Diversification in Agriculture Sector: A Catalyst For Sustainable Economic Development in Nigeria

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.

The Economic Role Of Agriculture In China

The “Chinese economic miracle” seems to have captured the whole world’s attention, especially when it comes to production, manufacturing, sourcing, FDI inflow to China etc’. But do we know about the biggest sector in the Chinese labour market – the agricultural sector?

The PRC inherited a ruined country, exhausted from both man made disasters such as warlords, civil wars, occupation, and natural disasters, droughts, famine, and floods.

During the Mao era, the Chinese government carried out a wide ranging land reform in the rural areas. Farmers with little or no land were given land of their own, significantly arousing their enthusiasm for production. Overall in Mao’s period, China’s agriculture developed slowly, with some golden times such as 1953-57 when the yearly gross output increased by 4.5% on average.

Under Mao, the conceptual role of agriculture was imperative. The Chinese farmer was basically the equivalent to the Soviet blue collar proletarian, thus the importance of the farmers in the class struggle was fundamental.

After 1978 and under the reforms, China introduced the household contract responsibility system, linking remuneration to output, and started to dismantle the people’s commune system, eliminating the links between organizations of state power and economic organizations. Contracting land out to farmers altered the distribution form of land and mobilized the farmers’ enthusiasm for production. As a result, for six years following 1978, agricultural output grew more than twice as fast as the average growth rate over the previous twenty five years.

The reforms made the market play a basic role in adjusting supply and demand situation for agricultural products and allocating resources, and aroused the farmers’ creativeness and enthusiasm for production.

On the whole, the reformist thrust of China’s economic policy since 1978 has benefited agriculture, as it has benefited the economy in general. Nevertheless, after 30 years of reforms, the sector is still behind most of the other sectors in the Chinese economy.

The economic and political role of agriculture in contemporary China –

1. Food security. In an extremely large and populated country like China, the concept of food security is fundamentally important. The task of feeding its people has been perhaps the first priority of its rulers throughout history.

2. Political and social stability. The farmers of China are known to have a “rebellious spirit”, which is well documented in the history books. When famine, war, or other extreme conditions took place, the farmers of China, whom use to be the majority of the population, and remain to be the largest group of China’s people, chose to strike. Thus, there is a consensus that there is no stability without the farmers / agriculture, and in order to avoid “da luan” – big chaos, the farmers must be kept quiet and content. At present still, the farmers of China are the largest, yet under-represented group, which holds the keys to stability in China.

3. Employment tool. The concept of agriculture as an employment tool in China is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand there is a massive scale of labour surplus in the agricultural sector, resulting in underemployment or even unemployment. On the other hand, agriculture remains to be the biggest sector responsible for the employing feeding, and consequently keeping social and political order of around 60% of China’s population.

4. GDP share. The reforms in the early 1980s initially increased the relatively share of the agricultural sector. The share of agricultural output in the total GDP rose from 30% in 1980 to 33% in 1983. Since then, however, the share of agriculture in the total GDP has fallen fairly steadily, and by 2003 it was only 14%. These figures indicate a relatively small share of the agricultural sector, nevertheless a noteworthy one in the overall performance of the Chinese economy.

What are the main obstacles to the agricultural sector in China than?

1. Natural resources and disasters. At the beginning of the 21st century, China has still to face and deal with a number of severe ecological / environmental problems, some are the consequences of human mistakes, and some are simply a result of “mother nature’s” course. The main problems are water supply, i.e. shortage, wastage and quality. In the agricultural context, irrigation is likely to be the most important factor.

2. Education. Chinese policy documents state that national modernization depends on accelerating quantity-quality transition in the countryside, because a large “low quality” rural populace hinders progression from tradition, poverty and agrarianism to modernity and prosperity.

3. Technology. The standard of a country’s agriculture is appraised, first and foremost, by the competence of its farmers. Poorly trained farmers are not capable of applying advanced methods and new technologies. Deng Xiaoping always stressed the prominent of science and technology in the development of agriculture. He said – “The development of agriculture depends first on policy, and second on science. There is no limit to developments in science and technology, nor to the role that they can play….in the end it may be that science will provide a solution to our agricultural problems”.

Accordingly, China is seeking technology transfer in the agricultural sector, formed by joint ventures with international collaborators.

4. Limited investment from government. Between the Second and Fifth five-year plan periods (1958-1962 and 1976-1980), agriculture’s share of capital construction and other relevant forms of investment made available by the state remained a little over 10%. In 1998 agriculture and irrigation accounted, respectively, for less thsn 2% and 3.5% of all state construction investment.

5. Limited inflow of FDI – foreign direct investment. Most sectors in China enjoy an enormous inflow of FDI, which particularly helped in 2 dimensions – technology transfer and capital availability. The lack of an outside funding, accompanied with a reduced local funding contributed to the deterioration of the agricultural sector.

In conclusion, the agricultural sector in China, unlike other sectors in the Chinese economy, is still rather under developed, and requires a substantial boost from both the local and the international community. It is my prediction than, that more and more foreign investors will discover its enormous potential and act accordingly.