Stemming rural-urban migration through agricultural development: Can Nigeria apply the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nigeria has one of the highest population growth rates in the world resulting to rapid urbanization and an enormous increase in the population leaving rural areas and now living in urban centres. In spite of the increased emphasis on rural development, rural-urban migration has persisted mainly due to the farmerherder conflict situation, poverty, lack of job opportunities, insecurity and gross inadequacy of social infrastructures in the rural areas. This mass migration and other factors have put Nigeria in an emergency food and nutrition insecure situation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already an existing gap in the Nigerian food system, which led to the importation of food items to augment local production in order to meet local demand. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic undermined efforts to achieve SDG 2 as the country witnessed not only a major disruption to food supply chains in the wake of lockdowns and movement restrictions triggered by the global health crisis, but also a major economic slowdown. The commerce, service, and agricultural sectors were the hardest hit by the spread of the virus and the effects are different along the rural-urban continuum. The vacuum created by the migration of people from the rural to urban areas led to reduction of farm yields, while the urban areas were particularly affected in terms of food supply from rural areas as a result of movement restrictions made during the height of the pandemic. More urbanised areas may be harder hit than remote rural areas if connectivity remains broken down, as most food crops are produced in the rural and semi-rural areas. This paper recommends strategies and policies aimed at reducing poverty, food insecurity and inequality across the urban-rural continuum through agricultural development. This will assist in addressing the adverse drivers of migration with particular focus on improving the social and economic conditions of rural areas.
Key words: agricultural development, COVID-19, food security, rural-urban migration