MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE
The term, agriculture, is derived from two Latin words: “ager“, meaning field, and “cultura“, meaning cultivation. By this statement, agriculture means field cultivation. However, this is not a complete definition of agriculture since agriculture has to do also with animal production.
Agriculture is simply defined as the art and science (or management) that deals with the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals for man’s use.
In other words, agriculture is defined as the deliberate effort made by man to till the soil, cultivate crops and rear animals for food and other purposes. It also involves the sales of produce from agriculture, because production is not complete until the produce gets to the final consumer.
BRANCHES OF AGRICULTURE
The main branches of Agriculture include the following:
1) Animal Science, or Animal Husbandry or Animal Production.
2) Animal Health or Veterinary Medicine.
3) Soil Science.
4) Crop production which include:
- Agronomy (study of crops).
- Crop pathology (study of crop diseases).
- Entomology (study of insect pests of crops).
5) Agricultural Economics and Farm Management.
6) Agricultural Engineering.
7) Agricultural Extension and Education.
8) Forestry and Wild Life Conservation.
10) Apiculture (Bee farming).
11) Heliculture or snailry (snail rearing).
Contributions of these Areas of Specialization to Agricultural Development.
(1) Animal Science
- Animal science ensures the efficient and effective management of farm animals.
- It ensures a better animal productivity.
- It helps to ensure meat and egg production.
- It also promotes the development of new breeds of animals.
- It helps to ensure better feeds for growth and productivity.
(2) Veterinary Medicine
- Veterinary medicine provides a better health management for farm animals.
- It ensures the control of pests and parasites of farm animals.
- It helps to control the diseases of farm animals.
- It also ensures the production of vaccines for animal health care.
- It also ensures a better meat inspection after slaughtering.
(3) Soil Science
- Soil science ensures the maintenance of soil fertility.
- It aids better soil classification and mapping.
- Soil science helps in erosion control methods.
- It aids moisture conservation.
- It aids tillage operation of the soil.
- It helps to apply appropriate fertilizer for different soil types.
(4) Crop Production
- Crop production helps in effective crop management practices.
- Crop production helps in the development of better planting materials, correct crop spacing, etc.
- It ensures better productivity of crops.
- It ensures optimum plant population.
- It promotes optimum harvesting times.
- Crop science ensures the development of improved crops e.g. disease-resistant varieties.
- Crop pathology ensures healthy plant production and management of plant diseases.
- Entomology ensures the control and management of crop pests.
(5) Agricultural Economics and Farm Management
- It promotes agricultural marketing.
- It exposes farmers to sources of farm finance.
- It teaches cooperative farming.
- It ensures the management of agricultural resources.
- It promotes good farm accounting.
- It provides for adequate farm planning and budgeting.
(6) Agricultural Engineering
- It ensures the development of processing and storage equipment.
- It promotes the mechanization of farm operations.
- It ensures the maintenance of farm tools and implements.
- It also ensures the development of appropriate farm tools and implements.
- It enhances the operation of irrigation and drainage.
(7) Agricultural Extension and Education
- It promotes the training of farmers.
- It ensures the dissemination of agricultural information to farmers.
- It ensures the provision of support services to farmers.
- It links farmers to researchers.
(8) Forestry and Wildlife Conservation
- It promotes the conservation of forest products.
- It ensures the conservation of wildlife.
- It ensures the creation of micro climate.
- It is the source of medicinal products.
- It ensures the maintenance of soil fertility.
- It promotes the production of fish.
- It ensures better ways of fish management.
- It promotes better fishing practices.
- It promotes better fish processing.
- Fishery ensures the provision of fish meal.
(10) Apiculture (Bee farming)
- It provides employment to many people.
- It provides honey for local consumption.
- It can also be exported.
- Honey is used for many industrial purposes e.g. production of candles, and cosmetics.
(11) Heliculture or snailry
- Snailry is a good source of animal protein.
- It is rich in certain minerals e.g. iron.
- The shell is used as source of calcium.
- It is also very useful in some industries.
IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE
Agriculture plays an important role in the development of all nations. It is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy and other developing countries. The importance of agriculture can be grouped into three major categories:
(A) To individual or farmer
1) Provision of Food
- It is only through agriculture that man can feed. Agriculture provides food such as maize, rice, yam, meat, milk and egg for human consumption, either in fresh or processed form.
- A nation that can feed its population can save a lot of money for other goods and services that are not provided through agriculture.
- Through the provision of food and importation of such food items like rice, milk and sugar, money accrue to the government thereby preventing the nation from bankruptcy.
- As a result of self-sufficiency in the provision of food to feed the population, debt burden on the nation is also reduced.
2) Provision of Materials for Shelter
- Agriculture provides materials essential for building, such as poles, doors, windows, roofs, partitions and floor.
- It also provides materials required for furniture, such as chairs, tables, beds and cabinets.
3) Provision of Materials for Clothing
- Agriculture provides fibre and cotton for textile production.
- It also provides hides and skin for clothing, shoes, belts, caps and bags.
- Agriculture also provides wool (from sheep) and silk for clothing.
4) Employment for the Working Population
- Agriculture and other agro-based industries provide employment opportunities for 60-70% of the population.
- Agriculture which develops into a commercial venture ensures the ability of those employed in it to produce food to feed the country and also for export.
5) Generation of Income for Farmers
- Sales of crops and crop products provide income for farmers.
- Sales of animals and animal products also provide income for farmers.
- Wages and salaries are also provided for agricultural workers/ labour.
(B) To Society or Community
6) Development of Towns
- Development occurs where commercial agriculture exists, as social amenities like electricity and pipe borne-water will be provided.
- Good and motorable roads are provided.
- It may also result in the establishment of agro-based industries in such towns/ villages.
7) Provision of Facilities for Recreation and Tourism
- It leads to the establishment of game reserve.
- Agriculture can also provide horse for horse racing and polo.
(C) To the nation
8) Sources of Foreign Exchange Earnings
- Through the export of agricultural produce like cocoa, kolanut, groundnut, kenaf, palm produce and cotton, a nation can earn foreign exchange.
- Foreign exchange so earned can be used, in turn, to purchase goods necessary for the improvement of agriculture.
- The development of agricultural exports will minimise dependence on crude oil with its fluctuating prices.
9) Provision of Market for Industrial Goods
- Agriculture provides market for industrial products, such as farm machinery, chemicals, fertilizers.
- It also provides processing and storage facilities for agriculture.
10) Generation of Revenue
- Government receives a lot of revenue from the export of agricultural products through export duties and tax.
- The revenue is used to service other sectors of the economy.
- It also boosts internally generated revenue of the government.
11) Provision of Raw materials for Industries
Agriculture supplies several industries with raw materials for their continuous existence.
Industries which depend on agriculture for their raw materials are called agro-allied or agro-based industries. Examples of agro-based industries and the raw materials used in such industries are:
- The beverage industry which depends on cocoa and coffee for the production of several food drinks such as Bournvita and tea.
- Plastic industry which depends on natural rubber for the production of tyres, plastic buckets, plates, etc.