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The study of economic history provides us with ample evidence that an agricultural revolution is a fundamental pre-condition for economic development (Eicher & Witt, 1964; Oluwasami 1966; Jones & Woolf, 1909). The agricultural sector has the potential to be the industrial and economic springboard from which a country’s development can take off. Indeed, more often than not, agricultural activities are usually concentrated in the less developed rural areas where there is a critical need for rural transformation, redistribution, poverty alleviation and socio-economic development (Stewart, 2000). Nigeria’s economic aspirations have remained that of altering the structure of production and consumption patterns, diversifying the economic base and reducing dependence on oil, with the aim of putting the economy on a path of sustenance, all inclusive and non-inflationary growth. Despite Nigeria’s vast agricultural resources both human and natural, we are still faced with acute food crisis, the intensification of poverty and massive suffering of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians. This situation is however typical of all third world countries operating within the neo colonial capitalist system (Akor, 2009).

Nigeria is generously endowed with abundant natural resources including biological and non -biological resources. Resources depend on importance attached to it, hence agriculture constitutes one of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy. The significance of the agricultural resource in bringing about economic growth and sustainable development of a nation cannot be under-estimated. Agriculture contributes to the growth of the economy, provides employment opportunities for the teeming population, export revenue earnings and eradicates poverty in the economy.

Abayomi (1997) stated that stagnation in agriculture is the principal explanation for poor economic performance, while rising agricultural productivity has been the most important concomitant of a successful industrialization. The pervasive influence of agriculture on Nigeria’s economic and social development has also been articulated by Oluwasanmi (1996) “A strong and efficient agricultural sector could enable a country to feed its growing population, generate employment, earn foreign exchange and provide raw materials for industries”. The agricultural sector has a multiplier effect on any nation’s socio- economic and industrial fabric because of the multifunctional nature of agriculture (Ogen, 2007).

Agriculture has been defined as the production of food and livestock and the purposeful tendering of plants and animals, (Ahmed, 1995). He stated further that agriculture is the mainstay of many economies and it is fundamental to the socio- economic development of a nation because it is a major element and factor in national development. In the same vein, Okolo (2004) described the agricultural sector as the most important sector of the Nigerian economy which holds a lot of potentials for the future economic development of the nation as it had done in the past. Notwithstanding the enviable position of the oil sector in the Nigerian economy over the past three decades, the agricultural sector is arguably the most important sector of the economy.

Generally the agricultural sector contributes to the development of an economy in four major ways ;product contribution, factor contribution, market contribution and foreign exchange contribution (Abayomi, 1997; Abdullahi 2002 & World Bank 2007). The objective of this study is therefore to examine the agricultural sector as the key to the diversification of the Nigerian economy for sustainable development.

The definition of agriculture changes over time. Agriculture is the cultivation of plants and husbandry of animals. That is, the management of living things and eco systems to produce goods and services for the people. Agriculture includes farming, ranching, aquaculture, apiculture, horticulture, viticulture, animal husbandry, including but not limited to the care and raising of livestock, poultry husbandry and the production of poultry and poultry products, diary production, the production of field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees, flowers, sod or mushrooms, timber, pasturage, any combination of the foregoing, the processing, drying, storage and marketing of agricultural products. When these activities are conducted in conjunction with, but are secondary to such husbandry or production.

The sustainability of agriculture in Nigeria cannot be isolated from the sustainability of economic development. A number of other related definitions are also in common usage. The American Society of Agronomy, for example, defines sustainable agriculture as one that, over the long term, enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends, provides for basic human food and fiber needs, is economically viable, and enhances the quality of life of farmers and society as a whole (Uptal, 2001).

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