Interview: Samuel Aduwo on Youngstars Foundation’s Capacity Building School, Networking, and the Role of Youths in Agriculture
On June 26 2012, the Youngstars Foundation organized a two-day program/capacity building school at Bolingo Hotel in Abuja. Among those in attendance was one of the fellows at the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable and Rural Development (HISARD), Samuel Aduwo. Harambe Nigeria’s Staff Writer, Tukeni Obasi, was able to catch up with him after the program and learn of his experiences at the school.
Tukeni: Good day, Samuel. How are you doing today?
Samuel: Very well, after an eye-opening program.
Tukeni: I’m glad to hear that. So this program, what was it about?
Samuel: It was purely on capacity building and how to start an organization and scale up. It also covered topics such as social networking and gender mainstreaming…and many more.
Tukeni: Capacity building. That’s so pertinent especially in agriculture. What were your expectations going into the program?
Samuel: Well, my expectations were: how to actually how to help my HISARD project — and Harambe Nigeria as an organization — grow and how to actually start something that can impact change in my society as well as how to build and develop myself in various facets of life and write winning proposals.
Tukeni: Were these met?
Samuel: Yes, to some extent. Rome was actually not built in a day as the adage goes. So, I believe more of such seminars would actually build my capacities more and boost my confidence.
Tukeni: What other topics discussed stood out to you?
Samuel: The impact of social networking on growing organizations which was elaborately discussed by a representative from the US embassy.
Tukeni: Can you tell me more about what was said about social networking? How does this apply to your attempts at using social networks to garner support for your work such as your writing entry during the Harambe Nigeria writing competition (on our Harambe Farmland website and Facebook page) and for your African Rural Contest initiative — Waste-to-Wealth — from last month?
Samuel: Yes, it is really a nice thing to incorporate because it would actually give your work a wider publicity and recognition. During those competitions, I was able to get my friends to go online/on Facebook, Twitter etc, learn about my work/ideas and vote for my cause. This is something I will keep on doing because I have realized the benefit in networking and getting your ideas and work out there and enlightening others. The thing is many people are not aware of these benefits because of their simplistic view of agriculture so at the school, when I shared some of my own experiences, some people were amazed. Social networking enables people to know what others are doing. It helps people leverage contacts and resources and amplifies their voices in the spirit of advocacy. Furthermore, it facilitates idea exchange and collaboration. Youths out there should not hide their ideas; they should open it up in social networking sites and get feedback from people.Remember: an idea becomes valuable when you share it with others.
Tukeni: Well said! The challenge for us in the field is to continue to disabuse people of simplistic notions and shed light on the vast opportunities in agriculture such as networking. In relation to capacity building, what challenges do Nigerian youths face in the field of agriculture and how can these challenges be overcome? In what areas do young people need skills acquisition and capacity building?
Samuel: Concerning the challenges youth are facing in this field, they are numerous. A very typical one is the inappropriate and ineffective government policies on agriculture. Another is the fact that there is no motivation, no encouragement, no moral support, no financial support and these constitute major challenges for youths starting agribusinesses. Coming down to the university level, it is very disheartening to see that the faculty that deals with the study of the production of food, which in turn could mean life, has been given lesser priority by the government. Take a look at it: how many existing functional government farms do we have? This is why youths are not really inclined and motivated to even study agriculture. Youths that are coming from secondary school to the university want to study medicine and pharmacy or other related courses in the health sciences because they feel their future is secured and guaranteed in those fields. Nobody wants to study agriculture because they feel there will be no work for them when they graduate. It is high time the government started according necessary priority to this sector, and ensuring proper monitoring of deliverables. Agriculture is a professional course, and hence should be treated like one. The practical year for agricultural students, for example, should be handled well with necessary incentives, and these students should be treated as future food providers for the nation, in much the same way that they provide necessary incentives to those in the health sciences. If this can be done, the government — and Nigerians in general — would see that there are plenty innovative agric-minded youths out there that are ready to deliver and give in their best.
Tukeni: You mentioned gender mainstreaming earlier. Why is this an issue in agriculture and what are the benefits of mainstreaming in the sector?
Samuel: It is a typical issue in agriculture even in the Sahara Desert, as some farm activities are believed to be for women only which reduces the number of hands we have in agriculture and in turn reduce our returns. We are currently trying to mainstream gender by trying to involve equally both male and female hands in our project on ground, making them see that agriculture is for both genders, and we believe we would achieve more with this.
Tukeni: Can you tell us more about this project? Are there certain things you will be taking from this capacity building school and applying directly to your project?
Samuel: The project is on value addition on cassava. We discovered that this particular community in Osun State grows cassava to a reasonable level but they are not maximizing profits. So we feel we can teach them how to process cassava into cassava flour, which can be used for a variety of purposes, as they only know of fufu and normal cassava. We also want to teach them packaging techniques and work with them to get market for the produce. From the Youngstars Capacity Building School, I’ve learnt the importance of opening up agricultural opportunities to both genders. In our project, both genders will be involved in planning, exhibition and advertisement.
Tukeni: That sounds very interesting. What role do young people like yourself have to play in advancing the field of agriculture? Drawing from your interactions with farmers and un/undereducated youths in rural communities, have you found that your university education in agriculture is helping you bridge the knowledge gap between young agriculturists and old-time farmers?
Samuel: I believe young people with a complete passion for agriculture and pure innovative minds have a lot to do. They have to strive to change the orientation of other youths, making them see why they should be actively involved in this field and updating them on the latest and most-effective techniques in the field. My university education has enlightened me to see that agriculture has gone beyond the laborious activities the old farmers think it to be as it could actually be sophisticated and accrue greater returns through mechanization.
Tukeni: What piece of advice would you give to young people currently looking to build their capacities and start their own agribusinesses but have not had a chance to attend this school and other programs like the Harambe Nigeria fellowship program?
Samuel: I implore them to see themselves as the future leaders of today and not tomorrow. This means that they should be ready to avail themselves of every opportunity in the field of agriculture, and that whatever they set out to do or find themselves doing, they should do it well. Probably this can propel them to the next level, and even attract mentors and investors to them. My advise to the youths out there is that they should not be frustrated by all the setbacks. They should remember that no success comes easy. Young people, rise and keep striving, let us put our hands and innovative minds together to better the agricultural sector in this nation. According to that popular adage, any river that forgets its source would sure dry. The oil boom made the nation forget her source — which is agriculture. But until we go back to it, and revive it in tandem with our other revival efforts, I don’t know what the future holds. So youngsters out there, I am behind you. Be sure of motivation from some few and this you can get by networking and developing your ideas.
Tukeni: That’s a really powerful piece of advice. Thank you, Samuel, for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We wish you all the best in your endeavours.
Samuel: Thank you very much. It has been my pleasure to express my opinion and share my experiences.