Background of the Study     

The method and technological know-how adopted in the maximum exploitation of environment as a society has various beneficial and deleterious implications on the environment. The determining factor of positive or negative implications is dependent on the pattern of exploitation of the natural resources in the society. Societies are known to have distinguished themselves by the way and degree in which they have succeeded in increasing agricultural production for human and industrial use (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2004). The common and extensive growth in agriculture in Nigeria has been to increase the area of land for agricultural purposes as a response to improving food production and raising its contribution to GDP in the nation. In 2009, agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Nigeria rose to 42%, but later declined to 40.19% in 2011 and further decreased to 39.12% by the end of 2012(National Bureau of Statistics, 2013). Due to the significance of agriculture to man and industries in nation building, there is therefore the need for sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fibre, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.  Sustainable agriculture enables individuals to produce healthful food without compromising future generations (Grace Communications’ Foundation, 2013). It can be viewed as a complex interaction among soil, water, plants, animals, climate, and people. Therefore sustainable agriculture concentrates on long-term solutions to problems instead of short-term treatment of symptoms (Sullivan, 2003). Also, sustainable agriculture refers to a range of strategies for addressing many problems that affect agriculture. Such problems include loss of soil productivity from excessive soil erosion and associated plant nutrient losses, surface and ground water pollution from pesticides and oil spillages, fertilizers and sediments, impending shortages of non- renewable resources, and low farm income from depressed commodity prices and high production costs. Therefore, sustainable agriculture depends on a whole-system approach which includes components of agricultural production to be operated in a sustainable manner so as to achieve the overall goal of continuing health of the land and people even as they involve in agriculture.

Agriculture is the rearing of animals and the production of crops for food, fibre, biofuel, drugs and other products used to sustain and enhance human life (International Labour Organization, ILO, 1999). It is the production of crops and rearing of livestock for man’s benefit (Tatathi, Naik&Jalgaonkar, 2011). In this study, agriculture means the act or process of raising crops, and raising of livestock for human and industrial use. Agriculture is divided into two types; subsistence and commercial agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is the type of farming which is usually operated on a small piece of land. That is, farming on a small scale. It is concerned with the provision of the basic needs of the farming family. The total yield from the farm is usually low while there is little or no surplus for sale or capital investment. Commercial agriculture is the type of farming which involves the cultivation of large hectares of land. That   is, farming in large scale. Most of its operations are usually mechanised and yield is very high. Production is principally for commercial purposes (Omoruyi, Orhue, Akerobo&Aghimien, 1999). The significance of agriculture is numerous and varied such as serving individual and industrial needs as well as contributing to the economic growth of many countries. Agriculture is a major sector of Nigeria’s economy, engaging over 70% of the labour force and contributing about 40% to the Gross Domestic product (GDP) (Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, FMARD, 2000). Agriculture generates revenue for the government at the local, state and federal levels. It serves as a means of livelihood by providing employment to farmers, marketers and processors of agricultural products. It provides food to the teeming population, feed for animals and raw materials for various industries and it enhances development of rural areas (Omoruyi et al, 1999). Agriculture is of great importance to man and as a result people engage in its production.

Production is the act of creating goods or services as output that has value and utility for man’s use (Kotler, Armstrong, Brown & Adams, 2006). The authors further stated that any effort directed towards the realization of a desired product or service is a ‘productive effort’, and the performance of such act is production. Agriculture produces goods and services which are utilized by man and industries directly or indirectly. Therefore, agricultural production is the process of utilizing resources such as land, labour, capital and entrepreneurial skills to create goods for man and industries. Crop production is a branch of agricultural production which involves the cultivation of crops to meet man’s needs. Crops both annual and perennial are the main source of food for animals and human survival and also boost the nation’s economy particularly farmers (Nicholas, 1992). Sustainable crop production is a way of growing or raising food in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner. This includes adhering to agricultural and food production practices that do not harm the environment (Grace Communications’ Foundation, 2013). Crop production if not practiced sustainably could lead to poor production of food which will subsequently lead to unavailability of locally produced food.

Agricultural production includes a component named aquacultural production. Aquaculture is the rearing of fish and other aquatic organisms in man-made ponds, reservoirs, cages or other enclosures in lake and coastal waters (Omoruyi et al, 1999). Aquaculture involves the organised production of aquatic organisms (particularly fish) in a properly partitioned aquatic medium, under complete or partially controlled environmental conditions for the direct or indirect promotion of human welfare (Ayinla and Tobor, 1997). Water is the necessary aquatic environment for aquacultural production. Water is an essential environmental resource because it is one of the basic natural elements and often regarded as the liquid of life due to its numerous uses and life sustaining qualities. Water as an agricultural resource is a liquid without colour, smell or taste that falls as rain, or found in lakes, rivers, streams, springs, seas and oceans; and is used for drinking, irrigation, production (Hornby, 2001).  Water bodies such as lakes, rivers, seas and ocean among others are filled with abundant aquatic organisms. Water form an essential element for the development of man’s economic activities such as fishing by farmers. Farmers are in charge of the utilization of resources such as soil, water among others. Farmers are engaged in the cultivation of crops and rearing of animals for the production of food and raw materials to meet man and industrial needs. Sustainable agricultural farmers focus on ensuring that their farming practices irrespective of the type of farming and the environment can be sustained over time and do not cause undue damage to the environment. The livelihood of farmers is heavily depend on their natural environment as they utilize scarce resources to produce goods and services that are useful to man and industry and agricultural production contributes to the economic growth of many countries though many factors still influence it’s production.

