Youth participation in agriculture is definitely the only means to reduce unemployment rate in Nigeria. Agriculture is no doubt a viable means of generating sustainable income in a developing nation like Nigeria. In time past, Nigeria was able to maintain a sustainable economy by encouraging her citizens to participate in farming. Farm produce like cocoa, rubber, groundnut and the likes were produced in large quantity for both export and local use.
Read also: 5 Roles of Agriculture in Nigeria’s Economy
Before the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri, Nigeria to an extent was able to maintain a sustainable economy through agriculture; in which government were able to encourage farmers by providing them with resources through various agricultural schemes and projects.
In the early 90’s, the federal government introduced FADAMA which was aimed at alleviating poverty and rendering supports to farmers such as; provision of fertilizers at subsidized and affordable rates for farmers, and supplying farmers with farm implements at a very reduced and affordable cost. But since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri (the present day Bayelsa state) in 1956, the federal government have since shifted its attention to oil and neglecting agriculture.
Today, we are suffering from the consequences of the poor decisions made by the government decades ago. It is so pathetic that in this present day Nigeria, we can no longer depend on our own agricultural produce, and it has gone so bad that the agricultural produce that are being harvested locally can no longer sustain Nigeria and her citizens talk more of exporting it. Due to negligence and inappropriate planning, we now import the smallest of household items like tin tomatoes, tooth pick, and even matches.
The question we should be asking ourselves is how did we get here? How did it get so bad that we cannot even survive on our farm produce? Just when we thought the economy is so bad, we got hit by ‘tomato ebola’ where one tomato is even costlier than an apple.
THE WAY FORWARD…
1. Creating awareness: it is no longer news that publicity and advertisement is the life-blood of any investment. The federal government must put into consideration the need to create awareness among youths through various platforms such as; the mass media, and social media respectively.
Study has shown that majority of Nigerian youths spend nothing less than 5 to 6 productive hours on social medias like; twitter, Facebook, and Nairaland. Some of these youths spend productive hours ranting, criticizing and complaining of how bad the government of the day is and so on. Government should encourage these youths and engage them through various agricultural programmes and schemes.
Awareness should be created through the platforms listed above to encourage youths in participating actively in agriculture.
2. Organizing training/seminars/workshop/symposiums: to encourage youth participation in agriculture, government should invest in training the youths in order to ensure successful participation of youths in agriculture. Adequate training should be given to youths in order to encourage them.
3. Empowerment: the federal government should make it part of their plans to encourage youths after training by empowering them.
Empowerment comes in various forms, and listed below are the ways in which government can empower youths interested in practising the trade:
Offering financial support: government should ensure that youths are offered financial supports in terms of grants and loans to further encourage trainees in the various agricultural programmes.
4. Professional guidance: Government should put in place facilities that will further encourage youths. Professional facilitators and artisans in the trade should be employed to train youths and ensure that they undergo compulsory periodic training, seminars, workshops and symposiums to further improve their skills.
5. Provision of subsidized farm implements: Government should ensure that farm implements are sold to youths at subsidized rates. Farm machineries such as: ploughs, ridgers, tractors, cultivators and so on should be sold at a very affordable rates to encourage youths to participate in agriculture.
See: Problems and Prospects of Agricultural Mechanization in Nigeria
The burden of empowering youths should not be left to the federal government alone. Government at all levels (state and local) should also encourage youth in participating in agriculture.
We should all bear it in mind as a nation that not everybody will get a white collar job, and as such we should all look inward as citizens of this great nation and encourage our youths to participate in agriculture, ranging from poultry farming, fish farming, snail farming, and so on.
6. Easy accessibility to government grants: government should ensure loans, fertilizers, and other farm tools are easily accessible to youths and farmers. Most times we find out that the criteria that need to be met before accessing these facilities are outrageous.
Government should encourage youths in participating in agriculture by ensuring that facilities such as; government grants, loans, farm implements can be easily accessed.
See: How to secure an Agricultural loan through the Bank of Agriculture
7. Follow up on programmes and projects: federal government should set up committees that would scrutinize how funds are being managed and follow-up on all agricultural projects. It is no longer news that the majority of the problems we are facing in this country today is as a result of corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
Government implementing different agricultural projects on daily basis and one would still wonder why farmers cannot have access to these facilities made available by the government. This sometimes can be as a result of mismanagement, or diverting public funds for personal use by government officials.
Nigerian government lacks continuity, and until this issue is tackled before we can see improvement in our economy. Most times we see a lot of abandoned agricultural projects everywhere, sometimes this may be due to lack of continuity or change in government plans. We discover that government keeps pumping money into agriculture projects and schemes, and at the end of the day there’s nothing to show for it!
Government should put in place agencies that would look into management of funds, implementation of policies and sanction those responsible for misappropriation of government funds.
Encouraging youth participation in agriculture, and investing in locally made farm produce seems to be the major way forward in tackling unemployment in our dear country, and ever since the dwindling oil price, Nigeria has been battling one economic crisis or the other.
Prices of oil in the international market is not what it used to be; as of today crude oil is sold at $50 per barrel compared to what it used to be some years back.
According to the national bureau of statistics, NBS, said that Nigeria employment has worsened in the first quarter of 2016, with unemployed rate rising to 12.1%. And except government implements programmes that would encourage youth participation in agriculture before we can say we have a self-sufficient economy.
So until we start looking inward and encouraging our youths to participate in agriculture, and stop the importation of farm produce like rice, potatoes, sugar and so on, before we can be able to boast of a sustainable economy.