BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Nigeria as a sovereign state is naturally endowed with abundant resources, including both human and material resources. The nation's resources should be fully developed in such a manner that is possible with the mineral deposits of the nation as a whole, which can only be harnessed by rational and efficient utilization of the natural resources. Thus, the importance of resources in any given economy depends on the roles such resources play in economic growth and development of the nation. In developing economies like Nigeria, agriculture constitutes backbone and critical sector of the economy, as the contributions of the sector to the growth and sustainable development of the country cannot be overemphasized. It contributes immensely to economic growth and development of the economy in various ways, such as creation of employment opportunities for the country's workforce, provides food requirement of the economy and industrial raw materials to industries, generates foreign exchange earnings and revenue to the government, and as well eradicates extreme poverty in the country. More so, (Abayomi, 2009) while explaining the nexus between agriculture and economic growth revealed that poor performance of economic growth in an economy especially, in the developing economies is due to slump in agricultural sector performance. Agricultural sector in Nigeria has overtime become an important sector of the economy. It has remained the main sector of Nigerian economy despite the discovery of oil in commercial quantities and its attendant boom since 1970s. For example, despite agricultural sector neglect by government at the emergence of oil in 1970s, the sector remained the major employment segment of the economy thereby employing over 60% of the unemployed workforce in country, reduces extreme poverty and as well promotes economic growth of the economy. In the same view, (Oluwasanmi, 2011) argued that efficient and strong agricultural sector strengthens countries to provide for its fast growing population, create jobs for their workforce, eradicate absolute poverty, feed industries with the required industrial raw materials, generates foreign exchange earnings and revenue to government. This means that agriculture is growth-led factor, which has multiplier effect on socio-economic and industrial development of any economy due to its various contributions to the growth of domestic economy. Similarly, [Olukoya, 2007,Okolo, 2011] and [Emeka, 2007] maintained that agriculture as the most critical sector of the Nigeria’s economy shield several benefits which is capable of facilitating economic growth and development of the nation, just as the sector did in the past decades. The sector’s contribution to total real gross domestic product (RGDP) ranges from 30% to 42%, and has as well engaged over 65% of the country’s total workforce. Agriculture in developing economies like Nigeria is conceived as a prevailing economic activities or occupation from which livelihood can be derived by the greater number of the population of the country. Hence, a business or an industry employs the knowledge of various sciences in the production of food, feed, fiber and fuel. The definition therefore, recognizes the fact that plants and animals were originally grown and developed in an economy without human interference. But with the evolvement of agriculture, human quest to increase food production for the growing population emerged. In that, people began to exploit the growth of plants and animals to produce the type and quantity of food and other products that would meet needs of human population in the society. According to [Ernest, 2014], agriculture contributes to growth and development of an economy in four main ways, and these include product contribution, factor contribution, market contribution, as well as foreign exchange contribution. In Nigeria, the contribution of the agricultural sector to the growth of the domestic economy was relatively significant prior to early 1970s; and however, as the oil sector emerges as the major export earner of the economy, the agricultural sector’s contribution to the growth of the economy declined from 60% in the earlier 1970s to 40%, 30% and less than 26% between 2000 and 2007. Export crops like cocoa, cotton, groundnut, rubber, palm oil and palm kernel that initially contributed up to 65% and 75% of the foreign exchange earnings and which was the main source of revenue of the government through export product, suddenly declined its contribution to total RGDP due to agricultural sector neglect, as oil sector emerged in the economy. The contribution of the sector to total real gross domestic product in Nigeria declined from 48% in 1970s to 20% and 19% between 1980 and 1985. The decline in the sector’s performance to total RGDP was attributed to high revenue receipt recorded from the sales of crude oil products during the era of oil boom during 1970s to early 1980s, occasioned by the Middle East war of 1973.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
With the agricultural sector being so productive with arguably massive potential, why then has it been neglected? The answer to this question prompts the motivation for this study. Recent literature is attempting to estimate the relationship between the agricultural sector and economic development. We argued that this methodology is flawed in the sense that the relationship between the agricultural sector and economic development is best captured over time. There is a gap in explaining the real effect of the agricultural sector on economic growth in Nigeria. Historically, the root of the crises in the Nigerian economy lies in the neglect of the agricultural sector by the Federal Government towards developing dependence on a mono-cultural economy based on oil. This study aims to fill this gap. By extension, we would evaluate the possible reasons for the neglect of this sector beyond the oil boom in 1970s and the impediments to the growth of the sector in Nigeria.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine agricultural development as bedrock of economic development in Nigeria. Other specific objectives of the study include;
H0: There is no significant relationship between agricultural development and the economic development in Nigeria.
H1: There is a significant relationship between agricultural development and the economic development in Nigeria.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study would be of immense benefit towards the development of agriculture in Nigeria by properly assessing the importance of agriculture to the country at large. The study would also be of immense benefit to students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study is restricted to agricultural development as bedrock of economic development in Nigeria, a case study of Ikom L.G.A, Cross River state.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Agriculture: The science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.
Economic development: Is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The term has been used frequently by economists, politicians, and others in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is a policy intervention endeavour with aims of improving the economic and social well-being of people, economic growth is a phenomenon of market productivity and rise in GDP.
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