1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria has substantial economic potential in its‟ agricultural sector. However, despite the importance of agriculture in terms of employment creation, its potential for contributing to economic growth is far from being fully exploited (USAID, 2005). The agricultural sector has been the mainstay of Nigeria‟s economy employing 70% of the active labour force and contributes significantly to the country‟s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign earnings. In 1960, 1970, and 1980, it contributed 55.2%, 40.7% and 18% to GDP respectively, while its contribution to GDP in 1996, 1997, and 1999 stood at 39.0%, 39.4% and 40.4% respectively (NPC and UNDP, 1999). In 2010 agricultural contribution to GDP stood at 30.0%, while currently as at first quarter of 2012, it is contributing 34.4% to the GDP (NBS, 2012). However, there have been recorded decline in agricultural contribution to the national economic growth for over three decades now since emergence of the oil sector. This decline could be associated with the gross neglect of the agricultural sector and over dependence on the oil sector (Ugwu and Kanu, 2012).
The agricultural sector had been constrained with factors such as poor rural infrastructure, poor fertilizer distributions and high cost of farm inputs that could have enhance its production capacity and contribution to the national economy. The oil-boom era had lead to importation of food items in massive scale at the expense of locally produced ones because the rural farmers do not have the technological resources to compete in international market. This discourages the farmers from producing much because they no longer realized the needed profit from their effort (Ogunwole, 2004). The goal of increasing food production and reducing food import has elicited many programmes and policies at the various levels of government (Kudi et al., 2008). In order to revamp the agricultural sector, the Federal Government of Nigeria had embarked on and implemented several agricultural policies and programmes some of which are defunct or abandoned, and some restructured, while others are still in place. Presidential initiatives on cassava production and a number of new programme interventionsare currently implemented to increase area of cassava production, processing and marketing across the country.
Cassava is one of the most widely cultivated crops in the country. It is generally cultivated on small-holdings in association with crops such as maize, groundnut, cowpea, plantation (such as coffee, coconut and oil palm), vegetables and cocoyam depending on the agro-ecological zone and relies on residual soil nutrients when intercropped with maize which has been fertilized or as following crop in rotation with legumes (IITA, 2004; Chukwuji, 2008). Cassava is grown mainly on impoverished soils with no soil amendments such as fertilizers. Continuous cropping of cassava particularly the high yielding varieties without adequate maintenance of soil fertility could lead to soil and environmental degradation (IITA, 2004). Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the World. Its production is currently put at about thirty-four (34) million metric tonnes a year (FAO, 2002).
Nigeria‟s cassava production was targeted at forty (40) million tonnes in 2005 and sixty (60) million tonnes by 2020 (IITA, 2002). The presidential Initiative on Cassava Production and Export has increased the awareness amongst Nigerians of the industrial crop, popularly referred to as the „new black gold‟. According to Nweke et al. (2002)cassava performs five main roles namely: famine reserve crop, rural food staple, cash crop, industrial raw material and earning of foreign exchange. Uses of cassava products are enormous. Virtually, the whole plant from the leaves, stem and the roots has one use or the other. Daneji (2011) posited that, cassava is one of the most staple food crops in many households in Nigeria. The fresh peeled cassava roots are eaten raw, boiled or roasted. They can also be boiled and pounded to obtain “pounded fufu”. This is most popular in the Eastern part of Nigeria. The processed cassava, either in the form of flour, wet pulp or “garri” is cooked or eaten in three main food forms: “fufu“, “eba” and “chickwangue” (Adebile, 2012). Cassava leaves are rich in protein, calcium, iron and vitamins, comparing favourably with other green vegetables generally regarded as good protein sources. Cassava can be processed into several other products like chips, flour, pellets, adhesives, alcohol, starch, etc which are raw materials in livestock feed, alcohol/ethanol, textiles, confectionery, wood, food and soft drink industries (Iheke, 2008).
In a similar vein, Adebayo (2009) stated that processing the bulky, perishable crop is an obstacle to its full commercialization in sub-Saharan Africa. To motivate farmers, especially women who are the main processors of food in the village, to grow and process their cassava, we need to provide them with labour-saving implements such as graters, peelers, and crushers. There is also need to link them to markets. Cassava roots are bulky and with about 70.0% moisture content, are very perishable. It is therefore, expensive to transport cassava especially along poor access roads. Therefore, a well-developed market access infrastructure is crucial for cassava marketing (Adeniji et al., 2006). However, focus should not be on the exportation of cassava but to develop the enormous local and regional markets for cassava that exist in the country, West African sub-region and Africa as a whole rather than start exporting the industrial raw material to Europe. According to Food and Agriculture Organization Statistics (2008) Nigeria‟s cassava export in 2005, was 2,100 tonnes compared to the leading exporter, Thailand, with 4,384,350 tonnes. The performance evaluation of marketing component of cassava initiative include, establishment of cassava processing centers in each Local Government Area(LGA) of the cassava producing States (Yisa, 2009). In this regard, rural people are encouraged to add value to cassava products by processing it for industrial application and human consumption. Processing of cassava into various shelf-stable and semi-stable products is a widespread activity in Nigeria carried out by traditional cassava processors and small-scale commercial processing units (Henk et al., 2007).