1.1 Background of study
There is a growing advocacy for achieving sustainable food production in today’s Nigeria and a lot of effort has been directed at finding appropriate structure for organizing millions of small scale farmers towards achieving sustainable food production (Oyido, 1997). Agricultural cooperative society has been touted as the appropriate vehicle for harnessing and polling the resources of millions of small holder farmer producers together to enjoy the benefit of large scale production (Ukeje, 2008).
Cooperative according to Omotesho (2008) is one of the most effective vehicle for efficient mobilization of production resources and accelerated rural development. The importance arises from the fact that the small scale individual capacity of the peasants production, cannot cope with technological and capital demands of modernized agriculture. Even though the family farm may be considered efficient within the static framework of its motive of enterprise-self-sufficiency, the dynamic demands of modern times are such that such a framework has to be subjected to drastic structural changes. And this the peasant should be educated such that he knows that his interest is being fostered (Okolocha, 1993).
The agricultural cooperatives have been there over the years to play this role of drastic structural change in agriculture towards sustainable food production and also the socio-economic upliftment of the farmers (Ugwunedo, 2008). Uchendu (1998) noted that the original impetus for the organization of cooperatives in Nigeria came from agriculture, or more precisely, from the marketing of cash coops for export. Since then cooperative development has taken different forms and dimension. According to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) (2001), emphasis in cooperative development is now on multipurpose agricultural cooperative for food production and marketing. He noted that, ninety-six percent of cooperative societies in this country are designed basically to serve the needs of agriculture. Even the four percent which constitute non-agricultural cooperative societies have great relevance for agriculture and use agricultural product and bye-products. In summary, it does appear that the government has committed itself to the realization of food security in the country. However, as to the appropriateness and gains of these efforts, Oyido (1997) has noted that, virtually all the programmes and policies were beautiful and fulfilling but they could not achieve their set objectives because of over dependence on the ‘Black Gold’ which has become the major foreign exchange earner on which the economy depends. Indeed government efforts over the years could not guarantee adequate food and fibre for the citizenry, thus; the country has increased its dependence on food imports. For example wheat imports from the United states in 2007 alone was N2.2 billion. Government’s efforts can at best be described as failure since not less than 65% of Nigerians are food insecure (Muhammed (2008).