Over the years, the problems of the agricultural sector have been analysed, discussed and dissected by relevant stakeholders in the agricultural sector. It’s amazing that despite the strong opinion exuded at most of these fora of discussion, the progress of the sector is between near stagnant and an embarrassing decline over the years.
I was listening to three discussants on a popular radio station talk about the issue of the growth of the agricultural sector, of course, the failure was blamed on several factors including political interference, lack of political will in policy enactment and implementation, inadequate credit facilities, the high interest rate on agricultural loans, lack of technical know-how and the list went on and on as usual.
What caught my attention was when a professor – a member of a committee set up under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to look into the resuscitation of the Agricultural Universities and Colleges – called in. In his opinion, the growth of the Agric sector lies in the efficiency of these Institutions. While this may be true since Institutions have a role to play in the development of any sector, I think this is yet another holistic solution to agribusiness problems in Nigeria.
Not so many stakeholders lay emphasis on creating an interest in agriculture amongst the young children, which is a more specific approach that seeks to address the problem from its roots.
The growth and most importantly sustainability of the agricultural sector in my opinion lie in creating a passion and interest in the profession and not just on youth empowerment through provision of start-up capital, farm inputs at a subsidized rate, or other incentives provided by the government.
These aforementioned factors of course have a role to play but youth with no interest in the sector could get a start-up under the pretense of agriculture and leave the business of agriculture for something he finds more interesting over time. Moreover, I think getting students to study agriculture in higher institutions is as important as empowering these institutions because unless there are students who desire to practice what is being taught in the institutions, empowering the institutions might become an effort in futility.
The current agricultural population is gradually ageing and fading away and as such needs to be replaced with persons who are passionate about the profession. As early as primary and secondary school stages, Nigeria children should be exposed to the numerous opportunities that lie in agriculture beyond crop and livestock production to recycling of agricultural wastes, agricultural value-chain, areas in crop and livestock production that have remained untapped etc.
This will create room for agriculture to be among top choices of Nigerian students amongst other professions in core sciences and arts.
The perception of agriculture needs to be changed, that way we have more kids willing to further their study in the field because they have a clear understanding of the gains that lie therein.
Like the Ora Goat Project in Anambra State is a commendable one, giving children the opportunity to have a sense of responsibility from a tender age, while being able to fend for their fees (even if it’s just once) with the proceeds made from the sale of the goats they have raised by themselves.
The focus should not only be providing solutions to the earlier listed problems of agriculture in Nigeria but on rebranding the perception of the profession amongst rising youths, the leaders of a sustainable tomorrow.
Beyond provision of incentives, a passion driven agricultural sector is more sustainable over time.