Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Agriculture is the backbone of any dynamic and forward looking economy with Nigeria not in exception. It plays an important role in socio-economic development by ensuring food security, providing raw materials for foreign & local industries; generate foreign exchange and income for most of the population, majority of which is rural-based as well as providing employment and other strategic rural – urban economic turnaround opportunities.
These turnaround opportunities are evident in two economies like Brazil and South Africa; these two had turned around their rural areas through agriculture and agribusiness and with youths as the centre into semi and major urban centers. The guest speaker from Brazil at the last 6th economic conference – Ehingbeti 2012 said Brazil has achieved 70% of rural turned urban cities with agriculture as a key part of other factors. Mr Langa Zita, the Director General of the department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa reiterated that the government of South Africa had made agriculture cum agribusiness as the pivot for employment and transformation opportunities in the rural cum urban city projects but with YOUTHS at the heart of it. This they have achieved success tremendously.           
Many young people around Africa and Nigeria are beginning to see and experience the advantages and benefit that comes with getting active in agriculture and agribusiness. Gbenga studied Accounting from the University of Ilorin; he got a job with a multinational company just a few months after his youth service. Even at that he still went into agriculture; four years down the line, he started with fish rearing and presently he has a poultry farm and i can still visualize how every morning the number business of people doing eggs, feeds and other business. At our last discussion, he has started training in pig farming which is the next prospect. His network of the business, techno-agro symbiotic management is the trade secret but with a youthful oriented workforce.

In Sierra Leone, Arthur William had a dream of starting a company when he graduated. He shared his vision with three friends who extended it to the whole class of seven in the department of Agricultural Engineering at the Njala University in 2009. They donated 5 US Dollar monthly for this purpose; Overtime the contributors dropped to three people since others could not meet up. In 2010, they invested this seed money in 30 acres of land with oil palm plantation, Rice, Cassava, Vegetable and fruit trees like mango and oranges were planted. The revenue obtained from these products was used to expand the business and support their Post Graduate studies. They also operated at very low cost by getting help from about 20 other youths in the community who got paid not on a monthly basis but by getting 40% of the profit from the sales made. This proved successful and a means to encourage other youth into agriculture.
These two are just a few of many young people who despite the challenges have made use of the opportunities open to them in agriculture and agribusiness. The solution to the problem of food insecurity as the population increases lies in our hands as Nigerian youths. Some ways we can have a good start as successful agric-entrepreneur (Agroprenuer) is to do the following:
Ø      Take active interest and grow a passion for agriculture and its business and a particular aspect that can network other areas as a cycle.
Ø      Think Big with a business plan and entrepreneurial advice from Banks, consultants but always start small, within the capacity you can afford and handle.
Ø      Be well informed about the aspect of agriculture you want to go into especially the risks involved and the market value of product at each stage of the value chain.
Ø      Network with other young people. There are a lot of youth out there who are already into agriculture. Attend Seminars and workshop on agriculture and agribusiness even if you have to pay.
Ø      Acquire practical knowledge. Read books, manuals, journals and work for others on their farms to gain experience and exposure.
Ø      Get training in business planning, marketing and management it has proved very helpful because a major challenge of most agriculturists in Nigeria is their inability to build a business plan and market to their products.
Ø      Be observant and open to new information, techniques etc.
Ø      Be ready to be a team player, most aids from the government and the Bank of Agriculture sometimes require you are in a group of ten or there about. So start watching out for young people you can join hands and work together
Ø      Follow the trend of activities around you to get updated about opportunities open to you through programs like YOUWIN, FADAMA, Agric Growth Enhancement Scheme(GES), First Bank Farm Scheme and others that would be coming on soon under the Agric transformation agenda.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Agriculture and agribusiness: Youth dynamism & turnaround in Nigeria (1)

Everyday the population of Nigeria increases. An international survey on African nations population indicates that in 2030, Nigeria’s population, which now stands at 158 million, would hit a staggering 300 million. This data, in relation to today, speaks of the need to urgently find solutions to the eradication of food insecurity and poverty with various dynamic and strategic policies, programmes etc. to bring about social and economic development that can be sustainable. However, there is a big problem to food security solutions from agriculture.
Another report shows that the average age today of a farmer in Nigerian is between 55 and 60 years and by the year 2030 will rise to between 75 and 80 years. The question that comes to mind is what quantity of food can this old farmers produce for such a rising population by the year 2030 and beyond?
Interestingly, these old farmers have all the experience, knowledge and information (techniques) of Agriculture and not Agribusiness BUT the truth of the matter is undeniable that the answer lies in the hands of the young and vibrant Nigerian youths today. Nigerian youths are not into agriculture and are not even going into it for various reasons. Many value their certificate and ‘status’ in the community as university graduates; they effortlessly search for white-collar jobs that are in reality non-existent. They do not take agriculture as a business (Agribusiness) that can generate profits like any other successful business. They show little or no interest and view it as work for our fore fathers and mothers in the village.
Interestingly,, though agriculture goes with the new technology of the modern world, our elders can no longer match or comply with the requirements of current trends and latest modern technological advances in agriculture (mechanization, use of high yielding varieties, application of inputs and weather forecast compliance). This scenario leaves our young people, no better time to act than NOW to take their place, drive the nation in a critical and dynamic area with the knowledge of these technologies, more with their strength, agility and dexterity needed in agriculture.
Skilled young people including agriculture graduates can play a major role in providing services in the rural areas especially in the agriculture sector, transforming the current subsistence agriculture into an extensive and business oriented one with the food security assured and rural development.
Nigeria today is faced with persisting hunger, civil unrest, armed conflicts, poverty, and corruption. We the youths have inherited a poor nation from our elders; a Nigeria though full of opportunities, possibilities and diverse exploitable areas and talents especially in non-oil exports but instead is plagued in poverty and hunger. A nation where development and nation building have been totally dependent on oil instead of agricultural & Agribusiness cum Green urban cities and activities.
In a bid to handle these crises of food insecurity and climate change, the agricultural sector has been receiving much attention from the local, state & federal governments, not forgetting the international community and other agriculture development partners. It is now more pertinent than ever that resource, incentives and business cum entrepreneur strategies are made available to increase the participation of young people in the sector.
Activating the interest and capacities of young entrepreneurs with investment and attractive policy and government support of private small enterprises will drive the sector. Now is the time for youths to develop themselves not as passive development actors but as aggressive and active actors who can achieve a sustainable agricultural sector.
It would be an omission of reality if we do not address the challenges faced by young people as it relates to their involvement in agriculture and agribusiness. These include:
·    High level of poverty and corruption, resulting in a desire for quick money.
·    Unfavorable government policies as it relate to land acquisition and funding for agricultural purpose particularly for young agriculture entrepreneurs or small private agribusiness farms.
·    The large gap between the mindset perception of success and opportunities of post academics in white-collar jobs (Private & Public), business etc.
·    Lack of access to proper information and orientation to accept agriculture as the new revenue stream.
·    Inadequate infrastructures
·    Lack of entrepreneurship possibilities, incentives & training among majority of youths
Even at that, there are examples of numerous young people in Nigeria and other African countries in agriculture, which have success stories that the sector is not really a challenge but an area untapped and due for plucking.
In the next part, we shall look at practical and possible  success points to spur, encourage and drive interest in other youths. More so, the private sector and government focus cum support in youth participation. So keep a date with this page next week.