Sunday, May 27, 2012
On the 15th of May 2012, I and a friend decided to see and observe the activities of the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Ondo State Chapter. We went out of keen interest to associate with other farmers and see how the association can come up to sensitize the youth more about agriculture.
Maybe before I share what I experienced, I tell you a brief about AFAN. AFAN is an association for farmers in Nigeria. It is made-up of what is referred to as commodity associations. The commodity associations are formed based on the commodity a farmer produces. The commodity could be maize, cassava poultry, oil palm, snails etc. Thus under the AFAN you have members of commodity associations such as Snail Farmers’ Association, Poultry Farmers’ Association to mention a few. These commodity associations meet in groups at agreed dates. However, once a month they all come together under the AFAN umbrella to discuss matters related to the progress of the farmers.
With this background in mind, the meeting had a total of 30 farmers in attendance with 8 been women. One interesting fact I observed was that the meeting was conducted in the local dialect (Yoruba) and this was because of the presence of mostly rural farmers. It is sad though to note that only five out of all of us in attendance were youths. Others were old farmers who were well along in age.
I noted the following during their deliberations:
1. There was low turn up of the farmers to the meeting
2. The farmers only show-up when matters related to fund allocation from the government are discussed.
3. The Bank of Agriculture was slow in processing of loans for the farmers and even when the loans were given they got them at very high interest rate.
4. Civil servants who are not farmers have hijacked loan schemes by the state government in the name of having the requirement for the loans.
5. The poultry farmers were presently facing the problem of ‘egg gloat’ which has brought business to a halt for them.
Despite all these, the farmers I noticed are not losing hope, but are persistent. The President of the association encouraged networking and partnership with one another and try their hands on loans as a group rather than as individuals. Those present were given information that would prove helpful for them such as
1. The Agric Credit Scheme by the Apex Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria that had just kicked off
2. The list of crops and livestock that would have focus as announced by the Federal Government. They included maize, cotton, cattle, wheat, cassava, poultry etc
3. The guaranteed price list released by the government was also read out to the farmers.
I had the privilege of speaking and I expressed my desire to gain experience from the older farmers but that there was need for them to also work to sensitize young people on the need to actively engage in agriculture despite the challenges that come with it.It was agreed there and then that this would be incorporated in their radio program in the weeks to come and that a capacity building program would be planned for young people in the state. This gladdened my heart and I cannot wait to be part of the hands that would bring change to agriculture by bringing on board other young people in the near future
Friday, May 25, 2012
I grew up loving computers and computer hard wares. At about age 12, I watched my father and uncle fix other people’s computers. Back then we had Pentium 1, 2 and later 3. We sold hardware parts, such as cases, memory cards, and mother boards. As a matter of fact at age 15, I could single handedly clone a computer system and load it up with the necessary operating system and application software that were available. Thus I could say I grew up loving ICT and computer hardware.
Little wonder then that I dreamed of studying Electrical and Electronics engineering just to have a broader scope of what I already knew. In 2006, I started out doing a pre-degree program in electrical and electronic engineering so as to enable me pursue a degree. However after a year I was admitted in the university but instead of the desired course I got Agricultural Engineering. And so my journey into the world of agriculture began.
You would agree with me that Agricultural Engineering was not what I wanted. I remember thinking back then about what the prospects of the course I about to study were. But I accepted it, why? If you live in a country like Nigeria where millions are trying to get into the university all at the same time then you would not joke with that single slot you have gotten.
It took me till my third year in the university to start realizing the future advantage of the field I had been pushed to as it were. I saw that my field was not just about tractors but a lot more. I could choose to specialize in Food Processing, Irrigation and Drainage, Agric Mechanization and even Soil and Water Conservation.
I began to see the practicality of my field and relate them to the needs of my environment. I also saw that my country was way behind in the use of agricultural practices and technologies that would benefit them. At this point my passion for agriculture grew.
The height of my passion came during a six month training I took on the Integrated Farming System where I got hands-on practical knowledge and was involved in Agricultural Research. That was an eye opener. I learnt in Six months things I have not learnt in four years of my stay in the university.(Read more about this on http://ypard.net/testimonials/my-songhai-experience).
The world of agriculture is verse and wide. It is large enough to take as many people as possible. It is a field that adds value to human lives as it directly or indirectly touches as lives as it meets a primary need of man which is food. Today I have fashioned out a way to merge my passion and that is why I strive hard to acquire skills in Agricultural Research Software and Web 2.0 tools and platforms so that I can have a feeling and be involved in both the ICT world which was my first passion and now agriculture my second to have a perfect combination that would create positive change and sustainable development to my immediate environment and the world as a whole.
WAYS NIGERIA UNIVERSITIES CAN OPTIMIZE THE STUDENT INDUSTRIAL WORKING EXPERIENCE SCHEME (SIWES) PROGRAM TO BOOST AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (ARD).
