The world currently faces multiple problems of food scarcity, global warming and low pricing of crude oil. Nigeria is not left out of these global crises considering her position in crude oil exportation and grain importation alike.
The youths at present constitute about 60% of Nigeria’s population in Nigeria and have over the years made significant contributions to National Development (Vision 2010 report, 2005).
Unfortunately, the present environment makes it even more difficult to explore their full potential in agricultural production and to stimulate youth participation in agriculture.
With the current development agenda of Nigeria, agriculture is no doubt now recognized as a huge economic pillar contributing heavily to the country.
The nexus between agriculture development and the nation’s ability to achieve its food and nations security goals are inextricably linked.
Why Youths Should Participate in Agriculture
Agriculture is important to the development of any nation; this development includes fostering the full participation of youth in the agricultural sector. Youths are the successor farming generation and therefore the future of food security in Nigeria.
The ageing smallholder farmers are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustain increase in agricultural productivity. This effort seeks to change the negative perception of youths in actively participating in agriculture – as farmers are seen as uneducated, unskilled, and physical labourers with extremely low economic return.
Modern agriculture is more than tilling the soil and animals; the sector today offers career opportunities in research, environment, financial management, engineering and technical areas for the youths to explore.
Given the current depressing economic situation affecting the country’s populace, especially the ever increasing youth population who largely seem disoriented on how to eke out a living for themselves without access to the almost non-existent well-paid jobs, effective actions needs to be taken.
This situation is further compounded by the recent devaluation of the Naira and the fall in oil prices which has led to a drag on the economy.
The UN World Health Organization predicts that “ by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas.
With this predicted concentration of the global population in urban areas, it is easier to understand why the number of young farmers decline yearly. There is a compelling need to boost and sustain youth’s interest and participation in agricultural production activities.
Over the years, the Nigerian government has attempted to stimulate youth interest in agriculture, as part of the efforts to reduce ‘youth unemployment’-accounting for over 70 per cent of the national unemployment rate of 23.9 per cent (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics) by providing special incentives such as credit facilities for youths involved in agricultural production and processing. Increased involvement of youths in agricultural activities will help reduce the problems of the ageing farm population and increasing youth unemployment in the country.
The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation, establishes policies, markets and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) programme to show young people that innovation can play a big role in agriculture.
Agriculture offers the young generation a chance to make a difference by growing enough food to feed the world. Those who become farmers now have the opportunity to be the generation that end world hunger and alleviate malnutrition, as well as helping the sector adapt to climate change.
The increased use of mobile phones in farming can also help deter young people away from stereotypes of traditional farming and help change their perceptions about agriculture, helping them to view it as an exciting and innovative industry.
Constraints in youth participation in agriculture
Passion and interest are two interrelated conditions of having concern, emotion and feelings for something. Findings has indicated that most youths have no passion for farming. They rather develop what is called “quick money mentality” that generates from the fat remunerations in the oil and gas sector of the economy; and which injects impatience against long-term investment like the agribusiness.
It has been discovered that farming activities were perceived as a job for the low class, illiterates, ages, and rural people and therefore belittling. Therefore no matter the efforts/incentives attached to the empowerment program to attract youths, a handful of them still belief that, participation in such program is belittling and as such not appropriate for an enlightened youth; which negatively affects the rate of youth participation in agriculture.
Objectives of increasing youth participation in agriculture
- To encourage youths engage in farming as a commercially viable business venture.
- To generate an appreciable income to meet and personal and family needs.
- To improve their standard of living through improved income.
- Motivation to stay in rural areas, as inputs will be delivered, on credit basis and interest free.
- Ensuring food security by producing enough food and cash crops, and livestocks using modern technologies. Way forward
- In order to improve youth participation in agricultural production and processing in Nigeria, attention should be given to the factors leading to youth migration to urban areas. In addition, the economic constraints facing youth in agriculture (lack of credit, low profitability, capacity constraint etc) should be grossly examined. Initiatives such as agro-based contests and exhibition/fairs to encourage already budding agriculturists within this youth demography need be developed and implemented to drive interest by celebrating winners, while grooming them as solution-providers for the identified challenges within the sector.
The need for advocacy through media channels relevant to the youths cannot be over emphasized. This will typically include the promotion of reputable personalities from popular industries such as entertainment, business and technology who are involved in agricultural activities to encourage and champion the cause of youth participation in agriculture.
Youths should be trained on modern ways of agriculture and agri-business during schooling; after the training, those who choose to start an enterprise should be partially or fully funded and encouraged while those who choose to work should be placed in farms of those who chose to create their own enterprises.
As an initiative focused on increasing youth participation in agriculture in Nigeria, Nigerian Youth Congress will work hand in hand with federal ministry of agriculture, and other farms organizations in creating an agri-financing and agri-training platform that crowdsourced funds from interested farm investors to fund smallholder farmers; and train youths and graduates interested in agriculture through our efforts as a country Youth body, and empowering them with the funds to start their own farms in clusters after the training.
In addition youth who are currently into agriculture should be encouraged and honored so that others will take interest in agriculture. We can only reduce youth unemployment in Nigeria through sustainable agriculture.
Agro-preneurs and stakeholders in the agricultural sector need to be celebrated on prominent platforms with their stories widely told to encourage more youths to see agriculture for more than just a food source but also as a business – food is a constant necessity and its demand is ever increasing, hence its inherent capacity for unlimited wealth creation
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