Agriculture involves the cultivation of land, raising and rearing of animals, for the purpose of production of food for man, feed for animals and raw materials for industries. It involves forestry, fishing, processing and marketing of these agricultural products. Essentially, it is composed of crop production, livestock, forestry, and fishing.
Agriculture is the mainstay of many economies. All over the world, the development of an enduring economy goes hand in hand with agricultural development thus, there is a need for Nigeria to exploit her various agricultural resources to full potential in order to accelerate her quest and efforts to achieving sustainable economic development.
Agriculture is considered a catalyst for the overall development of any nation; development economists have always assigned the agriculture sector a central place in the development process, early development theorists though emphasized industrialization, they counted on agriculture to provide the necessary output of food and raw materials, along with the labour force that would gradually be absorbed by industry and services sector. Much later thinking moved agriculture to the forefront of the development process; the hopes for technical change in agriculture and “green revolution” suggested agriculture as the dynamo and magic wand for economic growth and development.
The industrial revolution of the Nineteenth century which catapulted the agrarian economies of most countries of Europe got their stimuli from agriculture; the sector in recent history has also worked a tremendous miracle in countries like Mexico, India, Brazil, Peru, Philippines and China where the Green Revolution was one of the great success stories. Indeed, the importance of agriculture in any nation’s economy cannot be over emphasized, for instance, in United States of America, agriculture contributes about 1. 1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The above statistic indicated that the more developed a country is the lower the contribution of agriculture to Gross Domestic Product. Economy diversification is an economic development strategy characterized by increasing the numbers of the revenue base of an economy. The Nigerian economy is a mono-cultural economy depending on crude oil as the main source of her revenue, it is crucial that government should not keep on believing that oil provides an endless source of revenue.
As a matter of priority, Nigeria government must encourage the rapid diversification of Nigeria’s economy as this is the only sustainable way to survive the current environment of global economic uncertainty of international oil price volatility and shocks, unfavourable quota system and depletion.
Diversification in the agriculture sector is therefore suggested for Nigeria as a developing economy to ensure food and nutritional security, income and employment generation, poverty alleviation and to encourage industrialization, ease pressure on balance of payment, reliable source of government revenue and overall economic development of the country.
Prior to the political crisis of 1967-1970, agriculture’s positive contributions to the economy were instrumental in sustaining economic growth and stability. The bulk of food demand was satisfied from domestic output, thereby obviating the need to utilize scarce foreign exchange resources on food importation.
Stable growth in agricultural exports constituted the backbone of a favorable balance of trade. Sustainable amounts of capital were derived from the agricultural sector through the imposition of several taxes and accumulation of marketing surpluses, which were used to finance many development projects such as the building and construction of Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria) and first Nigerian skyscraper-cocoa house in Ibadan. The sector, which employed 71% of the total labor force in 1960, employed only 56% in 1977, the number stood at 68% in 1980, falling to 55% in 1986, 1987 and 1988; and 57% annually from 1989 to 1992, and has continued to nosedive into 2000s as the result of the neglect of the sector.
To channel itself on the path to modern development, Nigeria should examine what factors hindered the development of its agricultural sector, which was the backbone of the Nigerian economy before the era of oil boom. It should rectify the mistakes it made in over 54 years by immediately putting these strategic plans into action. The people of Nigeria can uplift themselves from poverty and distress by eradicating corruption and devoting themselves to strive for progress.
The 2020:20 initiative will keep Nigeria focused on improving their economy and combined with a significant effort to reducing food imports and to increase food production within their own country, Nigeria can witness a timely turn around in their investment. Nigeria has the necessary components in place to return to an agricultural-based economy. Research has demonstrated that a return to an agricultural economy is not only possible, but will greatly benefit the entire country of Nigeria.
To achieve sustainable economic development and to lift the dormant and continuously dwindling contribution of the agriculture sector, Nigeria needs to have some recommended pre-requisites diversification policies such as provision of financial resources to sector to get it up and functioning; a combination of government provision of subsidies, improved and high yielding seedlings and breeds for private companies and small scale farmer producing as large as 85% of the sector’s agricultural output are needed to boost the agricultural market.
There also need to revise the current import and export regulations to make it more convincing for other countries to accept agricultural products from Nigeria. It is an established fact that with the population of over 170 million, vast cultivatable farmland, a conducive climate and soil, Nigeria has the necessary productive resources required to have a strong welcome back of the agriculture sector as an engine to achieving sustainable economic development.
It is therefore plausible for Nigeria to diversify into the agriculture market in their effort to become more self-sustainable and be recognized as one of the world economic power.