For many years, agriculture has been viewed by most as the profession of the poor and the peasants. They seem to think of agriculturists as low, dirty workers whose only benefit is to provide food for the populace. And worse if the agriculturist is a subsistence farmer who only works for his mouth and that of his immediate family, then this is the “most real” poor man.
This narrative is even shared by learned people. You will find students not wanting to go for agricultural disciplines when they reach colleges and tertiary institutions. Even non-agric students see themselves as superior to their agricultural counterparts.
This post seeks to enlighten readers on why agriculture should really be pursued. Without any bias or apologies, we shall bring to you valid reasons why you should never downplay the place of agriculture (we know many of you still don’t know more than the “farmers feed the nation” narrative). Just you tarry a while and read along.
Before we dive in deep!
Do you know that agriculture was the highest source of national income (GDP) in Nigeria for many years before the oil boom of the 1970s? Those were the years we produced cocoa and were the biggest producers (along with other African countries like Cameroun, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire in the whole wide world), cotton, groundnut, etc.
You probably already knew this fact. The Arabian Peninsula, KSA: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to be precise, lived and thrived on agricultural produce e. g dates despite being an arid region long before their discovery of oil just like Nigeria.
Agriculture accounts for a great amount of GDP in developed states (and even underdeveloped countries) like the United Kingdom, United States of America, The Netherlands, France, etc. China has a 12% GDP coming from agriculture, India 18% of her GDP, Brazil’s principal base is nothing but agriculture.
Coming to Africa, Liberia has recently developed due to her rubber and oil palm productions and has 68% of her overall employment rate from agriculture. Approximately 80% of the whole of West Africa’s GDP comes from Liberia’s agriculture.
The same can be said about Somalia who contributes 60% of entire East Africa’s GDP despite that only 1.6% of her arid land has been cultivated. It has a thriving banana and sugarcane plantation.
Okay so, let us start talking about agriculture. However, I will start with what you have always known.
Agriculture is the feeder of mouths
Franklin D. Roosevelt, former president of the United States of America had once said, “the nation that destroys its soil destroys itself”. No gainsaying that without agriculture, a nation will go hungry.
Regions that have had to suffer from famines and droughts will know this better. Yuusuf (Joseph in the Bible) helped to avert years of famine with counter agricultural ideas. Nigeria survived the (West) African drought simply due to her agric reserves in the year 1973 while Sahelian countries suffered from the disaster.
Farmers are the ones who rear the animals and cultivate crops for the general populace. While a farmer may grow for himself and his family alone, many farmers do so for the benefit of society. A nation with food easily grows and is usually stable. No nation, on the other hand, that her people are hungry ever boasts of a stable economy. Suffice to say that food is directly proportional to the success of a nation.
Now, onto what you didn’t know but are about to find out:
Agriculture is a massive employer of labor
I have mentioned some points on this in the DYK above. In the United Kingdom, agriculture employs a large number of people. Since agriculture, like many other disciplines, is diverse, it means that it can employ people in its various fields; animal production, plant production, extension and agricultural economics, ornamental agriculture and landscaping, veterinary medicine, agricultural technology (think bulldozers, tractors, and others), soil science and the list would go on and on.
I remember listing more than 20 fields under this vast discipline last week at work during a meeting. Although employment opportunities vary from country to country, the fact remains that agriculture is a massive employer of labour. The United Kingdom had 66,000 agricultural job openings between the years 2012 to the last year 2020.
In a stable economy, the likelihood of agric graduates getting a job is very high. For example, the U. K has an employment rate of 100% for graduates of agriculture. This may not be the same with us in Nigeria but agriculture is still the highest employer of labour here. With agriculture, you have no reason to complain about unemployment.
An agric-oriented individual especially one who studied agriculture is set up for wealth even if he decides to go small. Agriculture allows entrepreneurs to set up and start small and eventually grow big. You however must be firm and ready to face the risks.
There are many stories and testimonies of farmers who embarked on small Agri projects and laughed out loud big time after some years (of course we are not forgetting the inevitable risks). Many are those who although gainfully employed in offices, artisans, sole proprietors, and owners of various business ventures try out their hands in agriculture and struck gold.
