Agribusiness, Youth Dynamism, and the Need for a Turnaround in Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector
Every day 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, will 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. In relation to this, another report shows that the average age today of a farmer in Nigeria 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 these 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 traditional agriculture but lack the business skills or acumen to really thrive. The undeniable truth of the matter is 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) — and even a white-collar enterprise– that can generate profits and lead to wealth 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, forgetting that entrepreneurs like Aliko Dangote are reaping massive dividends from the field.
Interestingly though, agriculture goes with the new technology of the modern world. And Nigeria is losing out because 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 climate-smart practices, ICT opportunities). This scenario leaves the onus on 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. This will inevitably transform the current subsistence agriculture into an extensive and business-oriented one with the food security assured and rural development turned into green urban centre’s attained.
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 has been totally dependent on oil instead of depending on agriculture & 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 and 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 entrepreneurial 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 thisrelates to their involvement in agriculture and agribusiness. These challenges 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 and ventures.
· The large gap between the mindset perception of success and opportunities of post academics in traditional white-collar jobs (private & public), business etc, to research and the agriculture and agribusiness industry.
· Lack of access to proper information and orientation to accept agriculture as the new revenue stream.
· Inadequate infrastructures
· Lack of entrepreneurship possibilities, incentives and 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 turned into great success stories proving that the sector is not really a challenge or an archaic field but an area untapped and ripe for plucking.
This article was contributed by Olawale OJO of AGROPRENEUR NAIJA - a forum to encourage young people to get involved in agriculture. Olawale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.