Nigeria.

Special mention goes to His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for endorsing the Nigeria Zero Hunger Strategic Review, and Ms Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP for requesting that the review be conducted and, thereby, started the ball rolling.

Other donors and partners also pitched in to support the completion of the review process and the ZHSRN Synthesis Report. These included the African Development Bank (AfDB), WFP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Chief Obasanjo credited IITA for its efforts in the development of the Synthesis Report and Zero Hunger Strategy.

“I must express my deepest thanks and appreciation to IITA for organizing the meetings, coordinating development of the review report, and for acting as the Secretariat, initially of the ZHSRN process, and later the Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum. As we move forward with this Strategy, I see IITA as playing a crucial role in its implementation and achievement of its intended goal, “ he concluded.


Country Meters. 2017. Nigeria Population.

Global Hunger Index. 2016. Nigeria Hunger Index. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). and http://www.

Open Data for Africa. 2017. Nigeria Data Portal. NIH, NBS, and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

ORCID: 0000-0003-3601-5805

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