1.1 Background of the Study.
The state of health of a farmer and their agricultural productivity can be said to have a complex interrelationship. Increased productivity results to food sufficiency which the ever growing world population depends for sustainability. To adequately sustain the population in avoidance of food insecurity, agricultural productivity must be maintained optimally through efficient use of factors of production. Basically, of the four factors of production, labour remains the most essential factors that manipulate farm inputs to produce efficient outputs. In Nigeria, the indispensability of labour emanates from the fact that its agricultural system is labour intensive oriented.Essentially, the economics of rice production from the last two decades significantly impacted the national development of the Nigeria State. This impactful popularity of rice was derived from the rising level of productivity, level of income and the relative convenience with which it was produced, processed and persevered (Onwuchekwo, 1988 cited in Ekpe&Alimba, 2013). As one of the major stable food crops in Nigeria favoured by the ecological nature of the environment, rice provide basic nutritional materials, remain a major employees of labour and source of income (WARDA, 2004). Also, as the world leading food crop, rice provides industrial raw material for the manufacturing of macrony, spaghetti, flour as well as in commercial production of beer and some other beverages in brewing industries. Nevertheless, the efficiency of rice production depends on labour effectiveness. However, considering the prime importance of labour in relation to agricultural productivity, health plays a vital role in either accelerating the level of agricultural produce or retarding the production.
Health according to World Health Organization is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being of a person. The importance of health as a form of human capital cannot be over emphasized. Ajani and Ugwu (2008) states that good health and productive agriculture are important in the economy of any nation especially in the fight against poverty. Health enhances work effectiveness and the productivity of an individual through increase in physical and mental capacities. In other word, health affects agricultural systems by affecting the health of the producers. It is worthy of note that healthier workers are physically and mentally more energetic and robust. They are more productive and less likely to be absent from farm work whereas poor health may result in loss of work days or decrease worker capacity, decrease innovative ability and ability to explore diverse farming practices (Awoyemi and Soruunmi, 2009). In furtherance to the implication of poor health, Greenway (2004) pointed out that poor health increases present and future food insecurity through its impact on the household’s ability to produce food because of labour shortages and loss of knowledge about farming method; the household’s ability to buy food because of impoverishment due to loss of productive family members; the community’s ability to produce and buy food as the epidemic reaches every home and neighbors and become too burdened to help each other with food, loans or hands in the field; and the country’s ability to import food as ill-health reduces Gross Domestic Product Per Capita by an estimated 1% annually in Africa ( Greenway, 2004).Likewise, as put by Asenso-Okyere (2010), poor health resulting from disease affect physical strength and work days/hours available for farm work. Since agricultural productivity is dependent on physical strength and stamina, and therefore good health, it is more probable that health shocks directly affect worker productivity. Equally, labour-diseases involving high medical expenditures tend to deprive farming households of resources to invest in experimentations on improved practice and adoption of new technology. Poor health may reduce farmers’ ability to innovate, experiment, and operationalize changes in agricultural systems. Worst still, serious health issue of farmers resulting in catastrophic expenditures may also result in depletion of productive assets such as sale of draught animals and sale of cultivable land; and the consequence of these actions may include reduction of farm size as a result of reduction in labour strength; cultivation of less intensive crops, and reduction in farm inputs resulting in poor livelihood.