How Nigeria is Managing Its Worst Flooding in Years

To get an on-the-ground perspective of the Nigeria floods' impact on people and livelihoods, we spoke with TechnoServe's Nigeria Country Director Adesuwa Akinboro.

nigeria floods

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst floods in years, which have killed hundreds of people and displaced over a million. The floodwaters have also destroyed nearly 267,000 acres of farmland, worsening food security in a country where millions already suffer from hunger.

What is Causing Floods in Nigeria?

Weeks of heavy rainfall have caused rivers to overflow their banks, and inadequate drainage systems in urban areas has only made the problem worse. More water poured into the country in September, when the neighboring country of Cameroon released excess water from a dam on its border with Nigeria.

The flooding is the latest sign of the growing threat of climate change, especially for low-income countries. The problem makes heavy storms and excess rainfall even more likely, threatening the lives and livelihoods of people in regions that are ill-equipped to manage these challenges. Indeed, a 2021 index from Notre Dame ranked Nigeria among the bottom 20 countries in its readiness to adapt to climate change.

What is the Impact of the Flooding in Nigeria?

To get an on-the-ground perspective of the floods’ impact on people and livelihoods, we spoke with TechnoServe’s Nigeria Country Director Adesuwa Akinboro during a recent visit to our U.S. headquarters.

“My staff have said that…when they go out to the field, they are unable to access some of these locations because the road leading to that place has been cut off,” says Adesuwa. “And we’ve even experienced it in Abuja, where I live. Fuel shortages caused long queues as a result of tankers not being able to cross over from the locations, where they were to deliver the fuel down to the cities…because the access routes were cut off as the result of the flood.”

Many smallholder farmers working with TechnoServe have seen their lands flooded and their crops destroyed. The Nigeria staff have had difficulty reaching them on flooded roads, and have even had trouble contacting them via phone, says Adesuwa. 

In addition, herders working with TechnoServe to improve their incomes have had to migrate to different areas as a result of the flooding. And entrepreneurs have been cut off from areas where they usually purchase supplies for their business.

Supply and Food Security Challenges

In addition to the humanitarian crisis, Adesuwa notes that the flooding has caused supply and food security problems across the country.

“The distribution of goods, food items and other commodities, oil, and petrol…from states where they are produced to other parts [of the country] has been disrupted because of the roads that have been blocked off as a result [of the floods],” she explains.

The disruption in food supply has led to higher prices across the country, worsening an already dire situation for many in Nigeria suffering from hunger. And the destruction of so much farmland is stoking concerns about a “worrying harvest season ahead,” according to a U.N. World Food Program spokesperson.

Working to Support Those Affected by Flooding

TechnoServe’s team is currently providing emergency business advice and weather prediction services for the small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs affected by the crisis. The Nigeria staff had also advised farmers on insuring their crops, a common practice in TechnoServe’s agronomic training worldwide. Those farmers that followed the advice have actually been able to recoup some of their recent losses from the flood, says Adesuwa.

“We also work with [crop] aggregators to encourage them to invest and support the farmers in our projects,” Adesuwa explains. “We had a scenario where we had an aggregator invest in weather advisory [services] for his business and 400 other farmers, and that helped them understand when to plant and when to harvest, and many of them started harvesting early.” As a result, those farmers lost fewer crops to the recent flooding.

It is hard, however, to watch the impact of the floods in areas where TechnoServe doesn’t work, says Adesuwa. “We’re able to support the communities where we work immediately, but we would like to do more…both preventive [work] ahead of flooding occurring and in response to the floods that we have seen happen,” she says. “And so we are also working to raise the funding that we need to be able to respond and support communities in those locations as well.”

How Long-Term Approaches are Helping Fight Climate Threats

While the recent floods have highlighted the urgent problem of climate change in countries like Nigeria, farmers and small business owners are slowly gaining the tools and skills to fight back. Approaches like regenerative business–which help people earn good incomes in harmony with nature–are gaining traction around the world.

One such project is helping Nigerian tomato farmers manage their crops better and reduce their post-harvest loss–which not only boosts their incomes but reduces environmental damage and emissions.

Wide-scale food fortification efforts in Nigeria are also helping improve the nutritional value of food, which is critical in times of food scarcity. Even if people cannot afford or access enough food, the improved nutrition of fortified staple foods that they do consume can help stave off malnutrition.

Optimism for a Stronger Future

Adesuwa is also encouraged by the great energy and potential of her home country, even in times of crisis. “It’s the most populous country on the continent,” she says. “When there’s that much population, there’s that much opportunity. Because every individual represents a completely new idea that can be tapped into and built into completely new opportunities for others…Nigerians are a very proactive and self-driven people.”

The TechnoServe approach is well-suited to harness that energy, she says, given its focus on market solutions across entire value chains: from smallholder farmers to crop aggregators to food processors to small businesses and everyone in between. This kind of work will ultimately help Nigeria rebuild from crises like the current floods, to create a more stable and equitable future.

“There’s an opportunity across the entire value chain to work with all these different stakeholders to make sure that incomes and jobs increase, and ultimately the economy of the country improves,” she says.