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Attracting and Retaining Nigerian Youth in Agriculture

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We cannot talk about attracting Nigerian youth into agriculture without first commending and appreciating our trailblazers and touch bearers, our old or aged farmers. Without them we will not have any agriculture in Nigeria. They have with them knowledge, experience and expertise about weather, seed, character of crops, forest reserve, and soil. Their understanding of our farmlands and forest reserve is deep and rich. This body of wisdom and knowledge is valuable and important. So in going forward, we must celebrate our old farmers and really make them happy so they can be stimulated and get into the right frame of mind to pass on their knowledge.

Our old farmers are custodian of knowledge; they are great, wonderful and powerful. We celebrate them because they have weathered the storm, conquered our land and made it produce enough to feed and sustain the nation. With their bare hands, hoe, and cutlass they have created paths through our forest placing a demand on our soil to yield her increase. Irrespective of how crude their methods may be, they have made great impact. Therefore, it is right for us to continue to celebrate them for their ingenuity, industry and courage.

Be that as it may, life is in phases; at this point of our nation’s history, there is need for more youth to get involved in agriculture. Most of our farmers are old, and yet we have a large population of over 160 million people to be fed daily. Again, this justifies the need for Nigeria to deliberately change and diversify the labour composition of our farmers by integrating more of our youthful population into real time, viable and prosperous Agribusiness.

Before us today is a great future, a future that must be fed; a future population of over 200 million people to be fed daily in the next 10 years. We need to plan now to feed our tomorrow and future. If anything, this is the time for our Federal Government to really take Agribusiness seriously by creating and providing the enabling environment for the private sector to drive Nigeria’s agricultural revolution armed with the right agriculture friendly policy, tools and infrastructure with our youth as chief drivers of the process.

Agribusiness is about wealth creation, it is about job creation, and Nigeria is blessed with great agricultural resources and assets that must be exploited and converted into wealth and prosperity for our people. We need to understand that Agribusiness holds and carries with it the solution for youth unemployment.

For agriculture to work, we need to get our seed, inputs, farm machinery, transportation, funding, storage and marketing right. This is the time for the Nigerian youth to take over in the Agribusiness landscape. We need therefore, to prepare them by giving them Agribusiness responsibilities that will challenge their ability. When we do this, we will see the glory of Nigeria’s agriculture.

Nigerian youth today shy away from farming and agriculture because they cannot see the dignity, prosperity, beauty, glory and profits in agriculture.

The picture youth have about agriculture is that of poverty, suffering, pain, hardship and intensive labour without gains. So the first task Government has is to get our youth to see agriculture differently by deliberately giving agriculture the attention and funding it deserves. The Honourable Minister, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina CON, has done quite a lot by pointing youth to the prospects and potentials that exist in our agricultural sector but more work is required to support his advocacy, as the decay in this sector is very deep. President Goodluck Jonathan is also determined to diversify the nation’s economy using agriculture. I believe him and he needs to make it happen now.

Let us make agriculture pay in Nigeria.

The Government needs to make agriculture attractive for today’s young men and women by providing them with access to improved high yielding, disease resistant seedlings, access to finance at single digit interest rates, access to high performing and efficient tools and farm machinery and other supportive infrastructure.

Nigeria’s youth can feed Nigeria’s future, so let us get our youth today to take their place in the nation’s agriculture.

Youth in Agriculture is the right way forward. Let us create the attraction and you will find them rushing in to Agribusiness.

Sotonye Anga is the Coordinator -agribusiness and youth empowerment- Community of Agricultural Stakeholders of Nigeria (CASON). You can read his presentations here.
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Chojare Pamela Agboga is a Legal Practitioner, Writer, Editor, Chartered Secretary and Administrator. She is currently working on her first novel 'Weekends are for Loving' as well as a devotional for women.

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