It is surprising that despite the infinite Agricultural possibilities land and climate offers Africa, only a small portion of the population engages or explores it. More painful is the alarming rate of youth unemployment that has become worrisome for government at all levels.
The question is how long would this continue while possibilities of change abound across Africa. Take for instance; Nigeria with its over 160 million people can produce food enough to feed the whole Africa. The Agricultural sector if invested in will take more than half of the unemployed youths in Nigeria but let’s come to think of it, how many Nigerian Youth are willing to go into Agro-business ventures? Are adequate facilities support, training and incentives available to guarantee a future for anyone in this sector? These are questions waiting for immediate answers.
The time has come for African Journalists to wake up to their responsibility and commitment of giving public education, incisive and critical examination regarding the menace confronting us and the reality that is soon dawning on Africa if urgent steps are not quickly taken. This is so because journalists’ commitment involves attachment to certain social aims and the use of writing to advance those aims thereby causing a social change. And in this context Agriculture is that social aim to advance, while unemployment is the social menace to combat just as it is believed in some quarters today that neglecting Agriculture portends famine for Africa. Hence it behoves journalists to begin excellent investigation of government’s commitment to Agriculture which begins from the budget allotted to Agriculture as well as facilities and implementation of programmes which would overhaul the sector. I have had cause to interact with youths who are willing to venture into Agro-business activities but their plight must be considered and made worthy of attention by relevant authorities.
First, Agriculture in the international community is witnessing a paradigm shift as the old orientation that farming is meant for the old is gradually filtering away with best practices put in place. This is so because of the attention given to the sector to make it inviting to the youths. The onus is therefore on Journalists in Africa to canvass for change of attitude towards Agriculture in their respective country. Prime among areas of consideration is an urgent need to review school curriculum to accommodate skills in Agriculture. For instance in Nigeria, entrepreneurial studies is incorporated as General Studies GST in tertiary institutions but this is more of theory than practical. The media should harp on the inclusion of Agro-prenural studies in Schools.
Furthermore, there should be availability of improved seedlings, land at cheap price with payment spread across few years for those who have interest in Agriculture. Government should be challenged to be fair and committed in the release of fund for youths with passion for Agriculture. Government should also be put on its toes to subscribe to modern and best practices in Agriculture which include providing Tractors, Harvesters etc at affordable prices to encourage youths. Also important is consistent training for farmers and ban on importation of foods that can be locally produced while the place of good road networks cannot be overemphasised.
On the other hand, the need to re-orientate the youths with critical analysis of state of employment in the country by the media would go a long way to curbing the menace of unemployment. It is a fact that the fraction of Retirees on yearly basis in government outfits is not up to 10% of graduates competing for the space they are leaving behind. Hence the realities of Graduates condition and options to circumvent their plight should compete for space on the pages of our papers and media programmes. Many of the youths would complain of no capital even for petty business but from observation many unemployed graduates carry the most expensive mobile phones in Africa while there are businesses they could do to make them responsible. No wonder the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development DFID sustainable Livelihoods framework shows that human beings are surrounded with five assets which often at times men are unaware of. These are Human Assets, Social Assets, Physical Assets, Natural Assets and financial capital. Awareness on these and how to utilize them would stand any graduate tall even above the employed. Journalists hence have the responsibility of enlightening the public in this regard.
In my investigation of possibilities available for our youths in Agriculture, I stumbled on a project by the Ondo state Government in Nigeria called PASS THRU ABC, meaning Professional and Agro-preneurs Sustainable Scheme through Agro Business Cities. The project is a farm city of 1500 hectare land in Ore, a commercial city. This project enjoys partnership with International Institute for Tropical Agriculture IITA and partly funded by the federal government of Nigeria. On the farm city is a well equipped accommodation for graduates and non graduates who are to stay on the farm for a maximum period of 24 months engaging in livestock farming and arable cultivation. These interns addressed as Professional farmers and Agro-preneurs are happy being on farm because all needed for modern farming and to make them comfortable are available. They benefit from all year training, monthly allowance and profit from the sales of produce from business ventures which include poultry, cassava, maize planting, fishery etc. Upon graduation, exceptional graduates will have access to farmland, grants or soft loans just as I was told that buyers are already on ground to buy their produce.
A look at this concept on Agriculture tells of a future for Africa. That is why it behooves journalists to keep government at all levels on their toes. More so is the need to re-orientate the unemployed and youths on the gains agriculture could afford them. With these in place, it is still believed that Africa would one day take a front seat position in being the food basket of the world.