Agriculture is the oldest profession known to humanity. Its origins can be traced back to the biblical story of the first man, as described in Genesis 2:5, where God tasked him with caring for, tending to, and looking after the garden where tree crops were abundantly planted for their consumption, as well as animals to exercise dominion over and raise or rear. Apart from the religious perspective, researchers have discovered that prehistoric nomadic groups were primarily hunters during the Stone Age, approximately 3 million years ago. Despite only having stone tools and fire at their disposal, they developed a sophisticated understanding of vegetation and made use of what they had. This noble profession is so important that even a nursery school child could recite “the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals for man’s use” while playing.
It is unfortunate that despite agriculture’s indispensability to humanity, it is often treated with disdain, neglect, and disrespect, and is seldom considered by younger generations. There are hardly no major cons of Agriculture, but its three main advantages are wealth, health, and food. These three pillars of agriculture will be discussed in turn.
WEALTH: Did you know that Liu Yongxing is the world’s wealthiest farmer with a net worth of $6.6 billion? Agriculture is an overlooked goldmine. From January to March 2021, agriculture, a vital but often neglected sector, contributed 22.35% to Nigeria’s total GDP. Agricultural development is crucial for driving economic transformation and generating income for the world’s large population. Agriculture is the world’s largest employer. As long as food is essential for life, both plants and animals and their by-products will remain in demand. Cash crops such as cocoa, rubber, beni-seed, oil palm, groundnut, cashew, and others are significant sources of revenue. Animals and their by-products such as wool, hide, and skin can be used to produce leather and clothing which generates income when sold.
HEALTH: It is often said that health is wealth. Agriculture plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The cultivation of crops, particularly organic crops, promotes healthy eating and nutrition, thereby improving overall health. Medicinal plants such as Bitter leaf serve as detoxifiers and remedies for stomach aches, malaria, typhoid fever, diarrhea, and diabetes. In addition, Aloe vera is a key component in soaps and creams. Scientists have clinically demonstrated that consuming moderate amounts of Bitter kola improves sexual health. Eye drops made with Bitter kola are effective in preventing blindness in glaucoma patients. Pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on medicinal plants for drug production.
FOOD: Food production is the primary and fundamental purpose of Agriculture. Food is produced for consumption through either subsistence or commercial agriculture. Cassava is the most widely consumed crop globally due to its versatility and by-products such as garri, starch, flour, fufu, ethanol, etc. Today, agriculture plays a significant role in preventing malnutrition. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45% of deaths among children under the age of five each year and stunted growth in one out of every three children in most developing countries worldwide. If food security is so important, why is Agriculture undervalued?
In conclusion, the three pillars upon which Agriculture stands (wealth, health, and food) are essential to human life. It would be wise for governments to consider diversifying their economies with a focus on Agriculture. If the same energy invested in the oil sector were directed towards agriculture, it would yield more and better results than any other sector has ever produced.
Agriculture is dedicated to ensuring that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, has access to sufficient and affordable food. Agriculture involves the intentional cultivation of crops and the raising of animals for food and other purposes. At the beginning of agriculture (8000 B.C.), the world’s population was estimated to be around five million people. However, statistics show that the current global population is over 7.6 billion people and growing. Agriculture has sustained this ever-increasing world population, making it the driving force behind human civilization.
As the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, the question arises: who will feed our world? The answer lies in the people and activities that have been feeding the world for years. Farmers at various levels engage in diverse agricultural practices such as crop production, cattle farming, fish farming, and poultry farming, all of which produce food for the world. The availability of affordable food depends on the cost of production. Improved production, storage, and processing facilities, as well as reduced transportation costs, are all means of facilitating lower prices for agricultural food products.
The importance of agriculture to health cannot be overstated. The food we eat provides us with nutrients necessary for good health. However, whether this is achieved depends largely on the quality of food made available by farmers. While we cannot conclusively say that food availability automatically ensures good nutrition and good health, it is true that the methods used to produce food determine its nutritional value. Agricultural sectors around the world have recognized this and have begun working towards producing high-quality and abundant food. The Green Evolution Project is one of many initiatives aimed at achieving this goal.
Despite these efforts, it is estimated that over 2.1 billion people worldwide suffer from nutrient-deficiency related diseases such as vision loss, mental retardation, and cardiovascular problems, among others. Furthermore, 804 million people in this category are from developing countries. These facts do not diminish the efforts of farmers; rather, they highlight the need for further efforts to revolutionize agriculture. Investing in Agricultural Research Institutes, Universities, and other agricultural advancement programs would not be too great a sacrifice for any nation to make for the well-being of its citizens. Governments should also use agricultural extension workers in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to communicate directly with farmers and emphasize the importance of producing safe and healthy food.
Agriculture, both in Nigeria and globally, has opened up countless avenues for individuals to secure a stable and dependable income. It not only generates foreign exchange for the government, but also significantly contributes to the annual revenue through tax payments and other duties. The wealth of a nation is not confined to monetary assets; it encompasses all the conditions that set up the nation for successful money generation. Food, being the primary source of energy for humans, is essential for productivity. Without it, there would be stagnation leading to minimal or no productivity. Hence, we assert that agriculture is the backbone of global economies.
No investment is too large for the agricultural sector. It is imperative for governments and individuals worldwide to join forces to tackle the numerous challenges currently plaguing agriculture. This collective effort is aimed at creating a world that is greener, healthier, wealthier, and more productive.
Agriculture is derived from two Latin words, “ager” meaning field and “cultura” meaning cultivation. Hence, agriculture refers to the cultivation of fields, or in other words, the art and science of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising animals. Agriculture has a rich history in Nigeria and was the backbone of the country’s economy before the discovery of crude oil. The green color on the national flag represents agriculture. Agriculture is a crucial sector in the Nigerian economy, blessed with abundant resources such as an arable land area of 34 million hectares, 6.5 million hectares for permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares of meadows and pastures.
Agriculture is indispensable in our daily lives as it provides food for consumption, nourishment, and survival through crop or animal production, yielding a variety of food products such as vegetables, meat, cereals, oils, milk, tubers, eggs, etc. Approximately 70% of Nigerian households are involved in crop production, meaning that 70% of households depend on agriculture for their food through direct cultivation. With over 7 billion people in the world, agriculture has become more efficient in producing food to meet global demand.
Agriculture has improved the health of people worldwide because food is medicine; it provides the body with essential nutrients for proper functioning, normal development, and growth. Recently, biofortification efforts to develop crops rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron have solved many nutrient deficiency problems. Various drugs and healthcare products are made from leaves, roots, and extracts of agricultural crops.
Agriculture is also a reliable source of wealth for individuals, families, and nations. Through foreign trade, agricultural commodities such as cotton, cocoa, palm oil, sugar etc., are exported generating national revenue.The journey of agricultural products, from production to sales, involves various stages such as processing, packaging, storage, and transportation. At each stage, people across the value chains earn income from their involvement in the process. Thus, the agricultural industry provides a source of livelihood for many individuals.
In summary, Agriculture rests on a three-legged tripod of health, wealth, and food. It is all-important that governments, stakeholders, youths, and individuals worldwide engage in and enhance this sector, as Agriculture is our health, wealth, and food.
Authors: Joel Emmanuel Benson, Mgbemena Ifechukwu Precious, Amough Queen Torlawase, Ozigi Nana Fatima, Adesanya Adeyemi Adedolapo, Prof. Park O. Idisi and N.C Odoh (PhD)