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The Impacts of Covid 19 on the Food System and Poverty in Nigeria


This study employed a quantitative survey research design to comprehensively investigate the multifaceted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food systems and poverty dynamics. A structured questionnaire was designed and administered to 120 respondents, aiming to gather detailed insights into the disruptions caused by the pandemic across various dimensions of the food system. The collected data was analyzed using SPSS 26, facilitating a systematic examination of the relationships between the pandemic, food systems, and poverty. Hypotheses were formulated and tested using t-tests to determine the significance of the disruptions on agricultural production, food distribution networks, consumer access to food, and their correlations with increased poverty rates. The findings provided critical insights into the pandemic’s repercussions on vulnerable populations, informal sector workers, remittances, and poverty dynamics. The study underscored the severe disruptions in food supply chains, distribution networks, and accessibility, exacerbating economic vulnerability and poverty rates. Ultimately, the study highlighted the need for targeted policy interventions to enhance the resilience of the food system and alleviate the adverse impacts of future crises on both food security and poverty. The comprehensive analysis shed light on the interconnectedness of various components within Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape and served as a foundation for evidence-based recommendations aimed at fostering sustainable food systems and reducing vulnerability to economic shocks.




Background to the Study

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on global economies, societies, and various sectors, including the food system and poverty in Nigeria. As the virus rapidly spread worldwide, Nigeria, like many other countries, faced unprecedented challenges that have disrupted its food supply chain, agricultural productivity, and overall economic stability. This study aims to delve into the multifaceted impacts of the pandemic on the food system and poverty in Nigeria, shedding light on the intricate dynamics that have emerged in the wake of this global crisis.

Even before the pandemic, the Nigerian economy was grappling with a range of socio-economic difficulties, notably elevated rates of poverty and unemployment. The abrupt emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic further amplified these existing vulnerabilities. The initial instance of the pandemic’s presence in Nigeria was officially recorded on February 28, 2020 (NCDC, 2020). In response, the Nigerian government promptly enforced rigorous measures, such as travel restrictions and nationwide lockdowns, to contain the virus’s transmission (Ogundele, 2020; PTF, 2020). While imperative for public health, these actions had noteworthy ramifications on both the food systems and poverty dynamics within the nation.

The COVID-19 pandemic swiftly impacted Nigeria’s food system, introducing disruptions in supply chains, labour shortages, and constraints on mobility (Aday & Aday, 2020). The implementation of lockdowns and travel restrictions disrupted the movement of agricultural products and labour, posing challenges to farmers’ access to markets and consumers’ access to nourishment (Adnam, 2020). Consequently, concerns over the availability and affordability of food escalated, particularly among vulnerable populations already grappling with food insecurity (Eyinla et al., 2021). These interruptions exacerbated the fragility of the existing food distribution network, leading to price hikes and diminished access to essential commodities (Nnodim, 2020).

The pandemic’s repercussions extended to global remittances, a critical income source for numerous Nigerian households (World Bank, 2020). The closure of international borders and economic downturns in countries housing substantial Nigerian migrant populations led to a marked reduction in remittances (Kuhlcke & Bester, 2020). This remittance decline directly impacted household earnings, intensifying vulnerability and pushing individuals into poverty (World Bank, 2020).

Simultaneously, the lockdowns and mobility restrictions imposed to curtail the virus’s spread yielded significant ramifications for employment and livelihoods, particularly within the informal sector. Economic activities were constricted due to the lockdowns, resulting in job losses, dwindled incomes, and business closures (World Bank, 2020). The informal sector, constituting a substantial segment of Nigeria’s economy, bore the brunt of these measures (Abdul, 2020). This economic downturn set off a domino effect on poverty levels, prompting a growing number of individuals to find themselves in vulnerable circumstances (Mahler et al., 2020).

