Agriculture: Definition, Components & Systems of Agriculture

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Meaning of Agriculture

The word Agriculture is derived from two Latin words Ager and culture which means field and cultivation respectively. Agriculture therefore, is the tilling of the soil to produce both food and cash crops, livestock, etc.

Components of Agriculture

The main components of agriculture are:

  1. Crop production
  2. Livestock farming
  3. Forestry
  4. Fishery


1. Crop Production

Crop production is in two categories food crops and cash crops. Food crops are produced primarily to provide food for the entire population. These include yam, cassava, millet, rice, com, beans etc.

Cash crops are produced primarily either for export or as raw materials for the industries. These include rubber, cocoa, groundnut, cotton etc.

2. Livestock Farming

Livestock consists of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. They are produced mostly for domestic consumption.

3. Forestry

These are the resources provided by the permanent forest estates. They include wood and timber, palm produce as well as wildlife.

4. Fishery

Fishing is an important occupation for many people in West Africa. Fishing is of two categories:

  • Industrial fishing – involving distant water fishing, marine in nature and capital intensive. It usually involves the operation of deep sea trawlers and the on-shore fishery which operates within the continental shelf.
  • Artisanal fishing – is characterized by high labour intensity and low productivity. It includes coastal canoe fishery, fresh water fishery and fish farming among others.

Systems of Agriculture

Various systems of agriculture are practised in different part of the world including West Africa, Middle-East and South America. These include:

1. Subsistence peasant farming: This is the type of farming carried out by a peasant farmer. He usually cultivates small holdings using primitive hoes and cutlasses. His labour force is usually himself, his wife and children.

Peasant farming has the following characteristics:

  • Its use of land is usually small so the output is consequently small.
  • Its method of production is primitive and traditional.
  • It has little access to modern city markets because of transportation difficulties.
  • It has little or no access to high-yielding crops provided by agricultural research institutions.

2. Commercial Farming

The primary concern of this system is to produce for the market. Most peasant farmers are increasingly moving into this category. They are no longer satisfied to produce for consumption alone.

This is made possible by increasing access to fertilizer as well as improved farmmarket roads. This system is characterized by the following:

  • Production for the market.
  • Increased use of modem farm equipment such as fertilizer and tractors.
  • Increased benefits from improved seedlings and agricultural extension workers.
Roles of Commercial Farming
  • It can make available more raw materials for agro-based industries.
  • It can expand the production of export products to earn foreign exchange for the country. This can be employed to obtain industrial inputs thereby contributing to industrial growth in the country.
  • lts expansion will reduce number of peasant farmers and thus create surplus labour for industrial absorption.
  • lf increased output of commercial farming replaces previously imported products, there will be conservation of foreign exchange which can be used to support the country’s industrialization drive.
  • Commercial farming which are capital intensive, will bolster allied industrial activities e.g. production of spare parts, maintenance of farm machinery, etc.
  • It can bring about increase in output of basic food stuffs which can help to keep wages stable. This can aid low cost industrial products that can compete with similar products on the global market.
  • It can create a conducive environment that will accelerate capital accumulation in the country.
  • It will create additional job openings for labour in other sectors of the economy.

3. Plantation Farming

Plantation farming is another type of farming. In the past, most of them were developed by foreign companies, but after indigenization, many plantations were developed and owned by govemment, government agencies and private companies.

Examples of these are Rubber Plantation, Cocoa Plantation, Oil Palm Plantation etc. There have been efforts to grow oranges, mangoes, pineapples and guava in plantations.

4. Large Scale Mechanized Farming

Large scale production involves an extensive use of machinery and other forms of advanced mechanical devices such as tractors, ploughs and combined harvesters not only to plough and plant but also to harvest.

Mechanized farming is promoted by the government through such programmes as River-Basin Authorities in Nigeria. Privately owned companies and individuals have also ventured into large-scale mechanized farming.