Influence is the effect of something on a person, thing or event (Encarta, 2009). The explosion of dynamite in aquatic environment produces narcotic effect and mortality of fish and other aquatic organisms. The overall influences of oil and gas exploitation are enormous. Oil and gas exploitation is the development and utilization of oil and gas for maximum benefit.  Some activities in the study area that have influence in the environment are crude oil and gas exploitation. Crude oil is a natural substance with complex mixture of a wide range of hydrocarbons  with some sulphur, oxygen and nitrogen compounds, coupled with straight and short-branched alkanes, cycloalkanes, aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic, benzene, foluene, xylene and polycyclic compounds/or chemicals. It is found underground and below sea beds. It is formed from decayed plants and animals millions of years ago (Ikein, 1991). Gas is a state of matter consisting of particles that have neither a defined volume nor defined shape (Helmenstine, 2003). Virtually all aspects of oil and gas exploration and exploitation have deleterious influence on the environment, crops, animals, and aquatic lives among others (Olusola and Okoroigwe, 2007). One of the causes of environmental degradation associated with oil and gas exploitation is gas flaring. Gas flaring raises temperatures which affect crop growth and render large areas uninhabitable because of immense heat from flare (Agbola and Olurin, 2003). Acid rain is caused by the flaring of gas and it increases soil acidity which affects the growth of crops (Uyigue and Agho, 2007).

Bayelsa State is a lowland maritime area that is largely occupied by water bodies. It has almost the largest supply of crude oil which is the main stay of the Nigerian economy, hence the heavy presence of oil exploration and exploitation companies such as Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Chevron and Mobile, among others. Besides these, there are a number of servicing companies such as Willbros, Saipem, Panalpina, among others (Jebbach, 2000). In 1956, oil was struck at Oloibiri (in present Bayelsa State) in commercial quantity. Though, it was not until 1958 that actual production started with an output of about 5,100 barrels per day. This rose to a peak of about 2.3 million barrels per day at the height of the oil boom (1979-1983). In 1993 alone, a total of about 750,099,708 million barrels were produced (Ibaba, 2001). Oil and gas resource from the Niger Delta of which Bayelsa is inclusive accounts to over 98% of the Nigeria’s export earnings and 83% of the government’s total revenue (Bayode, Adewunmi and Odunwole, 2011).

Oil spill has continually degraded the environment of Bayelsa State. Seismic blasts and discharge of untreated effluents directly into water bodies, some of which serve as the only source of water for the people are common in the region. Rivers are heavily polluted and also farmlands are under oil spills. Oil canals and network of pipelines is making it impossible and dangerous for people to undertake economic activities on it. It is estimated that between 1976 and 1996 a total of 2,369,470.40 barrels of crude oil were spilled into the rivers and lands of the Niger Delta region of which Bayelsa is inclusive (Uyigue and Agho, 2007).

Oil interferes with the functioning of various organs and systems of plants and animals. It creates environmental conditions unfavourable for life. For example, oil on the water surface forms a layer which prevents oxygen from dissolving in water.  Water bodies polluted with oil affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, which consequently impacts the lives of aquatic plants and animals. Oil spreads over the water surface preventing contact with atmospheric oxygen (Legborsi, 2007). Crude oil contains toxic components, which caused out right mortality of plants and animals as well as other sub lethal impacts (Olusola and Okoroigwe, 2007).

The influence of oil and gas exploitation on socio-economic lives is that oil spills caused communities to evacuate their homesteads either due to direct damage posed or the consequences of the pollution problem caused by the spill. The natural environment is often degraded without adequate compensation from the multinational companies. The demand for compensation for damaged resources and other properties have been putting individuals or communities on a collision course (Okoko, 2002).There is correlation between exposure to oil pollution and the development of health problems. The diseases traceable to oil pollution include respiratory problems, cancer, skin ailments such as rash and dermatitis, eye problems, gastro-intestinal disorders, water borne diseases and nutritional problems associated with poor diet (Legborsi, 2007). Oil and gas exploitation could lead to the destruction of traditional means of livelihood and causing the youths to engage in morally unacceptable practices. Pipeline vandalization is another possible source of environmental degradation. It could be caused by youth restiveness resulting from the economic hardship in the Niger Delta. Several cases of pipeline vandalization have been reported. In 1993, seven cases were reported, in 1996, 33 cases were reported and in 1998, 57 cases were reported. The number of cases of pipeline vandalization rose astronomically to 497 in 1999 and over 600 cases in 2000. The dramatic increase in pipeline vandalization from the 1990s to 2000 is suggestive that the more the people are deprived of their means of livelihood, the more restive they become (Uyigue and Agho, 2007). Youths in the Niger Delta involve in the vandalization of pipeline to express their grievances over the destruction of their environment by multinational oil companies without adequate compensation from them. The influence of oil and gas exploitation will not just extinct as long as exploitation activities still continue because of its benefits, hence, it is important that farmers adopt appropriate coping mechanisms.

Mechanism is the method or means of doing something while coping is to deal effectively with a difficult problem or situation (Encarta, 2009). In this study, coping mechanisms are strategies or measures adopted by farmers in dealing and minimizing the influence of environmental problems associated with oil and gas exploitation. Farmers coping mechanisms such as use of fast-maturing varieties, use of mulching materials for all seedlings at the germination period and tree planting system by the side of the fish ponds to reduce the scorching effect of the sun are important in the reduction of the diverse influence of oil and gas exploitation in Niger Delta region which Bayelsa State is inclusive (Uyigue and Agho, 2007). However, the activities of oil and gas exploitation have led to environmental problems which are threatening agricultural production and farmers. In this light, there is need to identify the influence of oil and gas exploitation on agricultural production in Bayelsa State.