By: Arugu Enaanoe

B.sc Agric economy


(Niger Delta University, Bayelsa)

Agriculture is an important human activity. It does not only provide food for the growing population in the world but also provide means for foreign exchange and accounts for the stability of both rural and urban economies.

In Nigeria, over 70% of the economically active population is employed in Agriculture and agro-allied industries. The agricultural sector provides about 90% of the food locally consumed and is a major earner of foreign exchange after petroleum. In fact, in an agrarian economy like Nigeria, the importance of agriculture cannot be overemphasized.

The Nigerian agricultural sector is dominated by small scale farmers accounting for about 80-81% of all farm holdings in the country, using crude implements such as hoes, cutlasses, etc.
Agriculture is the major activity of the Abua/Odual people in Rivers State. They're small scale farmers, engaging in all farming activities ranging from production, processing and distribution.

The Abolga people has a soil comprising all the primary elements (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S) in large quantity and naturally rich in organic manure specifically soil fractions such as Humus and Vermiculite with high Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of 200 and 150meq/100g respectively. They have the soil most suitable for agriculture with a tropical climate comprising of wet and dry seasons and an annual temperature of 26.40degree C.

The Abolga people are major producers of cassava (raw and processed ie. to garri, fufu, etc.), plantain, banana, cocoyam, sweet potato and other annual cash crops such as groundnut, pineapple, orange, etc and there products are major boosters of Rivers State main markets and some other markets in Bayelsa State.

Inspite of the humongous contributions of agriculture to the rural economies in Abolga, Rivers State and Nigeria at large, the sector still surfers major setbacks and decline due to neglect by government both local, state and federal.

According to a field survey that I carried out in 2019 where primary data was obtained with the use of a structured questionnaire as an instrumental guide, agriculture in Abolga is marked by the following constraints;

1. Level of education of farmers is relatively low. About 28% of the farmers in Abolga had no formal education, 16% had primary education, 38% had secondary education and only 18% had tertiary education.

2. Lack of involvement in agricultural associations. The study shows that about 97% of the farmers in Abolga does not belong to any agricultural association, only a negligible 3% are members of agricultural associations.

3. No access to credit loans. The study shows that 100% of the farmers in Abolga had no access to credit loans. And this has been a huge challenge to the Abolga people in cause of their production since Agriculture ought to operate in a mechanized level contemporary.

4. No access to extension agents. The study also shows that abou 100% of the farmers in Abolga had no access to extension agents and this has caused a remarkable set back in the production level since they're not informed of new varieties and initiatives.

5. Employment of Family labour as major source of labour. About 82% of the farmers in Abolga employed family labour while only 18% employed hired labour which is an indication that production is at subsistence level.

6. Effects of land tenure system. The study shows that about 87% of the farmers acquired land through inheritance, 11% acquired through lease and just 2% acquired through purchase. This shows that land tenure system causes reduction in food production in Abolga.

7. Small farm sizes. The study shows that about 74% farmers in Abolga had farm sizes less than 1 hectare (this does not include banana and plantain farmers), about 21% of the farmers had farm sizes between 1-2 hectares and only 5% had farm sizes between 4-5 hectares. About 92 % farmers get Inputs from fellow farmers while 8% get inputs from input dealers. This is equally an indication that production level will be at a minimal level because no farmer was reported to have obtained input materials from the ADP.

The study equally revealed that lack of fund for expansion/mechanization and high cost of labour are dominant constraints faced by the farmers in Abolga. Other high ranked factors are flood and pests/diseases of crops. Since the inception of the 2012 flood in Nigeria, it has become a norm that every year, we experience this overflow of waters in our farmlands which not only destroy our crops but also causes leaching in our soils.

When the flood causes a considerable amount of the exchangeable bases to be leached out in the soil, important element like Phosphorus will be tied down by Iron (II) ion and Aluminum (III) ion thereby making the soil to be high in Hydrogen ion hence, acidic and consequently unsuitable for farming because of its unconduciveness for microbial activities. The same way, pests and diseases had reduced production level as well.

Agriculture is the oldest activity of man from prehistoric time which enabled him survive as a gentle savage and even as a rational man in the present age of enlightenment and technological advancement. In other to diversify and stabilize the Abolga economy, agriculture should be encouraged at all level. Because the stability of every nation is measured by how much they can feed the indigenes of that nation.

In other to increase food production in Abolga, I want to make the following recommendations:
1. Government (both local and state), NGOs and other organizations should provide adequate funds and access to credit loans to farmers in Abolga to enable them effectively increase their scale of farming and production level consequently.

2. Government should make policies that will put the ravaging effects of the flood on check, control methods of land acquisition to reduce the negative effects of land tenure system and provide extension services to farmers in Abolga to create awareness on new incentives.

3. Young agro-entrepreneurs should be empowered by the LGA and encouraged to enable them excel in their fields and consequently increase production level in the area.
 Arugu Enaanodinami Edughom

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