Agriculture is derived from two Latin words ager and culture which means field and cultivation respectively. Agriculture is the tilling of the soil to produce both food and cash crops, livestock, etc.
COMPONENTS OF AGRICULTURE
The main components of agriculture are:
(i) Crop production
(ii) Livestock farming
Crop production is in two categories-food crops and cash crops.
Food crops are produced primarily to provide food for the entire population. These include yam, cassava, millet, rice, corn, beans, etc.
Cash crops are produced primarily either for
export or as raw materials for the industries. These include rubber, cocoa, groundnut, cotton, etc.
Livestock consists of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry. They are produced for domestic consumption in Nigeria.
forest These estates are the. The resources include provided wood by and the timber permanent, palm produce as well as wildlife.
Fishing is an important occupation for many people in West Africa. Fishing is of two categories:
(a) Industrial fishing involving distant water
fishing, marine in nature, and capital intensive. It usually involves the operation of deep-sea trawlers and the on-shore fishery which operates within the continental shelf.
(b) Artisanal fishing is characterized by high
labor intensity and low productivity. It includes coastal canoe fishery, freshwater fishery, and fish farming among others.
Systems of Agriculture
Various systems of agriculture are practiced in West Africa including Nigeria. These include;
Subsistence peasant farming.
This is the type of farming carried out by a peasant farmer. He usually cultivates small holdings using primitive hoes and cutlasses. His labor force is usually himself, his wife, and his children.
Peasant farming has the following characteristics:
(i) Its use of land is usually small so the output is
(ii) Its method of production is primitive and
(iii) It has little access to modern city markets because of transportation difficulties.
(iv) It has little or no access to high-yielding crops provided by agricultural research institutions.
The primary concern of this system is to produce for the market. Most peasant farmers are increasingly moving into this category. They are no longer satisfied to produce for consumption alone. This is made possible by increasing access to fertilizer as well as improved farm-market roads.
This system is characterized by the following:
(i) Production for the market.
(ii) Increased use of modern farm equipment such as fertilizer and tractors.
(iii) Increased benefits from improved seedlings and agricultural extension workers.
The roles of commercial farming
(i) It can make available more raw materials for agro-based industries.
(ii) It can expand the production of export products to earn foreign exchange for the country. This can be employed to obtain industrial inputs thereby contributing to industrial growth in the country.
(iii) Its expansion will reduce the number of peasants farmers and thus create surplus labor for industrial absorption.
(iv) If the increased output of commercial farming replaces previously imported products, there will be a conservation of foreign exchange which can be used to support the country’s industrialization drive.
(v) Commercial farming which is capital intensive will bolster allied industrial activities e.g. production of spare parts, maintenance of farm machinery, etc.
(vi) It can bring about an increase in the output of basic foodstuff which can help to keep wages stable. This can aid low-cost industrial products that can compete with similar products on the global market.
(vii) It can create a conducive environment that will accelerate capital accumulation in the country.
(ix) It will create additional job openings for labor in other sectors of the economy.
Plantation farming is another type of farming. In the past, most of them were developed by foreign companies, but after indigenization, many plantations were developed and owned by the government, government agencies, and private companies. Examples of these are Rubber Plantation, Cocoa Plantation, Oil Palm Plantation, etc.
There have been efforts to grow oranges, mangoes, pineapples, and guava in plantations.
Large scale mechanized farming
Large scale production involves extensive use of machinery and other forms of advanced mechanical devices such as tractors, plows, and combined harvesters not only to plow and plant but also to harvest.
This involves agricultural activities undertaken by groups of people. Most governments in West Africa encourage co-operative agriculture to be able to save some of them from the problems which a single farmer faces, such as small land area, limited capital, and equipment.
A co-operative farm has a greater chance of borrowing from banks and easily attracts grants or loans from the government. The cooperative venture is feasible for most of the various agricultural activities in fishing, livestock, or crop production.
Farm settlement is another type of farming that was practiced by some governments in Nigeria. The farm settlement has a dual objective of increasing food production and providing gainful employment for the settlers.
The government normally acquires the farm site, prepares the site, and shares the land into appropriate sizes for the settlers. The government normally provides the farm-house together with necessary infrastructural facilities for the settlers. Apart from the general supervision by government extension workers, each settler is left to manage his farm.
(i) It may help in solving unemployment problems.
(ii) It may increase the output of food crops.
(iii) It may encourage and promote farm entrepreneurship
(iv) It crops may and help farmers in the technology spread of.
modern high yielding crops and farm technology.
(i)Limited land and scale of operation.
(ii) Limited capital.
(iii) Unnecessary interference by the extension service officers.
(iv) Bankruptcy resulting from poor financial and general management.
IMPORTANT (USEFULNESS) OF AGRICULTURE
(a) Agriculture provides the bulk of the capital required for industrial take off in the West African countries.
(b) Agriculture releases unskilled and semi-skilled labor needed for the operation of the industrial sector.
(c) The agricultural exports provide the necessary foreign exchange required for the purchase of necessary raw materials, manufactured goods, and capital equipment for the country.
(d) Agriculture provides food for the entire
(e) Agriculture provides an income for a large percentage of the population thus forming a good market for the products of different industrial enterprises.
(f) It provides employment opportunities.
PROBLEMS OF AGRICULTURE
The problems facing agriculture in West Africa generally and in Nigeria, in particular, are many. They include:
(a) Inadequate finance and credit facilities constitute a major problem for farmers. Most of the farmers have no access to loans from
commercial banks because they have no collateral security.
(b) Low level of farmers education affects their productivity. They cannot adopt the modern production system and they cannot benefit from the services of the extension service workers.
(c)Transportation facilities are poor. Farm-market roads are either not available or are in very bad condition.
(d) Inadequate, irrigation system leaves large but potentially arable land uncultivated because of drought.
(e)Most farmers have no access to important farm inputs such as fertilizers. In some cases when fertilizers are available, they are wrongly applied. The price may even be too high for the farmer.
(f) Agriculture suffers tremendously from thea attackof insects such as locusts, tsetse flies, and rinder pests which destroy crops.
(g) Land tenure system imposes limitations on the use of agricultural land. The land is owned by the extended family. It can neither be sold nor used as security for banks and other loans.
(h) The agricultural production system is primitive. Farming is still in the hands of the peasant farmers. To these farmers, modern agricultural techniques are new and foreign.
(i)Extension officers are in short supply. These would have assisted the illiterate farmers to adopt new crops and new methods.
(j) Poor and fluctuating weather conditions adversely affect agricultural development. Too much rain resulting in floods in one season and drought in another season are examples of bad weather conditions.
(j) Instability of prices of agricultural products results in low and irregular incomes to farmers. This tends to discourage many farmers.
(k) Instability of government agricultural policies tends to adversely affect agricultural development. Lack of consistency in policies has discouraged large-scale investment in agriculture.
(m) Corruption and mismanagement in the institutions charged with the responsibility of promoting agricultural development has frustrated development efforts.
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