Research & Analysis

National Survey and Segmentation of Smallholder Households in Nigeria

Nigeria is home to approximately 184 million people—over 60 percent of whom are younger than 24—and a massive agricultural sector. Scale and outreach call for digital solutions, but current solutions remain relatively small. So what does this mean for smallholder households? How are farming families managing their financial lives and balancing household and agricultural priorities? And how might a range of providers offer the financial solutions to meet these diverse needs?

To answer these questions, CGAP conducted a nationally representative survey of smallholder households in 2016, working closely with the National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria. The survey explored the agricultural and nonagricultural activities, financial practices and interests, and challenges and aspirations of over 3,300 smallholder families throughout Nigeria. 

Several key points on the financial and agricultural lives of smallholder families in Nigeria emerge from the results:

  • Smallholders take pride in their agricultural activities, and most want to expand. The youngest generation of smallholders shows the most interest in agriculture. They account for over one-third of smallholder households, and many have been farming for more than six years. 
  • Most smallholders say they can provide for their families’ monthly needs, though they live in poverty. They earn their income from agricultural activities and consider farming to be their primary job. Buying groceries and paying for transportation are their largest routine expenses.
  • Smallholder families view farming as a family business. Labor is largely sourced from family members. Family and friends are also the main source of information on agricultural activities and financial practices. 
  • Saving is common, though through informal methods. Most smallholder farmers save through informal methods, mainly at home, in cash, and with circles of friends. Fewer save through formal methods such as banks, mobile phones, and cooperatives. 
  • Budgeting and risk planning is uncommon among smallholders. Most smallholders report they do not stay on a budget and that they lack a plan to manage unexpected expenses. They struggle to mitigate risks and respond to emergencies.
  • Knowledge and exposure to financial mechanisms is limited. Only a quarter of smallholders are financially included, meaning they hold an account registered in their own name at a full-service financial institution. Smallholders primarily use cash to buy farm inputs from retailers and wholesalers. 

This working paper provides more detail on these points and profiles the four main segments of smallholder households in Nigeria. These results are designed to identify opportunities for financial services providers, government partners, and donors to better meet the needs of smallholder families for a range of financial tools

Related Resources


Over three-quarters of the population in Nigeria are involved in the agriculture sector. Yet despite their active financial and agricultural lives, smallholders in Nigeria have few tools to manage their irregular and volatile household cash flows.

Each short section in this summary complements CGAP data and insights for each country and addresses what the data tells us and what this means for FSPs and others.