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The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Food System and Poverty in Nigeria

The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Food System and Poverty in Nigeria

The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Food System and Poverty in Nigeria

Chapter One

Objectives of the Study

This study aims to achieve three specific objectives in the context of Nigeria’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. To assess the effects of COVID-19 on the various components of the food system, including production, distribution, and access to food.
  2. To analyze the relationship between the disruptions in the food system and the increased incidence of poverty in Nigeria.
  3. To propose evidence-based recommendations for policymakers to enhance the resilience of the food system and mitigate the adverse impacts of future crises on poverty.



Conceptual Review

COVID-19 Pandemic and Global Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a global crisis with far-reaching implications, challenging economies, health systems, and societies worldwide. This section explores the origins and global impact of the pandemic, shedding light on its unprecedented challenges and setting the stage for a comprehensive analysis of its effects on Nigeria’s food system and poverty landscape.

The origins of the pandemic can be traced back to late 2019 when the first cases of a novel coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China. Rapidly evolving into a global pandemic, the virus spread across continents, overwhelming healthcare systems and prompting governments to implement containment measures (NCDC, 2020). The World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, marked a significant turning point, signalling the severity and global implications of the crisis (Wang et al., 2021).

The global impact of the pandemic was swift and comprehensive, affecting every aspect of societies and economies. Governments around the world adopted a range of measures, from lockdowns and travel restrictions to social distancing and remote work arrangements, all aimed at curbing the virus’s spread (Ogundele, 2020; PTF, 2020). The scale and speed of these responses were unprecedented, reflecting the urgent need to mitigate the pandemic’s impact.

Economically, the pandemic caused widespread disruptions across industries, triggering supply chain breakdowns, labour shortages, and business closures (World Bank, 2020). The pandemic’s repercussions reverberated through financial markets, leading to economic contractions and recessions in many countries (IMF, 2020). The loss of jobs and livelihoods was swift and substantial, particularly affecting vulnerable populations that were already grappling with poverty and economic instability (Laborde et al., 2020).

Healthcare systems also struggled to cope with the influx of patients, highlighting existing gaps in medical infrastructure and capacity. Hospitals faced shortages of essential medical supplies, ventilators, and critical care equipment, underscoring the need for robust healthcare systems capable of responding to unexpected surges in demand (Van Doremalen et al., 2020). The pandemic’s impacts extended beyond the medical sphere, highlighting the interconnectedness of various sectors and the need for comprehensive, coordinated responses.

Global efforts to address the pandemic included the development and distribution of vaccines, representing a testament to the collaborative nature of global health responses. However, vaccine distribution inequalities highlighted systemic disparities in global health systems, emphasizing the importance of equitable access to healthcare resources (Aday & Aday, 2020).

In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic’s global impact was profound and multifaceted, affecting economies, health systems, and societies on an unprecedented scale. The rapid spread of the virus prompted governments to implement containment measures, resulting in economic disruptions, job losses, and strains on healthcare systems. The pandemic underscored the importance of robust and resilient systems in various sectors, with implications that extend far beyond healthcare. Against this global backdrop, understanding the pandemic’s specific effects on Nigeria’s food system and poverty dynamics is crucial for designing effective interventions and policy responses.

 Nigerian Food System and Vulnerabilities

The Nigerian food system is a complex network that encompasses various stages, from production and distribution to consumption. Understanding this system and the vulnerabilities it faces is essential for comprehending the pandemic’s impact on food security and poverty(Eyinla et al., 2021). This section provides an overview of Nigeria’s food system while highlighting its vulnerabilities that existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

At its core, Nigeria’s food system involves agricultural production, processing, distribution, and consumption. The country has a rich agricultural tradition with a diverse range of crops and livestock. However, challenges such as low agricultural productivity, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to finance have historically hindered the sector’s potential (World Bank, 2018). The production of staple foods, cash crops, and livestock all contribute to the nation’s food supply, providing sustenance for its growing population.





This chapter presents the research methodology employed in conducting the study, which aims to investigate the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities. The chosen methodology aligns with the research objectives, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of the intricate relationships and interactions within the study’s focal areas. This chapter outlines the research design, population of the study, sampling technique and sample size, sources and methods of data collection, method of data analysis, validity and reliability considerations, and ethical considerations.

