Here in this article, we are going to discuss 10 roles of science and technology in agriculture in Nigeria. We hope you find this piece informative.
Science and Technology play very key roles in agriculture in Nigerian.
10 of such key roles are enumerated below:
- Control of Plant Diseases and Pests
- Reduction and Elimination of Animal Diseases
- Construction of Dams for Irrigation Purposes
- Combating Desertification
- Sustainable Soil Management
- Development of Advanced Post Harvest Techniques and Systems
- Development of Agro-Allied Technological Innovations
- Promotion of Cattle Ranching
Agriculture in precolonial as well as pre-modern times, was a way of life, a means of sustenance or livelihood and was closely associated with the culture of peoples and ethnic groups all over the Nigerian Nation.
However, this was carried out under primitive conditions at best. The land was prepared by clearing, was tilled, ridges were made and seeds planted all by hand or manually as the case may be. This required a very large human workforce, involved arduous labour, was time-consuming and generally was a slow process.
However, with the advent of science and technology, the agricultural landscape changed drastically. This change was brought about by the rise of mechanization- namely mechanized farming or agriculture.
Modern science and technology brought along with it several key benefits, the chief of which are listed below, to name but a few:
-Labour Saving: Arduous human toil was replaced by labour saving equipment.
-Time Saving or Conservation: The lengthy man-hours required by a large human workforce, to cover vast tracts and hectares of arable farmland was cut by half or reduced to the barest minimum time due to the use of farm machines.
The machines can work at a faster rate than humans, do not get tired and can easily carry out repetitive tasks like creating ridges far more accurately than humans. This time is saved or conserved.
-Increased Efficiency: Since the machines used in mechanized farming, do not require food, water, rest and don’t fall ill like human operators, the efficiency of the entire farming process is increased appreciably.
-Enhanced Productivity: Due to labour savings, time savings and increased efficiency, one of the ultimate goals every businessman craves for is achieved: Enhanced Productivity.
This means more goods and /or services churned out at an increasing rate, improved quality, in lesser time, at a lesser cost. This helps boost revenue.
Thus on modern farming settlements, specialized machines like mechanized ploughs are used for ploughing the ground, ridges and harrowers are used for making ridges, combined harvesters are used in crop harvesting while aeroplanes engage in aerial spraying of large hectares of land afflicted by pests and diseases.
2. Control of Plant Diseases and Pests
Plant life on farmlands as well as cash crops is exposed to a wide array of diseases and pests inimical to healthy crop growth and development.
If not put in check these destructive agents can result in the loss of the entire harvest forecasted for a particular planting season.
Fortunately, for farmers and agriculturalists today, modern science and technology has developed methods, systems and agents to curtail, control, combat and even eradicate this menace. This can be listed under the broad categories namely:
Fungal Diseases that attack plants can be controlled through the use of lime, cumin copper and Bordeaux mixture.
Bacterial Diseases can be combated through the administration of antibiotics like cuprous oxide (copper oxide), and powder dust extracts from mercury, copper and sulphur.
Viral Diseases, on the other hand, are quite difficult to curtail hence the strategy in play, is to destroy the insect vectors that harbour the viral pathogens. Nematodes are curtailed using infanticide agents like Nemagon, Vapan D-D and Methyl Bromide.
Pests are eradicated by aerial spraying of vast areas of affected farmlands, via aeroplanes, by both chemical insecticides like fenitrothion for locusts and pesticides like organophosphate fenthion for quelea birds.
3. Reduction and Elimination of Animal Diseases
Agricultural animals are vulnerable to a plethora of diseases that hamper animal growth, development and production.
These disease agents are so virulent and deadly such that if not curtailed, can spread among the animal population, infecting large numbers, leading to an outbreak which usually results in the death of the animals and subsequent loss in revenue.
Farm animals can be attacked by foot and mouth disease, cattle plague, new castle disease, bovine mastitis, roundworms, tapeworms, ringworms, fowl pox, cocotchiosis, aspergillosis as well as mad cow disease to name a few.
The answer to these scourge of diseases is again found in science and technology. Modern systems, procedures, policies and legislation have been put in place to arrest these kinds of situations.
Farm animals can be identified with a unique lifetime identity (ID) code number which along with GPS devices and a comprehensive database enables them to be tracked accurately from their point of origin (place of birth) to points of sale or slaughter.
