In this article, we take a look at the role of agriculture in economic development of Nigeria. From our findings, agriculture and Nigeria economic development are strongly related because the development of the agricultural sector is essential to the progress of the country. Therefore, the aim of this article is to analyze the contribution of the agricultural sector to the development of Nigeria economy.
The term ‘agriculture’ can been defined as the production of food and livestock and the purposeful tendering of plants and animals. Furthermore, agriculture can be defined as the production of food, feed, fiber and other goods by the systematic growing and harvesting of plants and animals. Agriculture includes farming, fishing, animal husbandry and forestry.
Agriculture is the mainstay of many economies and it is fundamental to the socioeconomic development of a nation because it is a major element and factor in national development. Similarly, agricultural sector is the most important sector of the Nigerian economy which holds a lot of potentials for the future economic development of the nation as it had done in the past.
The term ‘development’ is universally agreed upon to embody infrastructural development and social development of a people (education and health). The universal features of economic development include health, life expectancy, literacy, etc. The term ‘economic development’ has been viewed as alterations in the framework of production and employment.
Many residents in Nigeria are poor and a majority of them are farmers. Increasing their income would result in poverty reduction and hence, an improvement in the Nigerian economy because a very large percentage (69%) of the population live in poverty. This is turn demonstrates that development in the agricultural sector can lead to the progress of the Nigerian economy.
Nigeria is divided into four main regions; the Southern, Eastern, Western and Northern regions. The Northern region of Nigeria is the largest of the three. In addition, it contributes the most to the agricultural sector.
Before the discovery of crude oil in commercial amounts, agriculture contributed significantly to the Nigerian economy. However, the production levels of farm produce declined between the years 1970 and 1980. As a result, the exports reduced to such an extent that there was then a need to import to meet the food demand.
This decline in output took place during the era of the oil boom. During the era, a considerable shift occurred from the agricultural sector to the industrial sector and from rural areas to urban areas.
The oil boom coupled with expansion of the construction and services industry was the main cause of the surge in the rural-urban migration. The massive investments (amount of spending) on these industries, which were mostly located in urban areas, created a demand for an increased number of workers in the cities as well as an increase in wages. Consequently, from the moment the oil boom began there has been a steady decline in the market share of the economy that was held by agriculture.
In the 1960’s the contribution to the gross national product (GNP) was 60 percent. In the 1970’s this declined to 49 percent and by the 1980’s it had fallen to 22 percent. This segment of Nigeria’s economy had been largely ignored in favour of the oil and gas industry along with mistakes in economic policies.
This clearly indicates that the shift from rural to urban areas is responsible for the decrease in agricultural production.
In any economy, successful economic development depends on interaction between various sectors over a period of time, often the process of interaction is such that some sector becomes more important than others, depending o the level and the stage of development. In Nigeria, Agriculture is an example of one key sector whose role is, and would remain crucial to development fortunes.
Nigeria is fortunate to have an abundance of fertile soil, currently, Nigeria has 75 percent of its land suitable for agriculture, but only 40% is cultivated. That indicates there is much room for the country to focus on.
At the moment, there is also a supply of human resources that are benefit from having the agricultural sector to work in. Indeed, Nigeria can record greater economic growth and development by focusing on the improvement of its agricultural sector. This becomes more important when we consider the fact that industrial growth is less effective in reducing poverty than agricultural growth because a major percentage of the population (about 70%) live in rural areas across Nigeria.
The agricultural sector in Nigeria is has the potential to provide greater employment opportunities for the poor. It is important to note that even though the industrial sector is important for boosting the economy, it fails to create sufficient employment opportunities for the poor and unskilled workers. Moreover, it would be difficult for Nigeria, (and any other African country) to launch a successful economic transformation without going through an agricultural revolution on a national scale/basis.
Agricultural sector is the largest sector in the Nigerian economy employment of more than 70% of the active labour force and the generation of about 88% of non-oil foreign exchange earnings.
Considering the relationship between agriculture and Nigeria economic development, it is important for the Nigerian government to provide funds to acquire modern farm tools and increase the nation’s budgetary allocation to this sector in a consistent manner because of its importance to the national economy.
With proper monitoring of fund, agriculture would contribute more significantly to the Nigerian economy.
Furthermore, there is the need to provide adequate infrastructural facilities such as good roads, pipe borne water and electricity for the peasant farmers who live in the rural areas and who are the major providers of food for the nation and for export. This will most likely improve the productivity of the rural farmers.
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