The informal sector’s plight was particularly pronounced due to its inherent susceptibility to disruptions. It encompasses a wide array of activities, such as street vending and subsistence farming, which are more susceptible to fluctuations in economic conditions (Abubakar & Magaji, 2019; Sennuga, 2019). The COVID-19 restrictions impeded these activities, stifling income generation and undermining the livelihoods of those who depend on the sector for their sustenance (Abdul, 2020). As a result, the informal sector’s weakened state directly contributed to the escalation of poverty across Nigeria (World Bank, 2020).

Furthermore, the interconnectedness of Nigeria’s economic landscape exacerbated the impact of the downturn. The informal sector’s decline reverberated throughout the broader economy, affecting supply chains, demand patterns, and overall economic resilience (Barrot et al., n.d.; Evivie et al., 2021). This cascading effect led to amplified economic hardships, making it even more challenging for individuals to escape the clutches of poverty (Barrot et al., n.d.; Evivie et al., 2021).

Furthermore, the pandemic converged with the pre-existing hurdles inherent in Nigeria’s food system, encompassing issues such as deficient agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to financial resources (World Bank, 2018). These challenges were further aggravated by the disruptions introduced to the agricultural supply chains, which subsequently led to diminished productivity and increased instances of food losses (Ilesanmi et al., 2021). This had particularly profound implications for small-scale farmers, who serve as the cornerstone of Nigeria’s food production sector. They confronted formidable obstacles in terms of accessing markets and essential agricultural inputs, resulting in curtailed yields (Idu & Onyenekwe, 2021).

Agricultural productivity in Nigeria had been grappling with various impediments long before the pandemic’s onset. The World Bank had already highlighted the country’s low agricultural productivity levels, attributed to factors like inadequate access to technology, modern farming practices, and effective pest and disease management (World Bank, 2018). These constraints were intensified as disruptions reverberated across the agricultural supply chains. The limitations in movement imposed by lockdowns and restrictions made it challenging for farmers to transport their produce to markets, and the availability of labour for planting and harvesting was adversely affected (Ilesanmi et al., 2021).

In addition to logistical issues, the lack of access to finance proved to be a critical bottleneck for agricultural growth during the pandemic. Many farmers, particularly those belonging to the small-scale category, struggled to secure the necessary funding to maintain their operations. The reduced economic activity and financial uncertainty prompted lending institutions to tighten their lending criteria, rendering it more difficult for farmers to obtain loans and credit (Idu & Onyenekwe, 2021). This lack of financial support further constrained their capacity to invest in improved farming practices, technology, and inputs, resulting in compromised yields and productivity.

Collectively, the intersection of pre-existing challenges in Nigeria’s food system with the pandemic-induced disruptions underscored the system’s vulnerabilities. The strains on agricultural supply chains, compounded by limitations in accessing markets and essential inputs, exacerbated the country’s existing struggles with agricultural productivity. The lack of access to finance only deepened the predicament for small-scale farmers, jeopardizing their ability to invest in modern farming practices and technology. Addressing these issues is pivotal not only for the recovery from the immediate impact of the pandemic but also for building a more resilient and productive agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound implications for Nigeria’s food system and poverty landscape. The pandemic’s disruptions to supply chains, food distribution, and remittances have aggravated existing vulnerabilities, leading to increased food insecurity and poverty levels. The lockdowns and economic downturn have had ripple effects on employment and livelihoods, particularly for those in the informal sector. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive understanding of the intricate interplay between the pandemic, the food system, and poverty dynamics. The subsequent chapters of this study will delve deeper into these issues, exploring the specific impacts, challenges, and potential strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 on food systems and poverty in Nigeria.

Statement of Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to nations worldwide, and Nigeria is no exception. In the context of Nigeria, the pandemic’s multifaceted impacts have converged to create a complex and interconnected web of issues, giving rise to a pressing statement of the problem that warrants comprehensive investigation.