 Research Design

The research design is a fundamental aspect of any research study, as it outlines the overall strategy that guides the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data to address the research questions (Creswell, 2019). There are various types of research designs, each with distinct characteristics and purposes. These designs include exploratory, descriptive, experimental, and correlational designs, among others. In the context of this study, the adoption of a quantitative survey research design is justified based on its compatibility with the research objectives and the nature of the research questions.

Exploratory research designs are often used when little is known about a phenomenon, aiming to gain insights, generate hypotheses, and identify areas for further investigation (Kothari, 2022). While exploratory designs offer valuable insights, they may not suit the study’s focus on investigating the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities. The scope of this study requires a more structured and systematic approach to gathering quantitative data that can be statistically analyzed to draw meaningful conclusions.

Descriptive research designs, on the other hand, seek to provide an accurate depiction of a phenomenon by describing its characteristics, behaviours, and attributes (Saunders et al., 2021). While a descriptive design could capture the current state of Nigeria’s food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities, it might not sufficiently capture the interrelationships and interactions between variables that contribute to the research questions. The complexity of the study’s objectives requires a design that can explore these relationships quantitatively.

Experimental research designs involve the manipulation of variables to establish cause-and-effect relationships (Field, 2020). However, the current study’s focus is not to manipulate variables but rather to understand the existing conditions and impacts of the pandemic on the identified areas of interest. As such, an experimental design is not the most appropriate choice for this study.

Correlational research designs are used to identify relationships between variables without manipulating them (Bryman, 2021). While correlations are valuable, a quantitative survey research design better aligns with the study’s objective of systematically collecting data from a large sample to analyze the interrelationships between various factors contributing to the pandemic’s impacts on the food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities.

Given the above considerations, a quantitative survey research design is the most suitable approach for this study. This design involves the collection of data through structured questionnaires administered to a representative sample of the target population (Creswell, 2019). The primary reason for adopting this design is its capacity to systematically gather quantitative data that can be subjected to statistical analyses, enabling the exploration of relationships, patterns, and trends within the data.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on Nigeria’s food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities are multifaceted and intricate. A quantitative survey design allows for the collection of quantifiable data that can be statistically analyzed to draw meaningful insights and conclusions. This design enables the identification of trends and patterns, the examination of correlations between variables, and the generation of statistically significant findings. Additionally, a quantitative survey design facilitates generalizability, as the findings can be extended to the broader population, enhancing the external validity of the study’s results (Kothari, 2022).

Consequently, the adoption of a quantitative survey research design for this study is justified by its alignment with the research objectives, the need to systematically gather quantitative data, and the suitability for analyzing the complex interrelationships between variables contributing to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food system, poverty dynamics, and vulnerabilities.

Population of the Study

The target population for this study consists of households across Nigeria, particularly those vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. The decision to focus on a target population of 1200 respondents is justified by the need to obtain a representative sample that reflects the diversity of socio-economic backgrounds, geographic regions, and demographic characteristics within Nigeria. This sample size ensures that the findings derived from the study are statistically significant and generalizable to the broader population, enhancing the study’s external validity (Kothari, 2022).



Data Presentation




Summary of Findings

Table 4.1 indicates the distribution of questionnaires, revealing that 93.3% of the total 120 questionnaires were returned and completed. This high completion rate underscores the respondents’ engagement and commitment to sharing their perspectives, enhancing the validity of the study’s findings. Conversely, 6.7% of questionnaires were not returned or were incomplete, which could potentially result from various reasons such as time constraints or disinterest.

Moving on to Table 4.2, the gender distribution of respondents reveals that 60.7% are female and 39.3% are male. This gender representation is important as it acknowledges both sexes’ unique experiences and perspectives about the pandemic’s impact on the food system and poverty. This diverse gender composition ensures a more comprehensive understanding of the study’s findings.

Table 4.3 presents the respondents’ distribution across different age groups. The highest percentage falls within the 25-34 age range (35.7%), followed by the 35-44 age group (29.5%). This demographic distribution highlights the study’s focus on the prime working-age population that likely experienced significant disruptions in employment, income, and food accessibility due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy and food systems.

