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Agricultural news coverage.
1.1 Background of Study
From the evolution of human history, it is amply testified that economic development traces its origin to agriculture. All over the world, the development of an enduring economy goes hand in hand with agricultural development. Agriculture is considered a catalyst for the overall development of any nation. According to Ogbalubi And Wokocha (2013, p.60), agriculture is:
A critical sector that drives the economic development and industrialization of a developing nation, and also holds the ace for reducing unemployment. Thus, its development is critically important for ensuring food and nutritional security, income and employment generation and for stimulating industrialization and overall economic development of the country.
The technological strides recorded by the world’s leading economies had their roots in agriculture. Despite the fact that the sector has increasingly shrunk in its contribution to the Gross Domestic product (GDP) of many nations, it still provides the chunk of the GDP of many nations especially the developing ones. (Ogbalubi And Wokocha 2013, p.60)
Development economists have always assigned the agriculture sector a central place in the development process of any nation. In this light, Reddy, Ram, Sastry & Devi (2009, p.585) maintain that “Even the developed countries were basically agriculture in origin and through this sector, they achieved industrial development”. However, the understanding of that role has evolved overtime. Early development theorists emphasized industrialization, though they counted on agriculture to provide the necessary output of food and raw materials, along with the labour force that would gradually be absorbed by industry. Much later thinking moved agriculture more to the forefront of the development process of countries. (Wilber &Jameson, 1992, p.8)
Indeed, the importance of agriculture in any nation’s economy cannot be over emphasised. In practical terms, agriculture has worked a tremendous miracle in countries like Mexico, India and China where the Green Revolution is one of the great success stories of modern times. It is the major contributor to the export –led growth pattern of a country like Taiwan which was able to attain notable increases in per capita GNP. (Ogbalubi and Wokocha 2013, p.60)
Based on these facts therefore, the importance of the agricultural sector in generating employment and stimulating overall economic development in a developing country such as Nigeria cannot be undermined. Most public policies in Nigeria, especially since independence in 1960, were tailored towards promoting food security, provision of agricultural raw materials needed by the manufacturing sector to provide adequate employment and income to alleviate poverty as well as earn substantial foreign exchange. (www.onlinenigeria.com/agriculture/%)
In the early years of Nigeria as an independent country, Agriculture occupied a prominent position in the national economy, as the sector serves as a key driver of growth, wealth creation, employment as well as poverty reduction. It was also the leading economic activity in the country which contributed immensely to her Gross Domestic Product. Kwanashie, Ajilima and Garba (1998, p.4) posit that agricultural export was Nigeria’s engine of growth prior to 1973, providing much of the revenue that the government used in developing a basic infrastructural system. This clearly indicates that holistic agricultural development is a precursor for national development. Hence, Aigbokhan, in Dim and Ezenekwe (2013, p.62) argue that, “agriculture was the leading sector in the pre-oil boom era, contributing 63 and 54 percents to GDP in the 1950s and 1960s respectively”. During this period, Ogen (2007, p.185) asserts that “Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, largest exporter of palm kernel and largest producer and exporter of palm oil. Nigeria was also a leading exporter of other major commodities such as cotton, groundnut, rubber and hides and skins”
Regrettably, it is an obvious fact that Nigerian agricultural sector has over the years been neglected by all stakeholders involved, government and the people inclusive. With the discovery of oil in 1957 and its consequent exploration and exploitation from the early 60s, the interest veered towards the ‘fast oil wealth’. Obasanjo (2014) maintains that “neglect became the sheer lot of agriculture and this has brought us to the sad and embarrassing situation of having Nigeria import staple food such as rice and beans”.
As a result, Oni, Nkonya, Pender, Philips & Kato (2009, p.5) lament that “the advent of oil in the early 1970s made Nigeria highly dependent on oil revenue, with the performance of the agricultural sector adversely affected over years”. This ugly trend undoubtedly, has dealt heavy blow on Nigeria’s quest for meaningful development. Ogen (2007, p.185) affirms that “the agricultural sector suffered neglect during the hey-days of the oil boom in the 1970s. Ever since then Nigeria has been witnessing extreme poverty and the insufficiency of basic food item”.
Also of urgent concern is the sheer lack of interest of young people in agriculture. Most of our farmers in Nigeria are presently an ageing population, with the youths mainly interested in ‘more glamorous’ white collar jobs. This trend has precariously placed Nigeria on the brink of a looming food security crisis, not to mention the rising cost of food prices.
Consequently, Nigeria needs to spend much more on agriculture than its current commitment of only 1.6 per cent of the national budget. While agriculture develops the economy, oil consolidates it. Olatunbosun (2014) believes that “agriculture if harnessed well will liberate many Nigerians from joblessness by providing employment opportunities. It also has the capacity to offer greater contribution to the growth of domestic product”. If with all the money we earn from oil, yet about “110million Nigerians still live below poverty line” (NBF News, 2014), then we must grab the huge benefits attached to agriculture for true national development. In its World Development Report for 2008, released on October 19 and entitled "Agriculture for Development," the World Bank stressed the importance of a renewed emphasis on agriculture. The report argues that "for the poorest people, GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth originating outside the sector”. (http://go.worldbank.org/ZJIAOSUFU0).