5. Co-operative Farming

This involves agricultural activities undertaken by groups of people. Most governments in West Africa encourage co-operative agriculture to be able to save some of them from the problems which a single farmer faces, such as small land area, limited capital and equipment.

A co-operative farm has a greater chance of borrowing from banks and easily attracts grants or loans from government. Cooperative venture is feasible for most of the various agricultural activities in fishing, livestock or in crop production.

6. Farm Settlement

Farm settlement is another type of farming which was practised by some governments in many countries. The farm settlement has a dual objective of increasing food production and providing gainful employment for the settlers.

Importance of Agriculture

  • Agriculture provides the bulk of the capital required for industrial take off in the country.
  • Agriculture releases unskilled and semi-skilled labour needed for the operation of the industrial sector.
  • The agricultural exports provide the necessary foreign exchange required for the purchase of necessary raw materials, manufactured goods and capital equipment for the country.
  • Agriculture provides food for the entire population.
  • Agriculture provides an income for a large percentage of the population thus forming a good market for the products of different industrial enterprises.
  • It provides employment opportunities.
  • It provides raw materials for industries.

Measures to Increase Agricultural Productivity

  • The following measures can lead to an increase in agncultural productivity:
  • Adequate provision of finance and credit finances to farmers should be made.
  • Farmers should be encouraged to adopt modem production technology.
  • The government should improve infrastructural facilities in rural communities.
  • Government should encourage more cooperative societies.
  • Modern storage facilities should be provided.
  • Farmers’ education and extension services should be provided.
  • The supply of high yielding seedlings and fertilizers to farmers should be increased.
  • The government should change the land tenure system to encourage investment in agriculture.

Prospects for Agriculture

  • There is a good prospect for the development of agriculture. This is based on the following factors:
  • Land resources – including arable land, rivers which could be dammed, lakes which can be developed, forestry and extensive sea shores required for large scale fishing.
  • Mineral resources – there are still many mineral resources which are not yet tapped or fully tapped.
  • Human resources – the population is large, the labour force is extensive in number and quality.
  • There are many Universities of Agriculture, specialized agricultural colleges and institutes etc. that train agricultural experts.
  • Increasing sources of finance and credit facilities. There are many specialized banking and non-banking institutions which offer credit facilities to potential farmers. International organizations, and monetary institutions also have specific programmes to aid agricultural development.
  • Extensive local and international markets. These are at different levels of development. Some are not yet fully tapped, while some are not yet tapped at all.
  • Plantation – The prospect of plantation farming in different part of the world is still very good as more and more modern farmers are getting interested in it.

Marketing on Agricultural Commodities

Marketing of agricultural products in Africa, as in other countries can be divided into three categories:

1. Marketing of food-crops produced and consumed locally.

Stable food items produced and consumed locally are marketed in local markets. Some of these products are sold directly by the peasant farmers or their wives. However, a large percentage of the crops pass through the middle men who buy at the local markets in the villages and sell in urban markets.
In most of these markets, basic facilities such as storage and processing are not available therefore resulting in massive wastage and spoilage.

Stable food items are also traded across geographic regions and states. These include commodities like kolanut, cattle, palm oil, groundnut oil, fruit, rice etc.

2. Marketing of crops is no longer handled by Marketing Boards.

Commodities like timber, hides and skin are purchased by private merchants who carry out normal processing and transport abroad.

3. Marketing by Marketing Boards

The marketing of certain crops was normally undertaken by the Marketing Boards. These include cocoa, groundnut, palm produce, rubber, cotton etc.

Marketing Boards were statutory monopolies established by the government to control the purchase and sale of specified agricultural products. The Boards buy from the producers at a given price and sell in the foreign market at another price.

Functions of Marketing Boards

  • Purchasing, grading and selling the country’s principal agricultural cash products.
  • Supply of raw materials for the local processing industries.
  • Improving the quality of agricultural produce through grading.
  • Stabilization of commodity prices and producers income.
  • Provision of funds for economic development.
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