Educational qualifications, as depicted in Table 4.4, underscore the respondents’ educational diversity. Notably, 40.2% of respondents hold HND/B.Sc. degrees and 35.7% have Master’s degrees. This well-educated sample brings valuable insights into the intricate relationship between the pandemic, the food system, and poverty dynamics, providing a foundation for nuanced analysis.

Table 4.5’s examination of employment status indicates that the majority of respondents (75.9%) are students. This composition acknowledges the importance of students in the broader socio-economic context, as disruptions in education and future employability can impact their long-term economic prospects and contribute to poverty dynamics.

Household size, illustrated in Table 4.6, reveals that a significant portion of respondents (48.2%) live in households with 3-4 people. This distribution is significant, as larger households might face distinct challenges related to food accessibility and coping with income fluctuations during the pandemic.

Lastly, Table 4.7’s findings highlight the widespread economic impact of the pandemic, with 74.1% of respondents reporting income or employment loss. This statistic underscores the severity of the pandemic’s economic shocks across different socio-economic segments, aligning with the study’s overarching focus on the pandemic’s influence on poverty and food security.

Table 4.8 reveals that 68.8% of respondents agree that the pandemic significantly disrupted Nigeria’s food supply chains, leading to shortages and distribution challenges. This substantial agreement highlights the tangible effects of the pandemic on the country’s food system, emphasizing the importance of robust distribution networks for food security.

Moving on to Table 4.9, an overwhelming 92.0% of respondents agree that movement restrictions imposed during the pandemic noticeably impacted the accessibility of food from various sources. This high level of agreement underscores the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences on individuals’ ability to access food, contributing to an understanding of how mobility restrictions can disrupt food accessibility.

In Table 4.10, 83.9% of respondents agree that farmers faced difficulties in getting their produce to markets due to pandemic-related disruptions. This consensus aligns with previous research, illustrating the extent to which supply chain disruptions can impede the flow of agricultural goods and potentially contribute to food shortages.

Table 4.11 indicates that 78.6% of respondents agree that consumers experienced reduced availability of essential food items during the pandemic due to disruptions in distribution networks. This finding highlights the interconnectedness of the food system, revealing how disruptions at one stage can reverberate throughout the system, ultimately affecting consumers’ access to food.

The implications of Tables 4.8 to 4.11 collectively underscore the pandemic’s profound impact on various stages of the food system. Respondents’ widespread agreement on disruptions to supply chains, movement restrictions, challenges faced by farmers, and reduced availability of essential items highlight the intricate web connecting production, distribution, and consumer access. These findings accentuate the vulnerability of food systems during crises and emphasize the importance of enhancing resilience to ensure food security.

In Tables 4.12 to 4.15, respondents’ perceptions regarding the pandemic’s impact on poverty dynamics are illuminated. Table 4.12 indicates that 95.5% of respondents agree that the pandemic led to increased job losses and reduced income levels. This near-unanimous agreement underscores the pandemic’s dire economic consequences, which disproportionately affect livelihoods and contribute to increased economic vulnerability.

Moving to Table 4.13, 82.1% of respondents agree that vulnerable populations, such as informal sector workers, experienced heightened economic vulnerability. This consensus aligns with the understanding that marginalized segments of society often bear the brunt of economic shocks, contributing to the perpetuation of poverty cycles.

Table 4.14 shows that 87.5% of respondents agree that the contraction of the informal sector due to the pandemic resulted in higher poverty rates among previously stable households. This finding highlights the interconnectedness between different economic sectors and the cascading effects of disruptions in the informal sector on overall poverty rates.

Lastly, Table 4.15 reveals that 82.1% of respondents agree that the pandemic’s economic impacts disproportionately affected marginalized communities, deepening their poverty levels. This consensus emphasizes the importance of considering the differential impacts of crises on various socio-economic strata to design effective policy interventions.

The cumulative findings from Tables 4.12 to 4.15 unveil the complex ways in which the pandemic has exacerbated poverty dynamics. The high agreement levels among respondents signal a widespread understanding of the far-reaching implications of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and highlight the need for targeted interventions to address these challenges and mitigate the impacts on poverty and economic vulnerability.

Table 4.16 reveals that 85.7% of respondents agree that the closure of international borders and economic downturns in host countries led to a decline in remittance inflows. This high level of agreement underscores the interconnectedness of global economies and how external factors can disrupt financial flows that often support household incomes.

