A major contributor to the dearth of agriculture in Nigeria is the drudgery and the massive migration of young people from rural areas which has left farming to an ageing population. Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the need to get the attention of the youths in developing the sector.
24 year-old Dogara is a secondary school drop out who has no handiwork or entrepreneurial skills to help him earn a living in Abuja, yet he said, “I cannot be a farmer because it is a very hard work.”
Asked what he will like to do, Dogara who hawks phone chargers said, “I want to be a soldier or work with government,” adding that “farming is for old people.”
Sadly, this is the attitude of many in a nation where a good number of youths are unemployed and live a little below poverty level.
It is also ironical that the youth who have the strength required to take on agriculture shy away from the hard work, leaving it to an ageing and dying population of farmers. Should that continue, one is forced to wonder what the fate of agriculture will be in Nigeria. The education, enthusiasm and strength necessary for modern agriculture is with the youths, hence, there is an urgent need to gear the sector towards a youth-friendly system.
Fortunately, Nkiru Nnameago is a youth who has passionionately taken to agriculture with through the development of the Youth Farm (YFarm) Project. The Y-Farm aims to establish and promote at least 10,000 youth-led farms and agribusinesses across Nigeria and Africa by 2020. In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Friday yesterday, the young farmer said, “Agriculture is not only profitable but a solution to problems of unemployment, insecurity, poverty, corruption, among several others.
“While youths in agriculture are challenged by poor access to land, finance, market, mentoring, farm inputs and equipment, there are still quite a lot of benefits for youths in agriculture.”
She said that the benefits to young people include a platform for agricultural education, viable careers and businesses, improved livelihoods through jobs creation, entrepreneurial opportunities, among several others. To develop the agriculture sector, the young farmer has called on the Buhari-led government to adopt and replicate youth-led projects, especially the YFarm Project and create platforms to showcase African and national youth agriculture festivals and marketplace, schools bootcamp on sustainable agriculture, e-platforms, community outreaches on agribusiness and climate smart agriculture as a means to capturing the attention of the youths to get involved agriculture.
A compelling need to restructure the thinking of the Nigerian youth will not only solve the problem of drudgery but will create millions of jobs, generate employment and wealth and also ensure the eradication of hunger through improved food production. The fact that quite a percentage of Nigeria’s perishable foods goes to wastes as a result of lack of processing and storage facilities shows that millions of jobs can be provided through harnessing the strengths of the youths in areas were such commodities are in high yield. The mechanisation of agriculture is another way to get the attention of the Nigerian youths in agriculture. There is the need to ensure that the subsidised mechanisation of farm inputs is made available to youths in rural areas, therefore the need to further invest in agricultural mechanisation.
The past government saw the need for this and introduced the Agricultural Mechanisation Scheme which was aimed at providing subsidised mechanised service to farmers in the rural areas. While it is not in doubt that mechanisation tends to reduce the demand for human labour, it also enhances the beauty of agriculture and will attracts youths into the sector.Mechanisation will cut down the labour expended in agriculture by almost 70 per cent while improving yield. Reintroducing young farmers clubs in schools, in addition to the teaching of agriculture, will further create more green fingers across the nation’s fertile lands.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2013 set up the Gender and Youth Desk with a view to harnessing the potential of young people towards reducing unemployment, improving food security, creating wealth and eradicating poverty.