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Publication | 2022

The new Malthusian challenge in the Sahel: prospects for improving food security in Niger

The world economy has largely overcome the Malthusian challenge, but there are regions such as the Sahel where this challenge remains formidable and food insecurity is exacerbated by multiple threats of climate change, low agricultural productivity, and high population growth. While the interactions among these forces governing long-term food security are widely discussed for policy making in the Sahel, analysis of the comparative magnitude of the forces in the resulting food security outcomes is largely absent. In this paper, we identify the relative contribution of these long-term drivers of food security outcomes in rural and urban Niger into 2050. We then consider three policy scenarios to address food security issues: accelerated investments in agricultural R&D (supply side), reduction of fertility rates (demand side), and market integration. We use a historically validated partial equilibrium model tailored to Nigerien agriculture, with data inputs gleaned from various sources, including household and farm surveys and grid-cell level production data. Our study finds that among growth in population, income, and agricultural productivity and climate change impacts on yields and labor productivity, population growth in Niger will remain the single largest driver of crop output growth and undernourishment in the country. Three-fourths of the increase in undernourished population is projected to be among the urban population. Climate change impacts on agricultural productivity will have differential impacts on undernourishment prevalence among rural and urban population, pushing an additional 2 million people into undernourishment by 2050. The relative impacts of climate change are larger among the rural population offsetting revenue gains from increased crop prices. We emphasize that feasible advancements in agricultural productivity are likely to be outpaced by rapid population growth and climate change setbacks unless simultaneous actions are taken on the demand side. On the supply side, interventions are required in transforming R&D spending into higher farm productivity. Greater integration into regional markets will also aide in mitigating undernourishment prevalence.