The statement of the problem centres on understanding the intricate repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food system and poverty landscape in Nigeria. Before the pandemic, Nigeria was grappling with deeply entrenched challenges, including high levels of poverty, unemployment, and limited access to essential services (World Bank, 2020; Gani & Prasad, 2017). The sudden onset of COVID-19 further aggravated these pre-existing vulnerabilities, ushering in a new era of economic and social uncertainty.

The pandemic’s intersection with Nigeria’s food system has resulted in disruptions along the entire value chain, from production to consumption. These disruptions, characterized by supply chain breakdowns, labour shortages, and restrictions on movement, have adversely affected farmers’ access to markets and consumers’ access to food (Aday & Aday, 2020; Adnam, 2020). These factors have raised concerns about food availability, affordability, and overall food security, particularly among vulnerable populations (Eyinla et al., 2021). Additionally, the closure of international borders and the subsequent reduction in remittances have added strain to household incomes, exacerbating vulnerability and pushing more people into poverty (World Bank, 2020; Kuhlcke & Bester, 2020).

The pandemic has also brought to the fore the precarious nature of employment and livelihoods, especially in the informal sector. The lockdowns and mobility restrictions imposed to curb the virus’s spread have led to job losses, reduced income, and business closures, predominantly impacting the informal sector that constitutes a significant portion of Nigeria’s economy (World Bank, 2020; Abdul, 2020). This downturn has created a cascading effect on poverty levels, driving individuals into vulnerable situations (Mahler et al., 2020).

Furthermore, the pandemic has exposed the existing challenges within Nigeria’s food system, such as low agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of access to finance (World Bank, 2018). These issues have been exacerbated by disruptions to agricultural supply chains, leading to reduced productivity and increased food losses (Ilesanmi et al., 2021). Small-scale farmers, who play a vital role in Nigeria’s food production, have struggled to access markets and agricultural inputs, resulting in diminished yields (Idu & Onyenekwe, 2021).

Given this intricate web of interconnected challenges, it is imperative to comprehensively analyze the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food system and poverty dynamics. Addressing these challenges requires a nuanced understanding of the intersections between the pandemic, the food system, and poverty, to inform policy interventions and strategies aimed at mitigating the adverse effects and building a more resilient future for Nigeria.

Objectives of the Study

This study aims to achieve three specific objectives in the context of Nigeria’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. To assess the effects of COVID-19 on the various components of the food system, including production, distribution, and access to food.
  2. To analyze the relationship between the disruptions in the food system and the increased incidence of poverty in Nigeria.
  3. To propose evidence-based recommendations for policymakers to enhance the resilience of the food system and mitigate the adverse impacts of future crises on poverty.

Research Questions

In pursuit of the study’s objectives, the following research questions were formulated:

  1. How did the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt the different stages of Nigeria’s food system, from production to consumption?
  2. What is the extent of the correlation between the disruptions in the food system and the rise in poverty rates in Nigeria?
  3. What strategies can be recommended to improve the food system’s resilience and reduce the vulnerability of impoverished communities in the face of similar crises?

Research Hypotheses

Based on the research questions and the existing literature, the study proposes the following hypotheses:

  1. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 did not significantly impact agricultural production, food distribution networks, and consumer access to food in Nigeria.
  2. There is no positive correlation between the disruptions in the food system due to the pandemic and the increase in poverty rates across different regions of Nigeria.
  3. Implementing targeted interventions to strengthen the food system’s resilience and support vulnerable populations cannot mitigate the adverse impacts of future crises on both food security and poverty.

Significance of the Study

The significance of this study holds profound implications for a diverse array of stakeholders, encompassing students, scholars, actors within the agriculture sector, and the broader Nigerian food system and economy.

For students and scholars, this study contributes to the academic realm by shedding light on the intricate intersections between the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian food system, and poverty dynamics. The insights garnered from this research will offer a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by the nation. Aspiring researchers can build upon this foundation to delve into more nuanced aspects, generating valuable knowledge that can inform future policy and intervention strategies.

