We have always paid lip service to the issue of youth engagement in agriculture. The necessary information on how best to do this has been with government; but for inexplicable reasons, those in power have failed to act on several recommendations.
However, we will not keep quiet, we will keep reminding them. Like other aspects of human life, agriculture is not static. About 15 years ago, it was quite a feat for one hectare of land to produce seven tonnes of maize; but today, we are talking of 20 tonnes of the same produce within the same land area. At the time, a cow producing seven litres of milk per day over here is considered normal but now, people are talking about a single cow producing 250- 300 litres of milk per day. All these are products of good research. Research that will help farmers appreciate agriculture better must be given priority by those in government. Crops suffer from diseases just like human beings and most of the chemicals we use here to treat these diseases were prohibited in other climes about 15 years ago because they are not safe for humans.
We must reintroduce proper extension services to attract youths into coming in and remaining in agriculture. This is necessary because if scientists bring out the best research findings and such is not properly communicated to the farmers, the product of the research will amount to nothing. If you give farmers the best seedlings or livestock and they do not have the needed information to manage them, they won’t achieve optimal production.
We must also make good use of innovative technology which without doubt can attract and motivate our youths to come into and remain in agriculture which in most parts of the world today is a very lucrative business. We cannot run away from mechanisation be it in crop or livestock farming. The issue of funding is another area which must be looked into because agriculture is capital intensive. We should have a system where loans for agricultural purposes will not attract more than a single digit interest of say two to five percent. There must also be a deliberate policy to encourage value addition to curb the high rate of waste when farmers mass produce. Government must also address the issue of power and basic infrastructure such as roads and access to water and arable land for interested persons. •Prof. Clement Adeboye (Agronomy and Crop Physiology / Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), Osun State University)
The first thing the Federal Government should do is to make an arable expanse of prepared land available for our youths in the six geo-political zones. The land area must be such that is suitable for mechanised farming; it must be free from encumbrances. I will also suggest that the farm settlements be equipped with modern facilities. Access to the Internet, potable water, good roads and health facilities should be provided to encourage interested youths to remain, grow their crops and animals, raise their families and contribute meaningfully to the society. These settlements should be such that inhabitants can leave for the farm in the morning and return late in the afternoon or evening and have a place to rest, refresh and return to the farm the next day. People can also go there to buy fresh food, fruits and milk as the case may be.
If this happens, it will be possible for industries that need say maize to add value to their products either for local consumption or export to approach youths in these areas to produce to meet their specifications. That way, these youths may not even need to apply for loans to stay in business. •Segun Dasaolu (Chairman, South West Farmers’ Forum)
Sadly, agriculture which used to be the main stay of our economy is not what it used to be before. Our youths have not been trained to take over from the aging population of farmers. We have a growing population and unless we take agriculture seriously, we will have problems feeding ourselves in the near future. We can stimulate the interest of our youths in agriculture through modernisation of the system. First, since the attention now is more on formal education, we can integrate the practical side of agricultural studies into our regular school system in such a way that students will be involved in growing the food they eat in school.
We must also get local and state governments involved, they can help with the provision of farm implements and seedlings.
There is nothing wrong with schools owning poultry farms and other businesses that help to develop and promote the agricultural value change. When we are able to develop interest among schoolchildren, we can take it further to other levels of education. We can also stimulate interest of young people who have graduated from institutions of higher learning by providing incentives that will encourage them to embrace farming at a higher level. Government can also help by making policies that make farming and allied professions attractive. •Alhaji Tanko Yakasai (Elder statesman)
During my secondary school days at Government College, Umuahia, now in Abia State, we had a system where pupils were encouraged to go into agriculture. At the beginning of the farming session, they provided us with seedlings, tilled the land for us and gave us implement to work.
After the harvest season, they deducted their input costs and the profit was ours. If you adopt that method in today’s modern day, it will be good. Young people do not have the facility or infrastructure for farming. Government can come in by providing the land, seedlings, tilled the land and give them implements so that all the youths will have to do is to provide the human resources or their labour which is a great asset. After the farming, the government will now deduct the cost of their investments.
Even if you want to provide cash to them, provide all those things I mentioned earlier for them. A situation whereby they give loans for agriculture and money is diverted into other ventures may not be the best approach. Let us target agriculture. Let us go to the scene of the action.
Government should also provide tractors for them so that they can engage in mechanised agriculture. There is also the need for government to initiate and implement good and sustainable policies.
The former premier of the Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and also a prominent Igbo leader, Dr Michael Okpara, implemented farm settlement scheme. The government provided water, land and other infrastructure so the beneficiaries did not see themselves as being in the bush and that was a great attraction.
Mr Truelove Njoku (An Ilorin-based agriculturist)
We need to boost mechanisation for our youths to embrace and remain in the agricultural sector. Mechanisation should commence from land clearing, modern farm equipment such as tractors should also be made readily available for interested young farmers; we should also have a system where a ready market is made available for what farmers produce. This will go a long way to encourage youths interested in farming. In order not to leave the burden for the Federal Government alone, states and local governments should also buy into this. It will not be out of place for government to provide start-ups with tokens to enable them stabilise on their farms. The provision of farm implements, inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and extension services will also be a good idea.
Youths who have graduated from universities or polytechnics can be encouraged to go into farming with the provision of these and other incentives. At the end of the day, the youths and their communities and by extension government at all levels will be the beneficiaries. There is also the issue of financing, it may not be in cash, it could be in kind. Farm inputs can be given out to them and a repayment arrangement can be worked out in such a way that they are made to repay after their harvests. Apart from some parts of northern Nigeria where we have open land; from Niger State coming down through Kwara to Lagos State, we have a big forest which will require bulldozers to clear and make available for farming.
The government should also take an interest in helping to market farm produce. We have been talking of anchors borrowers scheme, which the Federal Government is aware of, whatever investment you make in agriculture, there must be a ready buyer standing by. For years, they have been importing rice and maize, so today we can go into cultivation of rice and maize on our own. We can also do more in the area of value addition by increasing the number of our rice mills and similar services. •Mr. Olawale Ajibola (Kwara State Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria)
Source : Punch News
Compiled by: Success Nwogu, Femi Makinde, Samuel Awoyinfa and Okechukwu Nnodim