The Perception of Agriculture: Changing It

Gentlemen and Ladies, today we take a break from the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) Series which has been my focus over the last three (3) articles. Pheeeww! (I hope you have read them though). Today’s article takes a look into some other areas of agriculture beyond farming -which is what most of us visualize when we hear the word “agriculture”. The perception of Agriculture!

Very common in different fora of agricultural discussions in Nigeria, is the need to raise a new generation of farmers to replace the ageing farming population. while this is agreeably true and necessary, also of great importance is the need to focus on the production of more food with fewer resources and less people, as we build resilient and sustainable food systems that explore other areas of agriculture to ensure effective and efficient distribution of the food produced, in order to achieve food and nutrition security.

In the United States for example, the farming population declined from 50% of its entire population in 1870 to less than 2% in 2008; but the country’s agricultural sector has greatly improved with records of increased yields thus, maintaining its position as the world’s largest food exporter (Investopedia). Some quarters believe despite having a smaller farming population when compared with China and India, that the achievement of food security in 2030 is hugely dependent on farmers in the United States because of their ability to produce food efficiently by focusing on the adoption of improved scientific methods such as hybridization and mechanization in addition to managing a diversified agricultural sector.

People close to me know how huge I am on the urgent need to change the perception of persons (especially youths) towards agriculture. I desire to see a world where children would gladly choose to study and practice agriculture not because it is imposed on them or because of limited options of courses to study, but because they have a clear understanding of the gains in the sector. Today’s world has witnessed the evolution of agriculture beyond an occupation for “dirty peasants” who were compelled into the profession by nature, their ancestors or lack of skills to practice other professions.

You would agree with me that due to the rising unemployment rate in Nigeria which currently stands at 23.1%, youths are driven to take up on opportunities in the agricultural sector purely for survival; but need I say that a lot of other areas (which could benefit individuals and the nation) remain untapped. Focusing on changing perceptions would not only help replace the ageing farming population but will improve the sector through efficient innovations; and build other sub-sectors across the value-chain.

The perception of Agriculture: the solution

This can be achieved when the “craze” for white-collar jobs and the pressure on government to create more job opportunities subsides.

Chart showing unemployment index (Source:https://tradingeconomics.com/nigeria/unemployment-rate)

In my discussions with friends and colleagues, one question I get often is to shed more light on the other opportunities in the agricultural sector. So this article is dedicated to anyone and everyone who has ever asked or never thought to ask (smiles). Let’s now discuss these opportunities one after the other.

Research

Times are changing; environmental resources are rapidly depleting as the world’s population is sharply on the rise. There is therefore an urgent need for intensified research funded by either governments or individuals, into new and improved ways to increase food production and ensure efficient distribution. The world requires food systems that will involve more innovators but fewer people on the farm, less water, less land and smaller units of other inputs. Consistent research exposes researchers to these innovations, creates room for expertise and possibilities of building a career as an agricultural consultant.

Marketing

Marketing of agricultural produces and even basic agricultural implements and safety tools is one area that should be considered by persons looking to go into agriculture. There is a need to create efficient systems such that materials required for food production are made available and that food produced in one region is readily available in regions of low/zero production, within and outside the country at all seasons. It is important to note that value addition across the value-chain is essential to marketing especially, in the times we are in where people pay much attention to details. Also, Nigeria has a large population which translates to a large market opportunity; this can be exploited to ensure distribution of these produces and/or implements as the case may be.

Unpopular Agribusiness Ventures

Recycling or up-cycling (whichever you choose to call it) of agricultural waste as briefly discussed in the previous article is one area that is profitable and requires little resources to start. Other small-capital-requiring, easy to start agribusiness ventures include floriculture, vegetable farming, snail farming, manufacturing and sales of livestock feed, sales and distribution of certified seeds, nursery operation, sale of charcoal/firewood, sales or rentage of agricultural equipments, worm farming etc. Although cost intensive, agro-tourism is an unpopular agribusiness venture in Nigeria which is profitable and would contribute to changing the perception of agriculture in Nigeria.

Advocacy

The agricultural sector is crucial to national growth and development; but it is well known that the sector is not widely embraced. This therefore, creates a need for advocates who will serve as voices for farmers and other practitioners in the field by pushing for the formulation and implementation of favourable policies as well as embarking on consistent and strategic campaigns set at improving knowledge and skills of farmers and the general public on the potentials of agriculture.

The perception of Agriculture: Other Opportunities

Other areas include processing and packaging of agricultural produces; providing timely information on opportunities and areas such as sustainable soil management practices and other sustainable agricultural intensification practices in the form of extension services (private or government supported extension service); investment in other person’s agricultural activities for profit through platforms crowd funded platforms; exportation of agricultural produces and a host of others.
These are only a few of the opportunities we should consider when we talk agriculture, and believe me when I say you do not need so many resources to tap into any of these. After all “there is no shame in humble beginnings”. Rather than focus on the inability of the government to provide jobs for youths, of utmost importance is what we can do for ourselves as individuals. Notwithstanding, these businesses would only thrive within a favourable framework put in place by the government, thus, implying the need for collective efforts. I hope we have been able to conclusively agree that agriculture goes beyond the back-breaking ground tillage for food production by poor people who have no choice.

Feel free to contact sabiagrik to guide you, should you choose to go into any of these areas.

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