Stakeholders within the agriculture sector will benefit significantly from this study. By uncovering the pandemic’s impact on supply chains, labour dynamics, and productivity, stakeholders can adapt and implement strategies to bolster the resilience of the sector. Identifying the bottlenecks that hindered farmers’ access to markets and inputs during the pandemic provides insights that can guide the development of more effective support systems, promoting sustainable agricultural practices and ensuring food security.

The broader Nigerian food system and the economy will also reap substantial rewards from this study. With an in-depth comprehension of how the pandemic intertwined with pre-existing vulnerabilities, policymakers can design targeted interventions to address the socio-economic challenges faced by the nation. Strategies to enhance food distribution networks, support small-scale farmers, and bolster the informal sector can be shaped by the knowledge derived from this research, fostering economic recovery and improved livelihoods.

In essence, this study serves as a compass guiding stakeholders toward more informed decision-making. It illuminates the complexities of the pandemic’s impact on the Nigerian food system and poverty levels, providing a roadmap for actions that can strengthen food security, economic resilience, and overall societal well-being. By addressing the challenges highlighted in this research, stakeholders can collectively forge a path toward a more secure, prosperous, and sustainable future for Nigeria.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this study encompassed an in-depth examination of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian food system and poverty landscape. The study focused on analyzing the multifaceted challenges that emerged as a result of the pandemic’s convergence with pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Specifically, the study delved into the disruptions within the agricultural supply chains, encompassing issues related to supply chain breakdowns, labour shortages, and restricted movement. It explored the consequences of these disruptions on farmers’ access to markets, consumers’ access to food, and the overall availability and affordability of essential goods. The study also examined the repercussions of reduced remittances, stemming from the closure of international borders, on household incomes and vulnerability levels.

Furthermore, the study evaluated the impact of the pandemic on employment and livelihoods, with a focus on the informal sector. It assessed the consequences of lockdowns and mobility restrictions on job losses, reduced income, and business closures within this sector, and the subsequent implications for poverty levels.

The research extended its gaze to the broader Nigerian food system, addressing challenges like low agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to finance. The study investigated the exacerbated effects of these pre-existing challenges due to disruptions within the supply chains, leading to decreased productivity and increased food losses among small-scale farmers.

Ultimately, the study offered a comprehensive understanding of the complex interactions between the pandemic, the Nigerian food system, and poverty dynamics, thereby providing valuable insights for informed policy-making and intervention strategies.

Operational Definition of Terms

To ensure clarity and consistency, the following terms are operationally defined:

COVID-19: Refers to the novel coronavirus disease that emerged in 2019, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Food System: Encompasses all stages of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption within Nigeria’s agricultural context.

Poverty: Denotes the state of inadequate income and resources, leading to limited access to necessities and a reduced standard of living.

Disruptions: This signifies the disturbances and interruptions in the regular functioning of the food system caused by the pandemic.

Resilience: Describes the ability of the food system and related sectors to withstand and recover from shocks, such as the pandemic.

Vulnerable Populations: Refers to groups within society, such as low-income households, informal workers, and marginalized communities, who are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of disruptions.

Interventions: Encompasses policy measures, strategies, and actions designed to address the challenges posed by disruptions to the food system and poverty.



  • World Bank (2018). Personal Remittances, Received (% of GDP). Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/BX.TRF.PWKR.DT.GD.ZS
  • World Bank (2019). Migration and Remittances: Recent Developments and Outlook.
  • World Bank (2020). Nigeria in Times of COVID-19: Laying Foundations for a Strong Recovery.
  • World Bank (2020). World Bank Predicts Sharpest Decline of Remittances in Recent History. Press Release. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/04/22/world-bank-predicts-sharpest-decline-of-remittances-in-recent-history
  • Zougbede, K. (2020). Coronavirus: Improving Resilience in West African Food Systems. The Africa Report. Retrieved from: https://www.theafricareport.com/28356/coronavirus-improving-resilience-in-west-african-food-systems/


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