Meaning of Agriculture
Agriculture simply means the practice of farming; which involves the cultivation of land, planting of crops and rearing of animals for human use.
However, modern definition describes it as the art and science of tilting or cultivating the soil to grow crops, rear livestock (animals), prepare animal feeds, process crop and animal products for man and the process of selling harvested crops and livestock.
Agriculture provides food, clothing, shelter, income and job opportunities for mankind. At every stage of agriculture, jobs are created. It forms the main backbone of many nations’ economy.
Scope of Agriculture
The scope of agricultural science has to do with the subjects covered. The scope of agriculture includes:
Crop Science: This is the study of plants and their uses.
Animal Science: This is the study of the management of domestic animal
Veterinary Science: This is the science of the health and diseases of animals.
Aquaculture: This is the farming of aquatic animals like fish, crustaceans (shrimps, lobsters, crabs, etc), and aquatic plants.
Agricultural extension: This is the study of the application of scientific research and knowledge to improve farmers’ education on agricultural practices.
Soil science: It is the study of soil and its composition.
Food science: This is the scientific study of food.
Horticulture: This is the science of growing fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants.
Apiculture: This is the study of the breeding of bees to produce honey.
Floriculture: This deals with growing of flowers and other ornamental plants.
Heliciculture: This is the science of growing snails for food.
Importance of Agriculture
Efforts have been made by the various governments, to improve agricultural practice in Nigeria. This is basically due to the valuable contribution agriculture makes to the social and economic development of the country. Notable among these contributions are stated as follows:
Agriculture provides food in adequate amount for the citizens. This ensures good health, efficiency at work and conservation of foreign exchange earnings.
This also reduces the dependency on other countries thereby makes Nigeria self sufficient as a nation. Food items provided by agriculture include maize, rice, groundnut, mills, beans, oil palm, meat, fish, sorghum, poultry, vegetables, fruits, eggs, yams, cassava, dairy products Such as milk, cheese, yoghurt etc
Agriculture provides employment for people both on the farm and industries and hence a means of livelihood. ft is estimated that over 70% of Nigerians are engaged in agriculture as primary occupation.
3. Raw Materials
Local industries largely rely on raw materials for the supply of essential goods for the citizens. This has led to the establishment of agro-based industries which employ labour and also serve as consumers of raw materials produced in the farms. Examples of such raw materials are wheat grains, sugarcane, cotton, tobacco, cocoa, palm oil, palm kernel, rubber, groundnut, hides and skin etc.
Farmers and middlemen derive income from selling their farm products. Such income is re-invested and used for paying other services they do not provide.
5. Gross National Product (GNP)
The contributions to GNP or total financial earnings from agricultural products are high. This is usually in local or foreign currency through external trade with other countries. Such earnings enable the government to improve the standard of living of the people through the provision of essential amenities e.g. potable water, health care, schools, roads etc.
Clothing materials are derived from agricultural products like cotton plant and animal skin (leather).
7. Livestock Feed
Feed for various livestock are obtained from agricultural products. These include maize, groundnut cake, palm kernel cake, cotton seed cake, soya bean, grass, hay, silage etc.
8. Shelter Materials
Different types of materials used for the construction and building of houses and homestead are agricultural materials. Examples are timber, straw, thatches, leaves, grass etc.
Natural places of interest attract tourists from within and outside the country. These include game reserves, waterfalls and warm springs.
10. Rural Development
Development programmes established by government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the rural areas make life more comfortable for farmers and other residents. Examples are rural electrification scheme, water scheme, road network, health care centre, schools, cottage industries, extension services and other production inputs.
11. Materials for building
Agriculture is also important because it provides materials for the construction of houses, tents, lorries and canoes. It also provides materials used in making other household materials such as doors, roofs, poles, chairs and tables. These materials provide comfort.
Scroll Down to Select Page 3 for the next lesson – Lesson Two: Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture