Climate & Agriculture
Hot and wet
Lying close to the equator (at latitudes between 4° and 14° north), Nigeria’s temperatures are usually in the 30s all year round. High humidity in the south can be uncomfortable, both day and night.
The amount of rainfall varies greatly by region. Along the coast, annual rainfall is high (generally between 2,000-3,000mm), with some eastern areas receiving over 4,000mm – as a comparison, Scotland averages around 1,500mm. In the north, the semi-arid Sahel region is glad to receive 500mm.
Sometimes, the dry winds bring dust from the Sahara. Known as the ‘harmattan’, these Saharan winds appear as a dense fog and cover everything with a fine layer of dust – see Mali Geography & Wildlife.
The main rainy season is April to August, but in the south the rains can arrive from February. These rains can make travelling difficult, turning rural roads into streams and city roads into rivers of rubbish. The north has a much shorter wet period, with most rain in August.
The Sahel regions of Africa have been getting drier over the last century. A rise in temperature of 1.7°C doesn’t sound like much, but this increase has helped change weather patterns. Droughts are more frequently experienced in the north of Nigeria – see Climate – and these affect small farmers severely.
Most of Nigeria’s farming takes place on small plots of land (a few hectares in size). These smallholdings account for around 90% of the food output in the country. The main crops grown are yams, cassava (manioc), citrus fruits, groundnuts/peanuts and vegetables.
Smallholders use traditional manual methods of farming, with little money to invest in fertilisers, irrigation or equipment. The nation’s 50 million farmers have only around 30,000 tractors between them. They are therefore unable to produce enough food to feed Nigeria’s huge population.
In 2010, Nigeria brought in over 1 billion dollars-worth of rice, becoming the world’s second largest importer of rice. The country spent over 4 billion dollars on food imports in total.
Key export crops include palm oil, wheat and sugar. At one time, Nigeria was a large exporter of these, as well as of cocoa, cotton and rubber. But lack of investment and poor storage and transportation facilities mean that export amounts and revenues have dropped significantly.