This disease affected animals can be traced down to particular breeds, farms, markets etc thereby containing the spread.
Furthermore, procedures like quarantine can isolate infected animals. Vaccinations can prevent disease infection and spread while drugs can be administered to sick animals restoring them to good health. All these come on and are available via the platform of science and technology.
4. Construction of Dams for Irrigation Purposes
All farmlands require water for the proper growth of crops. This is all the more evident in cases of crops like rice which require large quantities of water.
Considering the fact that arable farmlands cover vast expanses of land, if not thousands of hectares of land, massive amounts of water would be required to irrigate these lands.
This can be achieved easily by channelling water from dams built to serve the purpose of irrigation. Science and Technology provide the knowledge and expertise required for the construction of such dams.
Below is a list of dams constructed in Nigeria for the purpose of irrigation. This listing shows the state where the dam is domiciled, the dam’s capacity in millions of cubic metres of water, the name of the dam and the surface area it covers.
Name: Goronyo Dam
Capacity: 942 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 20,000 hectares
Name: Bakolori Dam
Capacity: 450 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 8,000 hectares
Name: Jibiya Dam
Capacity: 142 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 4,000 hectares
Name: Zobe Dam
Capacity: 179 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 8,000 hectares
Name: Kafin Zaki Dam
Capacity: 2,700 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 22,000 hectares
Name: Kiri Dam
Capacity: 615 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 11,500 hectares
Name: Oyan River Dam
Capacity: 270 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 4,000 hectares
Name: Tiga Dam
Capacity: 1.874 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 17,800 hectares
Name: Challawa Gorge Dam
Capacity: 930 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 10,117 hectares
Name: Zauro Polder Project
Capacity: Planning Stage
Surface Area: Planning Stage
Name: Ikere Gorge Dam
Capacity: 690 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 4,700 hectares
Name: Asejire Reservoir
Capacity: 32.91 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 2,369 hectares
Name: Dadin Kowa Dam
Capacity: 2,800 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 29,000 hectares
Name: Gusau Dam
Capacity: 3 million cubic metres
Surface Area: Planning Stage
Name: Mambilla Dam
Capacity: Planning Stage
Surface Area: Planning Stage
Name: Obudu Dam
State: Cross River
Capacity: 4.2 million cubic metres
Surface Area: 50 hectares
There is no doubt that irrigation dams- a direct by-product of science and technology, plays a vital role in agriculture.
5. Combating Desertification
Desertification or desert encroachment is a major cause of concern in the Northern part of Nigeria. Vast swathes of once arable land in the savannah belt of Northern Nigeria has been and is being denuded by deforestation.
A direct consequence of this negative trend is non-availability of farmlands and pasture for livestock. Even water bodies that served as major water sources have dried up or shrunk. A classic example worthy of note is the Lake Chad Basin.
The main question on every lip is this: what can be done to arrest this catastrophe? Science and Technology have a solution to this problem.
A highly advanced scientific and technological procedure is used. This procedure uses a system called TIBS – Temporary Immersion Bioreactor System.
An additional supporting process called Micro-propagation is carried out on the plantlets of tolerant tree species (namely the Eucalyptus, Neem and the Acacia trees).
These plantlets undergo tissue culture and when combined with the TIBS serves to counter desertification by reclaiming more land for agricultural purposes.
This has already been achieved by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), both of which are Nigeria government agencies.
What is required at the moment is an extension and replication of these processes and procedures in areas of the far North.
6. Sustainable Soil Management
Science and technology are key requirements in the drive to improve sustainable soil management techniques. Usually, artificial fertilizers are utilized to add nutrients to the soil when such soil types show a nutritional deficiency. However, research studies have revealed that this is not sustainable over time.
Synthetic fertilizers tend to leave a large ecological footprint which is undesirable. Consequently, the authorities in the agricultural sector have been promoting the use of more environmentally sustainable biological fertilizers.
The National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) has successfully produced more environmentally friendly fertilizers.
Two of such prominent products are a fertilizer based on the constituents of Neem trees and an organic fertilizer obtained from Moringa Oleifera. Both NABDA and NARICT are tirelessly collaborating on how to effectively manage organic waste for Biomass Energy production and soil nutrient enhancement. This results in increased crop yields as the soil is enriched maximally.
