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 Agriculture (including hunting, forestry and fishing) contributed an estimated 32% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1998 to the Nigerian economy. An estimated 35.2% of the labour force was employed in the sector in that year. The principal cash crops are cocoa (which accounted for only 0.7% of total merchandise exports in 1995), rubber and oil palm. Staple foods include rice, maize, taro, yams, cassava, sorghum and millet. Timber production, the raising of livestock (principally goats, sheep, cattle and poultry), and artisanal fisheries are also important. According to World Bank estimates, agricultural GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.9% in 1990-98.
The sector remains the largest contributor to the Nigerian economy, accounting for over 38% of the non-oil foreign exchange earnings, and employing about 70% of the active labour force of the population. Although, the sector has suffered much neglect by the Federal Government since the discovery of petroleum in commercial quantity in 1958, but its importance cannot be over emphasised in the Nigerian economy.
Brief History
The agricultural history of Nigeria is intertwined with its political history. This can be assessed from the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. Before the British conquest the pre-colonial society strived on agriculture as the main stay of the traditional economy. The period of the colonial administration in Nigeria, 1861 – 1960, was punctuated by rather ad hoc attention to agricultural development. During the era, considerable emphasis was placed on research and extension services. But of importance to the writer is the post-colonial period.
The 1962-1968 development plan was Nigeria’s first national plan. Among several objectives, it emphasised the introduction of more modern agricultural methods through farm settlements, co-operative (nucleus) plantations, supply of improved farm implements (e.g. hydraulic hand presses for oil palm processing) and a greatly expanded agricultural extension service.
Some of the specialised development schemes initiated or implemented during this period included:
Farm Settlement Schemes; and
National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), launched in 1972.
There were also a number of agricultural development intervention experiments, notably
Operation Feed the Nation, launched in 1976;
River Basin and Rural Development Authorities, established in 1976;
Green Revolution Programme, inaugurated in 1980; and
The World Bank-funded Agricultural Development Projects (ADP).
While each of the above programmes sought to improve food production, the ADPs represented the major practical demonstration of the integrated approach to agricultural development in Nigeria.
In spite of the growing importance of oil, Nigeria has remained essentially an agrarian economy, with agriculture still accounting for significant shares in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and total exports as well as employing the bulk of the labour force. Available data show that at independence in 1960 the contribution of agriculture to the GDP was about 60%, which is typical for developing agrarian nations. However, this share declined over time to only about 25% between 1975 and 1979, this was due partly to the phenomenal growth of the mining and manufacturing sectors during the period and partly as a result of the disincentives created by the macroeconomic environment.
Similarly, the growth rate of agricultural production exhibited a downward trend during the period. Thus, between 1970 and 1982, agricultural production stagnated at less than one percent annual growth rate, at a time when the population growth was between 2.5 to 3.0 per cent per annum. There was a sharp decline in export crop production, while food production increased only marginally. Thus, domestic food supply had to be augmented through large imports. The food import bill rose from a mere N112.88 million Naira annually during 1970-74 to N1, 964.8 million Naira in 1991.
The years since the early 1960s have also witnessed the establishment of several agricultural research institutes and their extension research liaison services. Some of the major institutions are:
1. Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (AERLS) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria established in 1963;
2. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), at Ibadan and;
3. International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA).
Nigeria’s Agricultural Land Area
Nigeria’s total land area is 92.4million hectares. Of this area 91 million hectares is adjudged to be suitable for cultivation. Approximately half of this cultivable land is effectively under permanent and arable crops, while the rest is covered by forest wood land, permanent pasture and built up areas. Among the States which have the most abundant land areas are Niger (7.6 million hectares) and Borno (2.8 million hectares). See table at: Agriculture dataNigeria's Crops
In 1996, a total of 33 million hectares were cultivated to crops generally; out of which 17.7 million hectares were for staples and 4.9 million hectares were for industrial crops.
Agriculture crops in Nigeria are grouped into the following:
· Cereals (guinea corn "Sorghum spp", millet, maize "Zea mays" and rice "Oryza sativa")
· Root and tuber crops (cassava "Manihot esculenta", yam "Dioscorea spp", cocoyam, and potatoes (sweet and irish))
· Grains legumes and other legumes (cowpeas "Vigna unguiculata", locust bean "Parkia clappertoniana", soyabean "Glycine max" and other beans such as groundnut "Arachis hypogeae", pigeon pea "Cajanus cajan", bambara nuts "Voandzeia subterranean")
· Oil seeds and nuts (melon "Cococynthys citrullus", benniseed "Sesannum orientae or S indicum", kolanut "Cola nitida or C. acuminata", coffee "Coffee Arabic")
· Tree crops, and (cocoa "Theobroma cacao", oil palm "Elaeis guineensis" and rubber "Hevea brasiliensis")
· Vegetables and fruits (vegetables: onions "Allium cepa", African spinach "Amaranthus spp", Indian spinach "Basella rubra", Pumpkin "cucurbita pepo", Sweet pepper "Capsicum annum", Hot pepper "Cinetum africanum", Water leaf "Talinum triangulare", Carrot "Daucus carota" and Lettuce "Lactuaca sativa"; fruits: pineapple "Ananas comosus", Pawpaw "Carica papaya", Mango "Magnifera indica", Banana/plantain "Musa spp", Citrus "Citrus spp" and Guava " psidium guajava")

Nigeria’s Livestock

Culled from http://agriculturepro.blogspot.com/2007/05/nigerias-agriculture-sector.html read more