Years ago, I asked a friend whose father was first an agriculturist before becoming a politician (a serving senator) how his father got rich, and he told me pointedly that “through farming”. Ever inquisitive, I asked “How?” and his response was “Bunmi, if you go into real agriculture, though you might struggle for sometime, but once you become established then it’s almost like money ritual”.
Naturally I would have had a problem believing his answer, but having known him for years, plus the impression I got from meeting his father a few times, and my ‘limited experience’ in the field of agriculture then made me believe him completely.
Truly agriculture is a goldmine, and the ever-expanding population (over 167 million at last estimate) means more and more people are (and will be) depending on your service for nourishment and other vitals to stay alive.
Yet, despite this somewhat obvious fact and the monstrous level of unemployment among the youths of Nigeria, few people are giving any thought or really willing to explore this goldmine. And looking at it over the years, as a trained agriculturist (never mind I later veered off into environmental biology), I have come to the conclusion, though I won’t claim credit for this, that the major obstacle standing in the way of young Nigerians from going into agriculture is the image problem.
Yes I know there is a myriad of other problems like the land tenure system, somersaulting government policies, bad linkage roads, electricity etc… but all these and many more seemingly intractable problems exist in other endeavours where the indomitable spirit of the Nigerian youth has triumphed and is already establishing Nigeria on the international map.
The music industry, or probably the entertainment industry in its entirety, is a classic example of this. Nollywood, comedy industry, fashion design, even literature and arts. Despite perennial problems of piracy, inadequate or outdated equipment, paucity of funds, initial lethargy or low response of the populace etc, Nigerians (mostly youths) in these fields have been able to excel, building up entirely hitherto non-existent industries in the process. Gone are the days when someone introducing himself as a professional comedian will elicit reactions like disbelief and rolling of the eyes, or when an introduction as a fulltime actor will be trailed by hard questions.
Back to agriculture. As I posited earlier, the major factor preventing the youths in Nigeria from going into farming is the image problem. Nobody wants to be identified with hoe and cutlass (which sadly are still the lot of our peasant farmers) in this age of jets and SUVs; nobody wants to till the land and wait a year or more for a meager profit when his contemporaries in other fields sit behind computers in air-conditioned rooms and make cool cash.
Even at the university level, most students who studied agriculture and related courses studied it not because they wanted to but more often because of lower SSCE and UME scores, intense competition for limited spaces, and the Nigerian factor (Man-know-Man), which prevent them from getting the courses of their choice. They are what a professor I once attended his inaugural lecture referred to as academic refugees. In the end, some get to see the light midway and embrace it, but for others, even after graduation, it’s a no-win contest. The banks and cool offices are the ultimate destinations, and after five years of active service, the plants and animals can fend for themselves. Little wonder all the Back-to-Land, Feed-the-Nation and other green revolution programmes have failed.
Still, we can get the youths back to, and get them engaged in, this tasking (takes patience) but productive and profitable business. But first, we need to revamp the image of agriculture from an endeavour fit only for villagers, illiterates and retired military officers (with easily acquired lands and lots of money to invest in machinery) to one that is profitable for youths and needs their energy, drive and innovation.
And just like in other industries where people are celebrated for their contributions, we need to tell the success stories of those who have made it, and/or are still making it, in the farming business - and you would be surprised there are many.
We need to celebrate those doing a good job out of feeding us, because beyond government intervention, policy and direct pumping of money into agriculture, getting youths engaged in agricultural productivity, for the purpose of food security and employment (which itself will solve many other problems), will involve dismantling the negative notions or persuading them to unlearn the negative things they have learned about farming. The battle is mainly in the mind and has to be won there.
Once that single battle is won and the youths are persuaded, or get to see agriculture as a profitable venture, then the ‘Invisible hand’ can take care of the rest – just like in the entertainment industry.
Re: Youths Involvement In Agriculture - The Image Problem
Lol posted on 06-25-2012, 08:15:37 AM
Goodluck with selling agriculture to the most corrupt youth in the universe, they prefer to sit in internet cafe all day sending 419 emails around the world destroying the image of their country.
The ones that are not 419 are getting caught daily at MM airport with drugs in their private parts, while others are armed robbers on motorways killing fellow Nigerians. If they manage to make it abroad they then become a menace to their host countries and a liability to the image of Nigeria globally. Why not ask those thousands dying on the way to Libya and Spain to take up farming instead of becoming shooting practice for Arabs and food for sharks off the coast of Africa?
The average Nigerian youth is not serious about an honest days job like farming.
Re: Youths Involvement In Agriculture - The Image Problem
Enyi posted on 06-26-2012, 16:08:14 PM
I have my doubts. It goes beyond image problem. It has to do with our "get rich overnight syndrome". Once upon a time, Anambra State had problem persuading boys to at least have a secondary education. There was a high rate of drop-outs. The reason was simple. Many preferred to get into trading, especially spare parts, because if you are successful you become rich in a relatively short time. Parents supported this and would cite examples of unemployed graduates roaming the streets.
If you can convince the youth that agriculture will make them rich within a short time and provide enabling facilities, I believe many will take their chance. However, I must add that it is difficult to convince people on the need for an honest work with a decent pay when they see treasure looters flaunting their ill-gotten wealth and being honored by both the state and the populace.