Ca­reer in farm­ing is bit­ter­sweet

The Punch - - BUSINESS FEATURE -

In the past two years, thou­sands of young Nige­ri­ans have been res­cued from Libya and other coun­tries where they suf­fered de­hu­man­is­ing con­di­tions be­cause they left Nige­ria to seek greener pas­tures.

more and more of them are still seek­ing av­enues of es­cape from the coun­try.

The sit­u­a­tion is again com­pounded by the econ­omy that has been pretty harsh dur­ing the re­view pe­riod, and youth un­em­ploy­ment that has jumped to an all time high.

Data from the Na­tional bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics show that out of the 75 per cent youth that make up Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion, over 55.4 per cent is un­em­ployed or un­der­em­ployed.

The un­em­ploy­ment sit­u­a­tion has been blamed for a spike in the rate of crime in the coun­try. Youths en­gage in cy­ber­crime, kid­nap­ping, armed rob­bery and other vices.

African gov­ern­ments, Non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing FAO, are in­creas­ingly im­ple­ment­ing youth-spe­cific ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in sup­port of youth in­volve­ment in agri­cul­ture.

most ini­tia­tives com­bine agri­cul­ture and en­trepreneur­ship as one of the strate­gies to at­tract youth to agri­cul­ture and ad­dress the grow­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment.

Lament­ing that its great­est prob­lem is the grow­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try, the gov­ern­ment has, through the bank of In­dus­try, bank of Agri­cul­ture, Fed­eral min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and sev­eral other or­gan­i­sa­tions, made fund­ing and ca­pac­ity build­ing ini­tia­tives avail­able to at­tract youths to farm­ing and to em­power the young peo­ple who are al­ready farm­ers.

Among the re­sources avail­able for young farm­ers are; -em­pow­er­ing Young Farm­ers Ini­tia­tive, a project of change­mak­ers.

EYFI of­fers ba­sic busi­ness train­ing, one-year men­tor­ship and free con­sul­ta­tion to youth in ru­ral vil­lages, en­abling them to cre­ate, de­velop and grow their agric busi­nesses.

To pro­vide credit, EYFI launched the rolling Fund via part­ner­ship with the boa enterprise bank, with two credit lines to young farm­ers.

Young Farm­ers club: This is a vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion for stu­dents un­der the age of 20.

YFC was es­tab­lished with the slo­gan ‘catch Them Young’ aimed at at­tract­ing the youth in sec­ondary schools to ap­pre­ci­ate and choose agri­cul­ture as a ca­reer.

It is also aimed at train­ing stu­dents on how to man­age farms, ac­quaint­ing them with dif­fer­ent tech­niques of farm­ing, to make in­for­ma­tion avail­able on agri­cul­tural break­throughs and im­prove stu­dents’ knowl­edge.

Farm Aware­ness for Food Preser­va­tion Ini­tia­tive: This plat­form cre­ates fi­nan­cial sup­port sys­tem to sup­port or­ganic farm­ers and re­duce poverty.

On its part, The Fund for Agri­cul­tural Fi­nanc­ing in Nige­ria aims at catalysing an agri­cul­ture-led in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth through in­no­va­tive fi­nan­cial sup­port for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity, value-added pro­cess­ing and mar­ket link­ages.

The funds are meant for agri­cul­tural small­hold­ers and Small and medium en­ter­prises.

The Youth em­ploy­ment in Agri­cul­ture Pro­gramme: This is a youth-led ini­tia­tive from the Fed­eral min­istry of Agri­cul­ture to get youths in­volved in agri­cul­ture.

The min­istry un­der this ini­tia­tive es­tab­lished a Youth De­part­ment which co­or­di­nates all YEAP ac­tiv­i­ties and en­sures that there is proper mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion of im­pact.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in launch­ing the YEAP said it tar­geted reach­ing up to 750,000 Nige­rian units over five years with fi­nan­cial sup­port to en­able them estab­lish and run wealth cre­at­ing agribusi­ness en­ter­prises as Nige­ria is mak­ing ef­forts to di­ver­sify its econ­omy.

Young farm­ers can also ben­e­fit from Farm­crowdy, Nige­ria’s first dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture plat­form that em­pow­ers ru­ral farm­ers by pro­vid­ing them with im­proved seeds, farm in­puts, train­ing on mod­ern farm­ing tech­niques and a mar­ket for the sale of their farm pro­duce.