With agriculture, you can easily get plastic and with access to clean water and you’re on your way to becoming the next catfish supplier in your neighborhood.
With a simple furniture construction, you can decide to rear a few numbers of birds for some few months, think broilers to target some festive period (and this has become a common venture for many as witnessed over the years in Nigerian cities during festivals), or for sale at the local market or some food outlets close to your location.
You can get access to a very small parcel of land and still become the supplier of vegetables and other perishables to local sellers and direct consumers. All these can be achieved with little to medium capital base (no doubt large capital is best and usually brings more input all things being equal).
Having talked about making money via small-scale agriculture and noting that huge capital fetches more wealth ceteris paribus, everyone probably already knows that agriculture drives in smooth cash for a farmer (now referring to a full-time, commercial farmer). A dairy, layers, fish farmer – to mention a few – is a potential wealthy man.
The advantage with agribusiness is that food is eaten on a daily basis so the eggs from your layers, the big snails, fruits and veggies, fish, poultry or ruminant meat even the hide locally known as ponmo that is not nutritive are always high on demand. No one fights food even if its price skyrockets.
Agric products and their by-products are necessity commodities. As a farmer, you will always have your bank alert alerting you at all times. Now, that’s a smile.
Agriculture isn’t left out in the computer age
In a new world where computers and tech have taken over almost all fields, it is no surprise that agriculture has also embraced technology. A few years back and we would laugh at the computer-related courses we were to take at our institutions.
“Of what use is CSC 101 and the likes?” were the funny questions we would all ask then. Not too long after, we have seen with our very eyes the place of computers and tech in agriculture – and not just in the offices where PCs are used for entering farm records and accounts, no! – right on the field.
There exists mobile apps which also utilize GPS that can be used to measure and record plant parameters like foliage count, root or stem length or diameter, and much more especially for research purposes.
Many farms have inculcated the use of drones to oversee proceedings on the farm and surroundings, and this isn’t limited to developed countries alone. Many African countries including Nigeria and South Africa have started using high-flying drones on their farms too. The use of farm machinery need not be mentioned in this post since this isn’t any more news.
Agriculture translates to good health
Medical practitioners would advise that what a man ingests goes a long way to determine his health. Eat well, you’ll be well, eat what’s bad, your health goes bad (quote mine). It is that simple. Aside from the benefits of food to a nation, food is the determinant of one’s health or the entire nation’s health.
The Virgin Mary had Phoenix dactylifera (dates) for her delivery of Jesus Christ and it aided her. A well-fed family will easily be identified as would be a nutrition-deficient family. Kwashiorkor, Rickets are perfect examples of diseases from malnutrition.
It is not uncommon to find that foreign aids to a country or region suffering from natural or man-made disasters mostly comes in form of food. Think current Syria or Yemen. Many fruits and plants have numerous health benefits e.g dates, watermelon, cucumbers, carrots, black seeds, and many more.
Some health experts opine that PBDs can actually be maintained and one would turn out to be healthier than the normal person who takes both plants and animal-based meals. Matter of fact, some athletes only do PBDs to keep and maintain their fitness levels.
For anyone who intends to diet too or lose weight, food intake forms a good part of his/her precautionary measures.
Agriculture and the environment
Soil management happens to be the basis of all scientific agriculture which involves common farm practices like tillage and the control of soil pollution and erosion. Farmers help to prevent soil erosion by utilizing the land for farming.
Plants inhibit soil erosion by utilizing the water on the soil surface. Some regions channel excess water into reservoirs and dams to enable irrigation. Many arid lands engage in irrigation to cater for the scarcity of water e. g the Northern parts of Nigeria.
Egypt utilizes the mighty River Nile as its main source of irrigation. Dams prevent what would have turned out to be deluged.
Forests and trees while serving as oxygen sources on one hand also serve as windbreaks on the other. And the world has come to realize more usage for trees since the global warming crisis. Now, many countries have enforced afforestation and battling deforestation and there is the tree planting day in the world now.
Ruminant animals as well help to reduce weeds around the surrounding and their waste products serve as manure for the land.
These and many other reasons that I haven’t mentioned are some of the massive and countless benefits of agriculture.
So when next anyone downplays agriculture beside you, show him this article… or better still, shut him up with the proofs. Let him remain silent forever.