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Agricultural Practices and Environmental & Social Impact

Sterling Bank
Published: September 22, 2023

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Executive Summary 

The agricultural sector has a key function to ensure global food security.  Intensive agricultural production allows a steady increase in global harvests and provides as well as increases the security of the supply. 

Agriculture in Nigeria is made up of four categories, such as Crop production, Livestock, Forestry, and Fishing. However, this newsletter is focused more on crop production activities. 

 With the food crisis becoming a global issue, no better time has the sector received attention than now, especially with the financial aid from several intervention schemes by the Federal Government to promote development and support the drive to diversify and reduce dependence on Oil-based income for the Nation. 

 The agricultural economy, compared with other economic sectors, has the greatest impact on the environment due to the use of natural resources that may often lead to exploitation and degradation. 

 In the long run, Climate change could also affect agriculture in several ways. Also, intensive agricultural production (based on high inputs of chemicals and energy) may lead to increased GHG emissions, loss of biodiversity, and soil degradation such as erosion, depletion, and pollution of natural water. 

 A deep dive into this newsletter gives a broader outlook on the agricultural practices of crop production in Nigeria, environmental and social impacts, and key considerations/ recommendations. 


Outlook of Agricultural Practices in Nigeria 

Agriculture or farming is the practice of cultivating land, sowing, and producing crops for consumption or marketing via a supply chain. Agriculture contributes immensely to the Nigerian economy in various ways, majorly in providing food for the increasing population, which is growing at a sporadic rate. 

 The agricultural sector also supplies raw materials to other growing industrial sectors, serves as a major source of employment, generates foreign exchange earnings, and provides a market for the products of the industrial sector, among others. Agriculture accounts for over 26% of Nigeria’s GDP and employs about 72.18% of workers without formal education (Source: The National Bureau of Statistics, 2017). 

 This present economy’s administration has a drive for food security and to facilitate the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which addresses major global challenges like poverty, hunger, inequality, and climate change, thereby promoting sustainable agriculture. 

The agricultural sector has since been receiving attention and financial aid to promote the sector’s development and support the drive to diversify and reduce dependence on oil-based income for the Nation. The focus is on intensifying agricultural production by supporting commercial-scale farming which employs a very intensive use of machines and other inorganic farm inputs like pesticides and fertilizers. 

 In Nigeria, water is widely regarded as the most essential of natural resources, yet freshwater systems are directly endangered by human activities and further affected by climate change. Our water system may be affected by intensive agricultural practices, urban development, or industrialization. 

 Intensive agricultural production allows for a steady increase of global harvests and provides and increases food security. On the other hand, the agricultural economy, compared with other economic sectors, has the most significant impact on natural resources, such as water. 



 Some basic agricultural practices include: 

  1. Land cultivation 
  2. Irrigation: supply of water to crops, and sources of water can be wells, ponds, lakes, canals, dams, etc. 
  3. Sowing: selection of seeds of quality for planting, can be done manually by hand or by using seed drilling machines. 
  4. Soil preparation: such as plowing, leveling, and maturing. 
  5. Application of pest control: such as pesticides or herbicides. 
  6. Use of fertilizers 
  7. Harvesting: to cut and gather matured crops for consumption or market sale. 
  8. Storage of farm products 
  9. Use of machineries 


Environmental and Social Impacts of Agricultural Practices 


  1. Air/Water/Soil Pollution
  • Air pollution results from the overuse of machinery, the mismanagement of manure, and the poor feeding practices that may occur in industrial farming. Factory farms emit harmful gases and particles such as methane and hydrogen sulfide and sometimes undergo bush burning, which can contribute to global warming and constitute occupational health and safety hazards. 



  • Water Pollution sources include chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides, which could contaminate the waters through surface runoff. Runoff from factory farms could cause biodiversity loss and threaten marine creatures and drinking water supplies from the rivers. 



  • Soil Pollution may arise from manuring or chemical use which contains other toxic substances. These include zinc, copper, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, and even lead. In balanced amounts, some of these elements can be good for the soil and promote plant growth. However, over-application causes a significant quantity of nutrients to build up in the soil and can reduce soil fertility. 



  1. Deforestation

This involves decreasing forest areas or large-scale land clearing for agricultural production and other land uses. It represents one of the largest issues or leading causes of habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and aridity. Deforestation without sufficient reforestation could also cause wildlife extinction, displacement of populations, and changes to climatic conditions such as an increase in global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and desertification. 



  1. Water Supply Risk

Generally, there’s a competing demand for water for irrigation, food production, power generation, domestic use, etc. When water demand overtakes supply, there could be a potential for conflict. However, the development, extraction, and use of water resources can lead to environmental and supply problems, further resulting in desalination and depletion of underground aquifers. Large investments may be required in irrigation infrastructure for farmers to produce crops all year round, as some parts of the country are more susceptible to drought. This places more economic demand on the general population. 


  1. Rural-Urban Migration

An important social issue associated with agriculture is rural-urban migration, largely due to local farmers’ displacement from their land. This leads to rapid urbanization or clogging of existing urban areas. This may place regional pressures on existing infrastructure that was not designed to cope with the influx from rural areas. 


  1. Labor Force 

Workers on industrial farms and the food-processing industry may be subject to hazardous working conditions and unsafe labor management practices, possibly resulting in the occupational health and safety of workers. 


  1. Gender Inequality 

There is gender bias that limits the role and resilience of female workers. There should be policies for gender and inclusive growth, focused on creating opportunities for women and marginalized groups. 



Key Considerations /Recommendations  


Climate-smart agriculture is widely regarded as the solution for addressing environmental and social impacts that threaten agricultural development and food security in the face of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture will mitigate against the impact of climate change by harnessing natural biological processes to improve production in a more environmentally friendly way and avoid the degradation of natural resources. (Source: 


The following measures are recommended to improve agricultural practices: 


  1. Effective storage, use, and operating arrangements for manures, fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides. 
  1. Adopt good housekeeping and efficient waste management practices that aim to prevent pollution. 
  1. Manage water margins during irrigation, as water supplies are essential to economic development in providing irrigation, food production, and energy generation. 
  1. Use buffer strips and other measures to reduce surface run-off from the farm fields in conjunction with other good management practices. 
  1. Ensure compliance with regulatory laws and standards on agriculture practices and obtain relevant permits. The major regulatory bodies for permits/licenses include: 
  • Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). 
  • Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 
  • National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC). 
  • National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). 
  • Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). 
  • Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON). 
  • Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC). 



Addressing the environmental and social impacts of agricultural development and food security is a global priority since increased food production of 60-70% is estimated to be required by 2050 to feed the growing world population. (Source: UN Report, 2015) 

Nigeria being blessed with a large expanse of arable lands, makes the growing and production of crops and plants a viable business for the economy. 

In the long run, in view of the magnitude of climate change on agriculture, global food demands, the numerous possibilities of adaptation, and the impacts of other agricultural practices on the economy, proactive action plans must be developed and adopted by all relevant stakeholders in the agriculture value chain to build resilience against the current and future impacts. 

Our next edition will focus more on strategies for Climate-smart agriculture and agricultural emerging trends. 



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