Harambe Nigeria Trio Launch Herbicide Training Initiative
By Tukeni Obasi
On August 6, 2012, three fellows at the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable and Rural Development (HISARD) embarked on an initiative to improve the practice of agriculture in a rural farming community in Osun State. The team comprised Rita Oladokun, a student of agricultural economics; and Anifat Ibrahim and Babtunde Olanrewaju, both students of agricultural extension and rural development at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
In reality, the journey started a year earlier when the team of young agricultural enthusiasts, after their repeated visitations to Erefe and interactions with the resident farmers, identified the need for a training programme for the farmers on the use of herbicides. Rather than make recommendations to somebody else to meet that need, the team decided to take on the challenge. Central to the trio’s mission was coming up with a means of sustainable agricultural development for the community while taking steps in the agricultural entrepreneurship journey.
Anifat, Rita and Babatunde started working with the Erefe community in June 2011 and eventually developed a permanent interest in the community for a number of reasons, such as location and accessibility, small population size and agricultural activities. Erefe has largely small-scale farmers who grow mostly crops like maize, cassava, tomato and, though less so, cocoa and plantain. A number of them also practice animal husbandry. Some farmers in this community (mostly 40 years and older) usually enlist the help of their school-aged children in several activities, but, by and large, farming is a profession that is not embraced by the young people in the community. Within a month of meeting them, the fellows developed an excellent rapport with the farmers and came back often to assist them on their farms.
However, in deciding to embark on this community service project, the fellows did not immediately assume that they had diagnosed the farmers’ problems by virtue of their interactions with them. Launching an official needs assessment, and putting to use the research skills they had acquired through their fellowship, the fellows carried out research into the factors hindering the growth of agriculture in Erefe. To this end, they designed questionnaires for dissemination and conducted various structured interviews. This exercise, which had the backing of the community leaders, was widely received by the community farmers. The results were telling: the farmers faced a number of limitations to economic prosperity which included poor cultural practices, an absence of storage facilities leading to post-harvest losses, and a dearth of processing and value addition initiatives for their farm produce.
Following this revelation, the trio went to the drawing board and came up with a herbicide training and capacity building initiative to improve the practices of farmers and, by extension, increase their yields, productivity, and incomes. After consulting with their programme managers, they were able to come up with a plan, which included the cost estimate of the initiative in order to determine the project’s feasibility. Harambe Nigeria then secured the funds.
Having completed the planning stage, the team moved into the implementation phase. In an exercise called the Training of Trainers, they went to the OAU teaching and research farm where they underwent training on the application of herbicides in local communities. Another component of the training occurred in Erefe where an expert in herbicide training programme, by name Oguntoye, instructed the fellows on effective communication techniques. The pamphlet that was to be used for the training was then designed by the fellows, first in English, and then in Yoruba, the native language of the community residents. After conferring with the leaders and the community members, a date and time was agreed upon. The fellows purchased herbicides and knap sprayers that were to be used during the training.
And then the much-anticipated day came around. One hundred copies of the training pamphlet were distributed among the audience. Due to the influence of the agricultural extension students on the team, it was decided that the participatory approach of agricultural extension would be adopted during the sessions to enable farmers voice their views and concerns, ask questions and seek clarifications on any issue. For their part, the farmers were delighted to see young people, whom they considered as their children, bridge the knowledge gap in the community. Many of them, as a result of this training, were better able to identify quality herbicides in the market as well as understand the right techniques of application. Light was also shed on other important cultural practices and this was reportedly greatly appreciated by the farmers.
But the farmers were not the only beneficiaries of this exercise. The fellows reported to have received “self-development through this programme”, thus becoming “more grounded on the use of herbicides and, most importantly, on how to plan, implement, and evaluate success in rural community projects.” They are committing to following this project up in the coming months by ensuring the availability and supply of herbicides to the farmers.
As they begin the final year of their undergraduate programme, Anifat, Babatunde and Rita have reaffirmed their faith in agriculture both as a tool for social change and as the wealth engine of the nation. They are part of the emerging cadre of nagropreneurs who are recognising the enormous economic benefits agriculture holds (not just on the farms but in the industries and factories) for those who are ready to plough the field. As they continue to work in Erefe and firm up plans to establish their own agribusiness ventures, their future remains green and lush with endless possibilities.
This article was originally published in Business Day