Fresh from school and while serv­ing as a youth corps mem­ber, a young grad­u­ate can ac­cess the Youth en­trepreneur­ship Sup­port fund from the bank of In­dus­try to de­velop one of the busi­ness ideas listed on the bank’s clus­ter pro­grammes.

De­spite all the fi­nan­cial re­sources, per­haps due to lack of aware­ness of their ex­is­tence, the young farm­ers in this story have never taken ad­van­tage of the nu­mer­ous in­ter­ven­tion funds tar­geted to the youth.

Onu ex­presses this in a not more sub­tle lan­guage as he says, “The loans gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to give is just au­dio democ­racy loan as farm­ers find it dif­fi­cult meet­ing the con­di­tions for the loan. Un­for­tu­nately it is politi­cians that also ac­cess the loan.”

“Yes, the gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to give some loans to farm­ers, but we have not be able to ac­cess it for once,” Oyeniyi says.

“most times I read about all th­ese grants and loans on­line, news­pa­pers, TV and so on but it doesn’t get to farm­ers that are ac­tu­ally into pro­duc­tion and oper­a­tions.”

Even though they lack abil­ity to ac­cess fi­nance and other aids, the young farm­ers are not de­terred in cre­at­ing in­ge­nious and very ef­fec­tive ways to grow their busi­ness, pre­vent post har­vest losses and reach the mar­ket.

“If I have loss in any of my pro­duc­tion, the profit on the next pro­duc­tion will be used to bal­ance it all and vice versa,” Oyeniyi says.

Onu gets seeds from seed com­pa­nies and re­search in­sti­tutes, uses ir­ri­ga­tion, a method he learnt from school.

On how she re­duces her post har­vest losses, Da­ly­pop says she does this by dry­ing her veg­eta­bles and crush­ing them into pow­der which she stores in rub­ber con­tain­ers or sacks.

The young farmer who ba­si­cally ob­tained her knowl­edge of crop preser­va­tion from Google and Youtube says, the por­tals have also taught her mod­ern farm­ing meth­ods like sack farm­ing and liq­uid plant­ing (hy­dro­pon­ics).

“I planted plan­tain, mul­berry, cas­tor, Ghana pump­kin, mint and egusi and others in sacks and I planted gar­lic and rice in plas­tic bot­tles prac­tic­ing the hy­dro­pon­ics.

“I also learnt mod­ern mush­room farm­ing through an on­line class on Face­book.”

For Ogu­muka Onyeagha­lachi, chair­man, Ogu­na­gro busi­ness Ven­tures, a grad­u­ate of bio­chem­istry, de­spite the chal­lenges, there is a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion from be­ing able to sell farm pro­duce.

Onyeagha­lachi, a potato farmer says, “I was able to pro­duce 20 bags of pota­toes in 2019. I have farms in Umuahia and un­cul­ti­vated lands in Obowo/ mbaise, Imo State. by his grace, I shall cul­ti­vate all in 2020.

“The busi­ness is prof­itable. A bag of pota­toes cost N7,500. As a pro­ducer, I sold N6,000 and peo­ple rushed it. I was ex­cited, then I planted more. “The har­vest is done twice a year.”

Full of am­bi­tion, he wants the gov­ern­ment to give him a grant so that he can ex­pand his potato farm and pro­duce potato, corn and other crops in large quan­tity next sea­son.

He adds, “I want to have a large plan­tain farm on a large ex­panse of land. It will give me joy if I have a plan­tain/ba­nana farm that houses be­tween 2,000 and 5,000 stands of suck­ers.”

else­where around the world, novice farm­ers don’t have it easy: They face sim­i­lar chal­lenges like their Nige­rian coun­ter­parts, such as lack of knowhow, find­ing and pay­ing for land.

How­ever, back­ing from their re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments has en­abled many to make suc­cess­ful ca­reer out of farm­ing.

In the US, the Fed­eral Farm Loan Act of 1916 cre­ated co­op­er­a­tive banks to pro­vide loans to farm­ers. That de­vel­oped into today’s Farm credit Sys­tem, which is a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored fi­nan­cial sys­tem with more than $280bn in as­sets.

