“Agribusiness, cool business”, these were the words on the lips of the 39 young people who attended the “Cool to Farm” Workshop series in the city of Akure, Ondo State on the 21st of November 2012.
The Cool to Farm” workshop was put together by two youth driven organizations the OAC-Agro Advocacy Initiative and Agropreneur Nigeria. The workshop had the theme “it’s Cool to Farm- Exploring the opportunities in Agriculture and Agribusiness for young Nigerian”.
The workshop kicked off with the Olusola Amusan of the OAC- Agro Advocacy Intiative showing to those present the challenges before them as it relates to food wastage, unemployment and increasing population while Olawale Ojo of Agropreneur Nigeria went on a journey of showing to the youth what the agricultural value chain entails and how they can find their place by developing skills to fit in any of the links of the value chain.
The panel session featured stakeholders from key areas of the agricultural sector such as the All Farmers Association, The World Cocoa Foundation and a seasoned UNDP Consultant on poverty alleviation with over 25 years experience. These facilitators not only showed the audience that agriculture and agribusiness were the way out but also provided practical steps and suggestions to help them get more involved in the sector. All the relevant areas of the sector was touched such as research, extension, ICT, farmers organizations and the need for partnership among players in the sector.
Mr Idowu Oludare of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria Ondo state chapter proclaimed that the youth were really needed and encouraged to pick up an area of interest and grow passion for agriculture.
Input supply, on- farm production, post harvest handling, export trade , research and development delivery and extension work were some of the opportunities in the cocoa production sector in Nigeria that Mr Tope Fatunbi opened up to the youth who were surprised that there were a lot more they could do out side having to go to the farm to get dirty as it were.
The women were not left out as Awoyinka Tosin CEO, Afrinutriti a producer of ginger syrup and juice showed to the ladies that they had a very important role to play especially in the area of agro processing of food materials and she emphasis that they do not want to just be laborers on the farm but also producers and job creators.
Breakout sessions that followed had the youths go into two groups to discuss challenges related to factors that hinder the development of youths in agriculture namely, Training, funding, capacity building and the use of ICT in agriculture and agribusiness. The result of the breakout sessions were then discussed extensively to proffer sustainable solutions.
In the words of Mr Isaac Oluwalade of the Cocoa Livelihood Program which is a project between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the World Cocoa Foundation “we are happy that the youths are beginning to show interest in the sector and we would continue to work with the organizers of this workshop to reach more youth with the message”
The future of Nigeria and indeed Africa is in agriculture and it is only when the youths take their place in the streams of event that real change can come. The “cool to farm” workshop series has taken upon itself the responsibility of advocating for more youth involvement in agriculture and agribusiness and would be moving from city to city spreading the message in the months to come.