Feeding Nigeria's current and future population is now a critical challenge that must be addressed, a report has stated.
The report by one of the leading professional services firms, PwC, titled: "Feeding 398 million people in Africa's largest economy by 2050," noted that with over 50 per cent of the country's 198 million people living in rural areas, the economy is highly dependent on agriculture as a means of livelihood.
The sector contributed approximately 21 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017.
Despite this, agricultural productivity remains low further dampened by post-harvest losses.
Overall, food cultivation is primarily through subsistence farming and characterised by low technology and high labour intensity.
Since 2013, the sector's contribution to GDP has remained almost flat on account of low yields, which was further exacerbated by internal conflicts such as terrorism and the herdsmen crisis, as well as the impact of climate change.
"Feeding Nigeria's current and future population is a critical challenge. This challenge necessitates the adoption and application of innovations to agriculture so as to make the sector more competitive and sustainable.
"Boosting economic growth in agriculture is a function of three factors: farmland expansion, yield growth and reduction in post-harvest losses.
"Adoption of innovative systems, technologies and products within the sector can improve agricultural productivity; increase the supply of food output; aid local farmers to produce cheaper and more accessible products; as well as reduce post-harvest losses and enhance storage capabilities for small-holder farmers," the report added.
It noted that advances in innovations and technologies are key to the future of agriculture, as farmers strive to feed the world with limited natural resources.
According to the report, the global human population could grow to 9.7 billion people by 2050.
In 2018, there were nearly 821 million people (2017: 804 million) who regularly did not have enough food to eat, according to the United Nations.
The number of undernourished people have been on the rise since 2014. West Africa accounted for 15.1 per cent share of undernourished people in the world in 2017.
On the International Food Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI) global hunger index, Nigeria ranked 103rd out of 119 countries in 2018 implying that the level of hunger in the country is serious.
"Nigeria is projected to add no fewer than 202 million people to its current population of 196 million between 2018 and 2050.
"The country is also expected to surpass the United States, currently ranked the third most populous in the world by 2050.
"With sustained growth rate of 2.7 per cent annually and fertility rate of 36.9 births per 1,000 people, Nigeria's population will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Already, only 3.13 per cent of Nigerians are 65 years and above," it added.
However, it pointed out that as Nigeria's population continues to grow, it was becoming increasingly challenging for food supply to meet demand.
The impact of climate change alone could reduce crop yields by half over the next 35 years.
"In Nigeria, the agriculture sector continues to be impacted by weather hazards, restricting access to food and increasing food insecurity.
"In 2018, flooding across major farming belts in 10 states ruined crops of 100,000 farmers and damaged over 30 per cent of farmland in the affected areas. This severe weather condition will be more frequent because of climate change, hence the need to build resilience," it added.
According to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), nearly 25 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land use. CGIAR estimated that smallholder farming contributes: up to 32 per cent to global agriculture sector emissions; 42per cent to the agriculture sector emissions from developing countries; 3.5 per cent of all emissions globally and four times more per year than the agriculture sector emissions of the EU or US.
A 3-year analysis of the implications of climate change (2010 - 2013) in Nigeria, conducted by the World Bank, had estimated that agriculture accounts for about 60 per cent of the country's cumulative emissions due to deforestation, degraded or fallow land.
Land and water shortages Desertification affects as much as 60 per cent of Nigeria's land.