Farm­ers can ac­cess loans to ac­quire equip­ment and in­puts they need for their busi­ness with­out hav­ing to go through com­mer­cial banks with their strict con­di­tions and ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­est rates.

In African coun­tries like Kenya, Ghana, cote d’lvoire and others that have strong agri­cul­tural prac­tice, var­i­ous poli­cies and in­cen­tives that are tar­geted at get­ting the youths in­volved in agri­cul­ture abound.

ex­perts say the best way to at­tract youth to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor is through tech­nol­ogy and mech­a­ni­sa­tion.

The Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral, La­gos cham­ber of commerce and In­dus­try, Dr muda Yusuf, says, “To at­tract the youth to agri­cul­ture, mech­a­ni­sa­tion and use of tech­nol­ogy must be made much eas­ier and ac­ces­si­ble.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, chances of suc­cess for youths in agri­cul­ture seem bet­ter in ar­eas such as an­i­mal hus­bandry, poul­try and fish farm­ing as well as pro­cess­ing and mar­ket­ing.

He ad­vises youth to do proper eval­u­a­tion of the agri­cul­tural value chain and de­ter­mine which seg­ment best suits their com­pe­ten­cies and ca­pac­i­ties.

For agron­o­mist and food sci­en­tist, Dr chi­jioke Osuji, young peo­ple should be en­cour­aged to ex­plore the agri­cul­tural value chain other than farm­ing.

He says, the value chain from pro­cess­ing to ser­vices is very huge and there is a big gap that needs to be filled.

He says, “more young peo­ple should be trained in the use of tech­nol­ogy to op­er­ate in the agri­cul­tural value chain.

“We need good la­bel­ing for our prod­ucts and this is where young peo­ple can func­tion very well.

“Gov­ern­ment should in­vest in trac­tors and power tillers and en­cour­age peo­ple to in­vest in trac­tors that can be given out on hire. This is where young peo­ple can be em­ployed and they can be trained to fab­ri­cate some of the ma­chines lo­cally. “They can also be trained to han­dle ir­ri­ga­tion.” Osuji ad­vises the gov­ern­ment to map out large agri­cul­tural land and share the land one hectare each to young farm­ers.

“It should be a kind of set­tle­ment where ev­ery amenity is pro­vided and the young ones can go there and live and get in­volved in agri­cul­ture and its value chain. ex­ten­sion work­ers should also be put there to guide the young farm­ers

“In­dus­tries can go there to source raw ma­te­ri­als.” On his part, the Deputy Di­rec­tor, Nige­rian Agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion, re­search and Li­ai­son Ser­vices, Prof em­manuel Ikane, also sug­gests train­ing young peo­ple in skills that would bet­ter po­si­tion them to be rel­e­vant in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

He re­grets that agri­cul­tural sec­tor in Nige­ria is one of the most ne­glected sec­tors and a sec­tor where 90 per cent of the key op­er­a­tors are not skilled.

He calls for more gov­ern­ment at­ten­tion and in­vest­ment to grow the sec­tor.

Al­though the gov­ern­ment has ded­i­cated a lot of time, money and ef­forts to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, ex­perts say the best way to gain from the sec­tor is through value ad­di­tion.

Nige­ria is not get­ting the kind of in­come that it should get from agri­cul­ture be­cause the con­cen­tra­tion is in the pro­duc­tion and sale of pri­mary prod­ucts, ex­perts in­sist.

All over the world, more in­come is re­alised from value ad­di­tion to agri­cul­tural pro­duce, they say.

bear­ing this in mind, the gov­ern­ment has com­menced ef­forts to in­vest in value ad­di­tion to its agro prod­ucts.

In Novem­ber, it signed a mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing with the Sasakawa Africa As­so­ci­a­tion (SAASG2000), a global non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion in­volved in de­mand­driven and value chain-ori­ented cur­ricu­lum in 26 in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing 24 uni­ver­si­ties and two agri­cul­tural col­leges across nine African coun­tries.

The mou would serve to re­duce post har­vest losses through proper util­i­sa­tion and in­vest­ment in the agri­cul­ture value chain.

The Di­rec­tor, Fed­eral De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture ex­ten­sion, mrs Karima ba­bangida, said that the col­lab­o­ra­tion had im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity and strength­ened ex­ten­sion de­liv­ery for 2018/2019 crop­ping sea­son in six states.

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