Agriculture remains the mainstay of Nigerian economy, the main source of food for the population, providing means of livelihood for over 70% of population and a major source of raw material for the agro‑allied industries (Okumadewa, 1997; World Bank, 1998). Agriculture was, until the discovery of oil in the 70s the highest foreign exchange earner, though oil led to the increase in petroleum export at that period. This emphasizes its preeminence in the Nigerian economy. Agriculture helps to bring a change in the overall development of a nation. The agricultural sector is necessary for economic development, the provision of raw materials and for industrialization.
The agricultural sector is salient for ensuring enough food supply and its security, income and employment generation. It should be noted that around the world, about two-thirds of all employees work in the agricultural sector (World Bank, 2009). Nigeria, though depend largely on oil industry for its budgetary revenue as she runs a monoculture economy, is still predominantly an agrarian society. In the periods immediately after independence, the agricultural sector performs outstanding role to the extent that the regional development, witnessed during that period was attributed directly to the sector.
Agricultural productivity is a crucial single factor influencing the standard of living of both rural and urban areas (Yusuf, 2002). Agricultural production in Nigeria is mainly characterized by small scale farmers scattered over wide expanse of land area, with small holdings ranging from 0.05-, poor access to modern input and credit, poor infrastructure, land and environmental degradation, inadequate research and extension service, poor response to technology, adoption of strategies with poor return on investment. (Olayemi, 1994; Manyong et al, 2005).
Oil boom led to the rapid decline in the agricultural sector. Nigeria became a major importer of agricultural products as against its major position as a major exporter of agricultural product. As a result of this, there was a decline in the economy in terms of active population in agriculture in Nigeria, leading to an increase in the level of unemployment. Some programs which aimed at revitalizing agricultural sector such as Green Revolution which was launched in 1980, centering its objective at self-reliance in food and diversification of Nigeria’s source of foreign exchange. But its achievement like livestock production, forestry and fishery short-lived and the program failed due to shortage of funds, mismanagement, poor and thorough research and extension services, problems of land, inadequate data, inadequate executive capacity and lack of infrastructural facilities. (Anyanwu, 1986).
It is said that agricultural contribution to gross domestic product fell to 14.63% in 1983 as against 61.50% in 1963/64 because agriculture was left for white-collar jobs. Due to the multifunctional nature of agricultural sector, it has a multiplier effect on any nation’s socio-economic and industrial fabric. Also, it is crucial to the industrial and economic spring board from which the country’s development can take off. Development economics have in fact attributed the present economic situation in the country to the poor performance of agricultural sector. The knowledge of agricultural production landscape (Okuneye, 1995), has shown that the small scale farmers that dominated the production landscape produces about 85% of total production.
Though, agricultural sector has increasingly shrunk in its contribution to the gross domestic product of many nations, it still provides the chunks of the domestic product of many nations, especially the developing ones. Much later thinking moved agriculture to the forefront of developing process, the hopes for technical change in agriculture and “green revolution” suggested that agriculture could be the dynamo for growth, (Wilber and Jameson, 1992). The industrial revolution of the nineteenth century which catapulted the agrarian economies of the most countries of got the impetus in agriculture (Ojenagbo, 2011). All these brought tremendous employment opportunities. The salient nature of agricultural sector in Nigeria and as well in developing nations cannot be undermined especially in generating employment and stimulating the overall economic development.