If Nigeria commits more resources to agriculture and continues to improve institutional and legal frameworks, it will be in a position not only to feed itself but to export food and to mark a path for the rest of Africa. Interestingly, the present federal government of Nigeria has started taking the agricultural sector seriously. As Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s agriculture minister, says, “In Nigeria, we’re making agriculture the new oil (NBF News, 2014).” It is possible if the efforts are sustained. Nigeria’s ministry of agriculture has embarked upon several programmes aimed at achieving this. For instance, Youth Empowerment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) among others. (www.fmard.gov.ng). It is also heart warming to hear President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan reiterating his government’s readiness to revamp agricultural sector as contained in his Nigeria’s 54th independence speech. According to Mr. President, “we are making giant strides in the agricultural sector which we are re-positioning to diversify our economy” (NTA News, 2014). These are conditions not just for a booming agricultural sector, but also for a big drop in poverty. And that is desperately needed in Nigeria for greater national development.
However, for this to happen, the media have major roles to play. The media have social responsibility and agenda – setting roles to play in terms of conscientization and mobilization of both the government and the governed towards resuscitation of agricultural sector for holistic national development. Mass media diagnose the system and open the pitfalls and offers opportunity to rectify them. They act as mass mobilizer irrespective of space. The media distribute messages wide and fast, where administration can’t reach, mass media touches.
Media are undoubtedly very fast, vast and powerful mode of communication. They do not only appeal a vast audience, they have tremendous impact on the political and economic state of a nation ( Biswal, 2012, p.80).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
No country talks of achieving meaningful national development where majority of its citizens are still wallowing in abject poverty and squalor. Neither does a country dream of recording relatively high level of national development soon when most of its graduates are unemployed, with no serious encouragement for agro industries and agricultural production. Unarguably, agriculture plays important role in the provision of food, employment, industrial raw materials, income and foreign exchange for national development.
For a country like Nigeria that craves for development to according, to World Bank Index (2012) have over 70 percent of its citizens live on less than a dollar, then, it is a serious peace threatening issue that demands urgent and pragmatic approach. Visible high rate of crime in form of armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, terrorism and other social vices have all been attributed to poverty and lack of development in the country. Moreover, if, despite the huge amount of money Nigeria make from oil sales and this trend over the years remained unabated, no doubt, we must look inwardly more than ever. Today, the situation is worse in the face of rapid fall in oil prices. Therefore, a critical look will reveal the enormous space agriculture occupies in the heart of national development.
The media are supposed to contribute in this case by heightening the visibility and mobilising efforts through extensive coverage of agricultural issues. Whether and to what extent the media are doing this constitute the kernel of this study.
Hence, this study sought to examine newspaper coverage of agricultural news for national development. By extension therefore, to gauge how the media are contributing to national development through agricultural news reportage.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
Objectives of the study are what the study is set to achieve or the aims and purposes of conducting a research. Osuala (2003, p.34) opines that it remains “a quick overview of the study itself”. Therefore, the following are the objectives of the study.
i. To ascertain the direction newspapers take in the reportage of agricultural news.
ii. To examine how often (frequency) newspapers cover agricultural news.
iii. To determine the extent in terms of depth newspapers report agricultural news.
iv. To ascertain the level of prominence given to agricultural news by the selected newspapers.
v. To identify the frames used in newspapers’ coverage of agricultural news.
1.4 Research Questions
Research questions serve as guide to the researcher in the quest to gather answers to problems being investigated. The research questions for this study therefore, include;
i. What is the direction of newspapers’ coverage of agricultural news in Nigeria?
ii. How often (frequency) do newspapers cover agricultural issues?
iii. What is the depth of newspapers’ coverage of agricultural news?
iv. What is the level of prominence given to agricultural news by the selected newspapers?
v. What are the frames used in newspapers’ coverage of agricultural news?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is hoped to be useful to various segments of the society. It will serve as an addition or contribution to existing literature on the topic and similar ones. It will further serve as a reference material to scholars, journalism students and practitioners who may want to pursue this idea further by providing data to substantiate or refute its claims.
There is no doubt that the study will provide government and institutions with insight into the level of press coverage of agricultural news. It will also equip agricultural policy makers with ideas on the successes and failures of their several policies.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The population for this study comprised all issues of the newspapers published in Nigeria between January and December, 2014. However, for the purposes of convenience and in order to save time and cost, the study covered only Daily Trust, Daily Sun, Guardian and Vanguard publications. To Ohaja (2003, p.67), “the idea behind this delimitation of boundaries is to avoid embarking on an unmanageable venture”.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Agriculture: Agriculture according to Ugochukwu, Otegbade, Ifeonu, Okeke and Idris (2009, p.2) “was originally as ‘field cultivation’ from latin words ‘ager and cultura’”. However, it is defined as the act of rearing animals and cultivating crops for human use. It is usually refers to farming.
Coverage: This means journalistic reportage of news, issues and events in the newspapers especially as it concerns agriculture which is the thrust of this research.
National Development: This is the ability of a country to improve and sustain the standard of living and economic welfare of the people.
Newspaper: The term “newspaper” refers to a brand range of publications from the huge metropolitan daily to the small provincial newspaper. Ukonu (2006). Newspaper according to Ndolo (2005) can be defined as a printed product created on a regular (weekly or daily) basis and distributed to large number of people. Hence, newspapers carry information and news report of happenings in the society.
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