Moving on to Table 4.17, a substantial 92.9% of respondents agree that reduced remittances had a direct bearing on household incomes, contributing to heightened vulnerability and poverty. This near-consensus highlights the importance of remittances as a significant source of income for many households, especially in times of economic uncertainty.

In Table 4.18, 81.3% of respondents agree that households reliant on remittances faced increased difficulty in meeting their basic needs due to decreased financial support. This finding aligns with the understanding that reduced remittances can significantly impact the financial stability of households, potentially leading to a decrease in overall well-being.

Table 4.19 indicates that 84.8% of respondents agree that the pandemic-induced decline in remittances disproportionately affected families in lower socioeconomic strata, exacerbating their economic challenges. This consensus underscores the disproportionate impact of reduced remittances on already vulnerable communities, exacerbating existing inequalities.

Transitioning to Table 4.20, the mean of 96.75 indicates a strong agreement that the disruptions caused by COVID-19 significantly impacted various components of the food system, such as production, distribution, and access to food. This mean, along with the standard deviation, signifies a consistent agreement among respondents, further emphasizing the widespread recognition of the pandemic’s effects on the food system.

In Table 4.21, the mean of 105.50 suggests a positive correlation between the disruptions in the food system and the increased incidence of poverty. While this mean is higher than the assumed mean of 0, the small standard deviation of 4.123 indicates relatively consistent responses among respondents, supporting the hypothesis that there is indeed a positive correlation between disruptions in the food system and increased poverty rates.

Finally, Table 4.22 showcases a mean of 105.00, indicating a consensus regarding evidence-based recommendations for policymakers to enhance the resilience of the food system and mitigate adverse impacts on poverty. The small standard deviation of 2.944 further indicates a relatively uniform agreement among respondents, supporting the hypothesis that implementing targeted interventions can effectively strengthen the food system’s resilience.

Collectively, the findings from Tables 4.16 to 4.22 reveal respondents’ nuanced perceptions of the pandemic’s impact on remittances, household incomes, and policy recommendations. High levels of agreement regarding the consequences of reduced remittances, the correlation between food system disruptions and poverty rates, and the potential effectiveness of targeted interventions emphasize the complex interplay of factors shaping both economic vulnerability and potential solutions.


In conclusion, the empirical analysis of the hypotheses provides valuable insights into the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food system, poverty levels, and potential policy interventions. The findings strongly support the notion that the disruptions caused by the pandemic significantly influenced various components of the food system, including production, distribution, and consumer access to food. Furthermore, the study’s results reveal a clear positive correlation between disruptions in the food system and the increased incidence of poverty, highlighting the interconnectedness of these dynamics.

The consensus among respondents regarding evidence-based recommendations for policymakers underscores the importance of targeted interventions to enhance the resilience of the food system and mitigate adverse impacts on poverty. This research underscores the critical need for holistic approaches that address both the structural vulnerabilities within the food system and the economic challenges faced by vulnerable populations. As the world continues to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic, these findings underscore the urgency of prioritizing comprehensive strategies to build a more robust and equitable food system that can withstand future crises and alleviate poverty among marginalized communities.


Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations are offered to address the identified challenges and promote resilience:

Enhance Food Supply Chains: Strengthening agricultural supply chains is crucial to ensure continuous food availability during crises. Investments in infrastructure, logistics, and technology can streamline distribution and minimize disruptions.

Support Small-Scale Farmers: Providing small-scale farmers with improved access to markets, finance, and technology can boost their productivity and contribute to a more robust food system.

Promote Diversified Agriculture: Encouraging diversified crop production and incorporating climate-resilient practices can mitigate the vulnerabilities of relying on single crops and enhance food security.

Invest in Agri-Food Infrastructure: Developing storage facilities, processing centres, and efficient transportation networks can reduce post-harvest losses and enhance the overall efficiency of the food supply chain.

Strengthen Social Safety Nets: Establishing and expanding social safety net programs can provide a cushion for vulnerable populations during crises, ensuring they have access to essential food and resources.

Support Informal Sector Workers: Creating targeted programs to support informal sector workers, including skill development and access to financial services, can enhance their resilience and reduce poverty levels.

Promote Digital Innovation: Leveraging technology for online markets, e-commerce, and digital payments can facilitate better connections between producers and consumers, even during movement restrictions.