Read Also: Relationships Between Science And Technology
7. Development of Advanced Post Harvest Techniques and Systems
Science and technology have served to mitigate wastages incurred in the process of transporting, processing, handling, storage and refrigeration. A number of government-funded and controlled agencies have been set up to this end and are actively operational. These agencies are:
1- The National Agency for Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI)
2- The Project Development Institute (PRODA)
3- The Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO)
4- The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC)
5- The National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI)
6- The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP)
All of these government institutions actively working together have jointly put forward agro allied processing technologies.
These cover the processing of cassava, palm oil, tomato, soybeans, millet, meat, fish, dairy, fruits and other cereals/grains.
The goal they jointly aim at is how to reduce losses to the barest minimum level possible especially among smaller players in the industry.
8. Development of Agro-Allied Technological Innovations
The advent of science and technology in agriculture in Nigeria has greatly aided the development of “homegrown” agro-allied technological innovations.
The government has set in motion plans to establish an Agricultural Machinery Development Institute in Nigeria in order to jump-start the development of machinery needed for improved agricultural productivity.
In addition to this, this particular agency will promote and produce low-cost technologies uniquely suited to the Nigerian agricultural sector for food processing and preservation. Furthermore, a bright initiative: The Ward Based Technology Cluster (WBTC) programme is already underway.
This programme’s objective is to deploy technology produced by various Nigerian agencies and research institutes, for adding value to raw materials which are available in 9,555 political wards in Nigeria.
Ultimately, technological empowerment will trickle down to rural communal groups, cooperatives and small farming concerns.
This will create employment and generate revenue when the economic value of raw materials available in these areas is enhanced.
This will be done by the use of these technological innovations to process and convert these raw materials into intermediate products and finished goods. A few of the agro-allied technological innovations developed by Research Institutes in Nigeria are the following:
1- Mobile cassava grater
2- Cassava chipping machine
3- Cassava peeling machine
4- Rotary dryer
5- Cassava pelleting machine
6- Palm oil milling machine
7- Palm fruit digester
8- Palm fruit bunch stripper
9- Seed oil expeller
10- Multi grain thresher
11- Cabinet solar food dryer
12- Rice threshing machine
13- Smokehouse device
9. Promotion of Cattle Ranching
A pivotal role is played by science and technology in the area of promoting livestock farming and cattle ranching, which is a key subsector of the Nigerian Agricultural Industry.
Prior to the onset of science and technology, livestock farming and cattle breeding was a local affair run by majorly nomadic pastoralists using indigenous methods which included nomadic grazing.
This caused the cattle farmers to wander from North to South in search of pasture and water, which seasonal migration exposed the cattle to undue stress travelling over vast distances in kilometres.
Apart from that, the cattle are exposed to attendant health hazards like rinderpest, tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis infections. Today, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel: Cattle Ranching.
This is the ultimate and final solution to the cattle herdsmen vs farmers’ deadly conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives till date. In this system which is modern, rather than travelling vast distances with cattle, the animals are kept within a secure location adequately nourished with enough high-quality pasture and water: a process called “fattening”.
The upside of this is that the cows, as well as the herders, are safe and secure, while the animals do not dissipate energy roaming around thereby losing weight.
Furthermore, under best practices in the industry, the cow’s weight is monitored alongside its health. Any negative observation made in the animal’s health is immediately addressed by a pool of skilled seasoned veterinary doctors.
The animals are also administered vaccines from time to time to counter a wide range of diseases thereby proactively preventing outbreaks and epidemics.
The cumulative positive effect of all these is the resultant increase in milk and meat production, growth in the hides and skins industry, improved calving rates, reduction in calf mortality rates, improved health and wellbeing of both animals and herders as well as their general safety and security.
The Nigerian agency responsible for floating this initiative is the Nigerian Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR).
Read Also: History of Technology in Nigeria
Advanced research techniques, processes and methods brought to bear on the agricultural sector in Nigeria is only possible because of science and technology. One such technique, method or procedure worthy of note is: Bio-fortification.
This, as the name implies, involves the breeding (via scientific procedures) of vitamins and minute portions of nutrients, referred to as micronutrients into staple crops and food plant varieties.
This results in the generation of varieties of staple crops with high yield, highly fortified in nutrients, capable of withstanding plant diseases, pests, herbicides as well as negative harsh environmental conditions like seasonal or perennial drought.
This serves to boost and improve production. The government agencies of NABDA and SHESTCO have pioneered a lot of work in this area.
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