Tracing the Roots of Nigeria’s Agricultural Decline

During its first decade of independence, Nigeria was one of the world’s most promising agricultural producers. Regionally focused policies based on the economic principle of commodity comparative advantage ensured that the agricultural sector served as the nation’s main source of food and livelihoods. Nigeria was not only agriculturally self-sufficient and food secure, but it thrived in global markets as the world’s largest producer of groundnuts and palm oil and as a significant producer of cotton and cocoa. Agriculture was the nation’s main source of employment and income. In 1965, the agricultural sector employed over 70 percent of the labor force. Export cash crops were responsible for 62.2 percent of the young nation’s foreign exchange and 66.4 percent of its GDP. Northern cities like Kano, with its towering groundnut pyramids, employed large swathes of the population and became regional economic hubs, emblematic of the nation’s agricultural wealth. These northern cities were linked to southern ports like Lagos through extensive and reliable rail networks that fostered economic interdependence and regional integration.

Jonathan Eigege