Enhance Data Collection: Developing robust data collection systems can provide real-time insights into food supply and demand, enabling more informed decision-making by policymakers.

Implement Disaster Preparedness Plans: Establishing comprehensive disaster preparedness plans at national and regional levels can ensure a swift and effective response to future crises, safeguarding food security and livelihoods.

Collaborate for Resilience: Government agencies, NGOs, the private sector, and international organizations should collaborate to design and implement holistic strategies that strengthen the food system, mitigate poverty, and enhance overall societal resilience.

Contribution to Knowledge

This study has made significant contributions to the existing body of knowledge by shedding light on the intricate interactions between the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s food system, and poverty dynamics. The findings presented in this research provide valuable insights into the multifaceted impacts of the pandemic, extending beyond health concerns to encompass socio-economic dimensions that directly affect the well-being of vulnerable populations.

Firstly, this study contributes to the understanding of how disruptions in the food supply chain can exacerbate poverty. By empirically demonstrating the disruptions caused by movement restrictions and lockdowns on farmers’ access to markets and consumers’ access to food, the research highlights the fragile nature of food distribution networks during crises. This insight underscores the importance of building resilient supply chains and infrastructure, especially for essential goods, to enhance food security and mitigate the impact of future shocks.

Secondly, this research contributes to the literature on the informal sector’s vulnerabilities. By examining how the pandemic disproportionately affected informal sector workers, the study underscores the need for targeted interventions to support this marginalized segment of the economy. The findings emphasize the importance of formalizing and safeguarding the informal sector, as its contraction can lead to increased poverty rates among previously stable households.

Furthermore, the study’s exploration of the relationship between reduced remittances and heightened vulnerability adds to the knowledge of the significance of remittances as a source of income and support for many households. The research provides empirical evidence of how the closure of international borders and economic challenges in host countries can directly impact household incomes in Nigeria. This insight highlights the interconnectedness of global economic trends and local socio-economic conditions, emphasizing the need for policies that address both domestic and international factors affecting poverty dynamics.

Moreover, this study contributes by suggesting evidence-based recommendations for policymakers to enhance the resilience of the food system and mitigate future crises’ adverse impacts on poverty. These recommendations are rooted in empirical findings and offer a roadmap for policymakers to develop holistic strategies that encompass various aspects of the food system, from production and distribution to access and affordability.

Suggestions for Further Studies

Building upon the foundation laid by this study, several avenues for further research can deepen our understanding of the complex relationships between the COVID-19 pandemic, food systems, and poverty dynamics in Nigeria.

Firstly, future studies could delve into the long-term impacts of the pandemic on food system resilience and poverty. This study provides a snapshot of the immediate effects, but investigating how these disruptions ripple through time and continue to shape food security and poverty levels could provide more nuanced insights. Longitudinal studies tracking changes over several years would be valuable in this regard.

Secondly, while this study focused on the quantitative aspects of the pandemic’s impact, incorporating qualitative research methods could enrich the understanding of the lived experiences of individuals and communities affected by disruptions in the food system. In-depth interviews, focus groups, and case studies could provide deeper insights into the challenges faced by different segments of the population.

Furthermore, the study primarily focused on the national level, but there is potential for subnational analyses. Examining variations in the impact of the pandemic on food systems and poverty across different regions, urban and rural areas, and demographic groups could yield valuable insights into localized vulnerabilities and strengths.

Another promising avenue for future research is to explore the effectiveness of policy interventions aimed at mitigating the adverse impacts of the pandemic on food security and poverty. Evaluating the outcomes of specific policies and interventions, such as social safety nets, support for informal sector workers, and agricultural supply chain improvements, can provide insights into the best practices for building resilience in the face of similar crises.

Lastly, exploring the implications of the pandemic’s impact on food systems and poverty in a comparative international context could offer broader insights. Cross-country studies could provide a better understanding of the ways different countries have responded to similar challenges and the factors that contribute to successful outcomes.

In summary, while this study has made valuable contributions to our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on Nigeria’s food system and poverty dynamics, there remain numerous avenues for further exploration. By delving deeper into these areas, future research can contribute to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the complex interactions between global health crises, socioeconomic systems, and poverty dynamics.


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