Today, I watched as students in their fourth year in my university (Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria) picked up their log book for the six month SIWES program. This is generated some thoughts in my head as it relates to the development and sustainability of agriculture among young people especially those studying courses related to agriculture.
The Student Industrial Working Experience Scheme (SIWES) was established by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in 1973 to solve the problem of adequate practical skill, preparatory for employment in industries by Nigerian Undergraduate and Diploma students of tertiary institutions. The scheme was designed for duration of six months for university undergraduates. During this period, every student is expected to acquire all necessary practical skill and orientation, as well as technical knowledge needed to adequately develop national man-power and human resources.
Based on these facts, I proffer the following suggestion to boost Agricultural Research and Development:
1. Partnership With the Government: The universities can partner with the government by having an agreement with them that they would accept a certain number of students to intern with the Ministries of Agriculture, Ministries of Environment and Agricultural Research Bodies owned by the government. This would afford the students the opportunity to learn new things, practice what they have learnt over the years and get exposure. They could also engage in ongoing projects and be of help to the facilitators.
2. Full Usage of University Farms and Research Centre: Oftentimes, universities have farms, the university could expand these farms and take in some students to work during the SIWES program. The farm can initiate various mini-project and research works under proper supervision that would engage the students, thus promoting skill acquisition and capacity building in ARD.
3. Partnership with Privately Owned Agro-based Industry: Most times, student battle with getting placement in companies and industries to carry out their internship. Some even spend as much as three to four months out of the six months before getting a placement. Another set of students, even go ahead to work in places having little or no relation to their course of study. Considering these fact, the university can partner with industries and farms privately owned to take in the student during the SIWES program as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
4. Payment of Monthly Stipend: In Nigeria, a stipend of about 100Dollars (15,000 Naira) is paid after the entire six months. Sadly, for the past four years it has not even been paid. Arrangement should be made to make sure it is paid and can also be reviewed that something is paid monthly rather than at the end of the whole program.
5. Proper Documentation of Activities: The Universities should take in proper and well detailed reports of the student’s activities during the SIWES program. Their report can be a base for further research work or re-modeling of existing agricultural practices and research work.The agricultural Sector in Nigeria can have sustainable development when young men and women coming out of the tertiary institutions have the required skills and knowledge to work with when they leave the four walls of the universities. If these suggestions can be implemented I believe there would be considerable advancement in Agricultural Research and Development.
Monday, May 14, 2012
On April 29 2012, fifteen (15) young men and women came together to discuss on the future of agriculture and agric-business in Nigeria.
The EU-25 is a monthly entrepreneur forum which is done over lunch where entrepreneurs under the age of 25 come together to discuss on how effectively create change positively. The EU-25 is put together by the Olusola Amusan Company (OAC).
The month of April 2012, focused on Agriculture and how youth can transform the sector. The facilators were two young farmers; Mr. Ajifola Afolabi of NETIVA Farms and Mr. Olalekan Bankole a fish farmer and a consultant with the Ondo State Government on Agric matters.
During the introduction, Moses Ogunyemi, who is a student and a poultry farmer acknowledged the growing population of Nigeria and the need for people to be feed at all times. Thus stressing the need for we the youth to take charge and transform agriculture in Nigeria.
Olalekan Bankole, a graduate of Forestry and Wood Technology and a Fish farmer elaborated on the challenges faced especially in the Agric-business in Nigeria and as it relates to youth.
Some of them are:
- Lack of interest on the part of youth to engage in agriculture. An example was a Local Government Area in Ondo State, Nigeria, where having set up a tomato paste processing plant, the government asked that the youth in the community joins hands to work together on a tomato plantation so as to get the raw materials and the youth refused because they saw it as work for the poor. Most young ones have no passion for agriculture. They want quick money.
- Low number of agro-based industry.
- Inconsistent weather for arable crop farmers.
- Need for more machineries.
- Unfavorable government policies as it relates to accessing funds and land acquisition.
- A large gap between Academics & Research and what happens on the field.
- Ways to access loan from the Bank of Agriculture, Nigeria
- Ways to get access to farm machineries to work on farm lands through the Ministry of Agriculture and other bodies and organizations.
- Massive sensitization of Nigerian youth on the need to get involved in Agricultural development and the benefits that comes from it.
- Initiation of an Agroclub to aid networking of young farmers.
- The need to be more information and opportunity conscious and make proper use of the internet for effective sensitization and information dissemination as it relate to agriculture and agric-business.
- Creating networks and synergy among like minds to create and manage agric-businesses.
- Acquisition of entrepreneurship skills
- Improving our food processing skills so as to give out quality finished products.
- The government also needs to be shown that the future of agriculture lies in the hands of the youth. And this can only be done when we defy all odds, start small and showcase our works to the government.