Identifying system archetypes in Nigeria’s rice agri-food system using fuzzy cognitive mapping

Glory I. Edwards*, Kasper Kok, Rik Leemans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Nigeria is a major rice-producing and rice-importing country in Africa, challenged with ensuring rice-food security for its growing population. Successive governments have implemented several strategies to increase local rice production such as rice import restriction policies and agricultural investments. These strategies have yielded results but achieving long-term sustainable growth in Nigeria’s rice agri-food system has remained elusive. Addressing food security and sustainability in agri-food systems requires a systems-thinking approach. In this study, we applied two systems thinking techniques, fuzzy cognitive mapping (for describing the system structure and behavior) and archetype analysis (to reveal generic system archetypes and effective strategies to improve the system). Our analysis revealed three system archetypes: limits to success, fixes that fail, and drifting goals. Rice production is limited by low agricultural productivity indicating the “limits to success” archetype. Farmers tend to increase rice area as a “quick fix” to productivity issues but this quick fix leads to unintended consequences such as soil degradation (fixes that fail archetype). Additionally, because of the import-restriction policies generating an unmet demand for rice, the government may face pressure to lower the goal of self-sufficiency falling into the “drifting goals” archetype. However, our analysis shows that suspending import-restriction policies would result in undesirable system states, with reduced demand for local rice and lower rice production. Our results underscore the importance of government policies in increasing rice production sustainably and ensuring food security.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • agri-food system
  • fuzzy cognitive mapping
  • Nigeria
  • rice
  • system archetypes


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