Agriculture is the backbone of any dynamic and forward looking economy with Nigeria not in exception. It plays an important role in socio-economic development by ensuring food security, providing raw materials for foreign & local industries; generate foreign exchange and income for most of the population, majority of which is rural-based as well as providing employment and other strategic rural – urban economic turnaround opportunities.
These turnaround opportunities are evident in two economies like Brazil and South Africa; these two had turned around their rural areas through agriculture and agribusiness and with youths as the centre into semi and major urban centers. The guest speaker from Brazil at the last 6th economic conference – Ehingbeti 2012 said Brazil has achieved 70% of rural turned urban cities with agriculture as a key part of other factors. Mr Langa Zita, the Director General of the department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa reiterated that the government of South Africa had made agriculture cum agribusiness as the pivot for employment and transformation opportunities in the rural cum urban city projects but with YOUTHS at the heart of it. This they have achieved success tremendously.
Many young people around Africa and Nigeria are beginning to see and experience the advantages and benefit that comes with getting active in agriculture and agribusiness. Gbenga studied Accounting from the University of Ilorin; he got a job with a multinational company just a few months after his youth service. Even at that he still went into agriculture; four years down the line, he started with fish rearing and presently he has a poultry farm and i can still visualize how every morning the number business of people doing eggs, feeds and other business. At our last discussion, he has started training in pig farming which is the next prospect. His network of the business, techno-agro symbiotic management is the trade secret but with a youthful oriented workforce.
In Sierra Leone, Arthur William had a dream of starting a company when he graduated. He shared his vision with three friends who extended it to the whole class of seven in the department of Agricultural Engineering at the Njala University in 2009. They donated 5 US Dollar monthly for this purpose; Overtime the contributors dropped to three people since others could not meet up. In 2010, they invested this seed money in 30 acres of land with oil palm plantation, Rice, Cassava, Vegetable and fruit trees like mango and oranges were planted. The revenue obtained from these products was used to expand the business and support their Post Graduate studies. They also operated at very low cost by getting help from about 20 other youths in the community who got paid not on a monthly basis but by getting 40% of the profit from the sales made. This proved successful and a means to encourage other youth into agriculture.
These two are just a few of many young people who despite the challenges have made use of the opportunities open to them in agriculture and agribusiness. The solution to the problem of food insecurity as the population increases lies in our hands as Nigerian youths. Some ways we can have a good start as successful agric-entrepreneur (Agroprenuer) is to do the following:
Ø Take active interest and grow a passion for agriculture and its business and a particular aspect that can network other areas as a cycle.
Ø Think Big with a business plan and entrepreneurial advice from Banks, consultants but always start small, within the capacity you can afford and handle.
Ø Be well informed about the aspect of agriculture you want to go into especially the risks involved and the market value of product at each stage of the value chain.
Ø Network with other young people. There are a lot of youth out there who are already into agriculture. Attend Seminars and workshop on agriculture and agribusiness even if you have to pay.
Ø Acquire practical knowledge. Read books, manuals, journals and work for others on their farms to gain experience and exposure.
Ø Get training in business planning, marketing and management it has proved very helpful because a major challenge of most agriculturists in Nigeria is their inability to build a business plan and market to their products.
Ø Be observant and open to new information, techniques etc.
Ø Be ready to be a team player, most aids from the government and the Bank of Agriculture sometimes require you are in a group of ten or there about. So start watching out for young people you can join hands and work together
Ø Follow the trend of activities around you to get updated about opportunities open to you through programs like YOUWIN, FADAMA, Agric Growth Enhancement Scheme(GES), First Bank Farm Scheme and others that would be coming on soon under the Agric transformation agenda.