Rural Poverty in Nigeria

In development  reducing poverty is the name of the game however, intervention strategies more often than not are urban bias, leaving the rural poor to continue in their predicament. This post considers emerging thoughts on rural poverty, participation, safety nets, agriculture and other alternative strategies to curb the rural poverty in Nigeria.

Poverty situation at individual level include inability to sustain and house oneself sufficiently, physical insecurity, inadequate assets, ignorance, incapability to afford basic necessities to meet social and economic needs and powerlessness to improve to one’s situation. The term rural is highly cryptic as some urban cities in Nigeria has very poor areas what is described as rural in general terms but rural areas are clearly noticeable. Rural areas for the purpose of this post is made up of space where homes and infrastructure occupy very small space and most of the landmark is dominated with fields, pastures, forest, water, mountain and desert. DPR (2001:19).

In Nigeria poverty is especially extreme in rural areas, where up to 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, and social services and infrastructure are limited. Despite Nigeria’s plentiful agricultural resources and oil wealth, poverty is widespread in the country and has increased since the late 1990s. Some 70 per cent of Nigerians live on less than N160 ($1) a day. Majority of the rural poor are located in areas resourcefully poor, ecologically vulnerable and very limited or poor infrastructure. They are have no land asset, little or no capital and very limited employment opportunities besides farming and fishing.

Furthermore, rural poverty in Nigeria is evenly distributed across the country, rather than concentrated in specific geographic areas. In some areas in the north bordering the Niger, the situation is getting worse which is arid, marginal to agriculture, environmentally damaged and densely populated. The fishing communities living in the mangrove swamps and along the Atlantic coast are also part of the poorest in the country.

Generally, the demand for labor in rural Nigeria is seasonal and full of uncertainties, the country’s poor rural depend mostly on agriculture for food and income. About 90 per cent of Nigeria’s food is produced by small-scale farmers who cultivate small plots of land and depend on rainfall rather than irrigation systems. The disproportion created as a result of these attributes are create huge disparities in income level between rural and urban areas, unemployment and underemployment resulting in unmitigated poverty for majority of rural Nigerians. Also,  Urban migration has also led to shortage of both skilled and unskilled labor in the rural communities. Rural employees see themselves in transmit while awaiting better opportunities to migrate to the cities in search of a better chance of survival.

Farmers, teachers and government officials with little or no training in relevant skill set rely heavily on families in urban areas for support and often times take up multiply part-time jobs in all forms of rural enterprises as a survival strategy. Finally, vital input such as transportation facilities, electricity, water, business premises and information are lacking in rural economies because of inadequate government attention. Effective real demand and  markets penetration remains very low due to the poverty that pervades the rural scene (Olawepo, 2002).


Without a doubt urban bia in Nigerian cities is immense. From a positive standpoint, connectedness is improving as a result of the increase in GSM and internet penetration in Nigeria. In economic terms, relatively agriculture is declining as a contributor to the GDP while importation is sky-rocketing.  Abet (Irz et al., 1996) the fall of agricultural chattel prices and trade terms has clearly desensitize the profitability of agriculture as a viable business globally therefore has raised doubts on the validity of agriculture as a development strategy for rural areas explaining why agricultural projects have fallen out of favour with from aid and donor agencies (Rosegrant, 2001). In Nigeria, rural farmers are challenged with complex, privatised and competitive market layout and transaction cost, risk involved in market output, input delivery and the issue of lack of or periodic finance. Following this, the essential question becomes  whether or not rural farmers can enhance productivity to enable them compete with large scale agriculture countering food importation in sub-Sahara Africa (Spencer, 2001).

What this means is that either one of  and or these two things is apparent (1) The extent to which  rural poor can rely on agriculture as a main source of livelihood and labor activity in the rural areas is shifting due to the emerging thoughts on poverty, governance, participation and implementation processes and or that  (2) It is time to reshape perspective on rural development and diversify solutions by considering non-agricultural activities.


  • Eliminating Factors Constraining Growth; by investing in roads, transportation, increasing communication penetration, access to education and health facilities in rural areas.
  • Strengthening Rural -Urban Links; Developing small historic town to advance tourism as rural tourism often benefits the poor. In St. Lucia, Uganda and Nepal pro-poor tourism initiatives increase the income level of the very poor, Youths in Badagry earn a living from managing facilities at the  local beach.
  •   Making market information available for rural dwellers, increasing regulation standards that facilitate out-sourcing and sub-contracting.
  • Developing rural recreational amenities and making accessibility easier for urban population. Identify avenues to increasing access to social business network.
  • Set-up business advisory services for rural dwellers and also create incentives for industrial relocation. This form of incentive can take different shapes and format depending on on how the state policy co-ordinates it, for example using planning control to encourage private sector to make and implement pro-poor commitments and overall stimulate pro-poor tourism partnership.

Policy Guidelines Suggestions 

-Does this strategy promote gender equality ?

– Income earning capacity (or: what is the income earning capacity or potential?)

– Will this strategy reduce structural poverty?

-How well does this strategy involve the rural poor groups?

-How well does this strategy enable the poor to participate?

What is the level of participation?

-Does this strategy promote security of employment?

-How well can the municipality deliver on this strategy?

-How will this strategy impact the “declining” poor?

Concluding Remarks

I am not completely shutting out agricultural development as a strategy for rural survival however, it is worth considering the new approach by the world-bank which focuses more no non-agricultural activities as a strategy. Careful analysis shows that there is greater potential to  harness rural development strategies by providing public goods and services, turning consumption subsidies into production subsidies, propagating non-agricultural sector, promoting democratic participation in rural areas and generally applying new school of thoughts to rural poverty alleviation process.

About rebeccaidd

Fun, passionate, inquisitive exploring development
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5 Responses to Rural Poverty in Nigeria

  1. Pingback: Rural Poverty in Nigeria | YNaija OPINION

  2. Hi, I am studying for a masters in Poverty and Development at the Institute of Development studies. Your articles keep coming up as I do my research on Nigeria’s poverty profile.

    Great stuff. Thanks for writing.

  3. Anestina says:

    Good write-up. I need to make a reference of this material. Kindly provide your full name. Thanks

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