Mr Promise Amaha is the director-general of Nigerian Young Farmers Network. In this interview with LEADERSHIP, he addresses some issues on how to get the youth engaged in farming.
What is your reaction to the recently inaugurated National Young Farmers Scheme designed by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to elicit more youth interest in farming?
One thing no one can take away from Mr. President is his firm conviction and belief that Agriculture holds the keys to unlocking the potential of Nigeria.
If you had a chance to read through the reactions of most young people to the launch of the National Young Farmers Scheme, you will discover a total lack of trust in the process especially pointing out that key youth stakeholders like the Nigeria Young Farmers Network were left out of the whole process and inauguration. As a matter of fact, several people reached out to congratulate us on the inauguration of the scheme considering that we have been absolutely at the forefront of drawing attention to deliberate and strategic youth engagement in Agriculture through public enlightenment and advocacy, education, equipment and engagement. We pushed hard for such opportunities to be largely youth-led and enabled by government. What we see on the contrary is a largely government- led National Young Farmers Scheme. Such possible deliberate oversight only worsened already terrible distrust between young people and government actors.
Secondly, youth apathy and illiteracy towards farming and agriculture was evident in the responses. Concerns about the security of farms nationwide was also on the front burner of the responses among a lot more other genuine concerns raised by young respondents.
With an aging population of farmers in Nigeria, growing unemployment and insecurity and rising economic crunch, a deliberate scheme like the National Young Farmers Scheme should be a step in the right direction as long as political actors do not interfere with its objectives and the implementation plan effectively engages critical stakeholders like the Nigeria Young Farmers Network who have been in the forefront of advocacy, mobilization and engagement of young people in agriculture. In the coming days, we expect to see a strategic stakeholders meeting designed to develop an all-inclusive framework for the implementation of the National Young Farmers Scheme.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on agencies involved in agriculture to include youth in driving modern methods of farming. As the DG of Nigerian Young Farmers Network in what specific areas can the youth be involved in modern farming methods?
Recall that a few months back, we had a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology and the management of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, with a mission to enter into pragmatic partnership for Agricultural development through Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI). This meeting was captured by the media and this was long before the launch of the National Young Farmers Scheme.
In our discussions with the Federal Ministry of Science Technology, we made it obvious that nearly 90 per cent of Agriculture is science based and urgent steps towards partnership will greatly accelerate agricultural development in Nigeria and mitigate post-harvest loses which stand at an alarming 60 per cent. We went on to emphasize that Science, Technology and Innovation is imperative for enhancing mechanization in agriculture and improving not only crop yield but the entire value chain.
We also reached out to the Federal Ministry of Environment to partner with them on promoting Climate Smart Agricultural Systems that will build the required resilience against the impact of Climate change in Agriculture. The above just to mention a few, further underscores our efforts towards Nigeria’s transition from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture/Agribusiness. With a well thought strategy we call the “G.E.A.R” strategy, (Gather, Equip, Activate, Release) we put together a dynamic ecosystem built on reliable data, to connect young people to the opportunities in the agricultural value chain and beyond. This strategy is at the foundation of our membership structure nationwide as it’s important to state that the Nigeria Young Farmers Network has presence in every community, Ward, Local Government, and State in Nigeria. Our bottom-top approach is designed to cover the last mile and it’s driven by Big Data.
What is the place of the youth in Agro economy?
No young farmers, No food. No food, No economy! The above statement summarizes the place of the youth in Agro economy. In a country with an increasing aging population of farmers and an average age of farmers set at about 55years according to the World Bank, a growing youth population estimated to be 60 per cent, there’s no doubt that the youth are pivotal to the Agro Economy.
The current Agro economy is driven by modern techniques. The youth are champions in Science, Technology and Innovation and that is the bedrock of modern Agro economy.
What are the gaps in the agricultural sector and how do you think those gaps can be addressed?
The first and most dangerous gap is the Knowledge gap. It is the knowledge gap that drives youth apathy towards agriculture, poor youth engagement, inadequate private sector engagement and investment, unemployment and food insecurity. The knowledge gap is foundation of all other gaps which include absence of integrated mechanization, poor infrastructure and infrastructural development, poor access to value chain catalysts etc. The knowledge gap is responsible for the poor perception of Agriculture as a Business, a tool for wealth creation rather just a means for survival.
The key to addressing this deadly gap is intensive and extensive public enlightenment, advocacy and stakeholders’ engagement. As Nigeria Young Farmers Network, we are highly invested in driving public enlightenment and advocacy as the foundation for sustainable engagements.
Your advice is to transform the sector and make it more economically viable, right?
Yes. Fixing the Knowledge gap is the key to transforming the sector and making it more viable. Secondly, sincere and concerted youth engagement is non-negotiable. Our demographic advantage must become our comparative advantage. Harnessing the incredible youth potential for agricultural development will herald a new economic dawn in Nigeria. The present, future and prosperity of Nigeria lies in the youth.