Sub–sector is Nigeria’s “Untapped Goldmine – YISA Boss
From ALEX OGWEMHO, BENIN
The founder and national coordinator of the Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (YISA) Mr. Ogirinye Innocent has described the agriculture sub–sector of the nation economy as the “untapped goldmine” that could revive Nigeria’s dwindled economy.
He said agriculture was the only viable alternative that could sustain this country in the areas of food sufficiency and security if the youth could change their mind–sets, especially, unemployed graduates who erroneously believe that agriculture was mainly for ageing peasant farmers.
Mr. Innocent who expressed this opinion in an exclusive interview with our correspondent in Benin said YISA, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has muted the Agripreneurship Incubation and Mentorship (AIM) programme, its technical corporation and flagship empowerment programme, in collaboration with the Association of Deans of Agriculture in Nigeria Universities, (ADAN) to help change this erroneous mind–set.
He told our correspondent that he was in Benin, Edo State capital to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between his organization, YISA and the Association of Deans of Agriculture in Nigeria Universities (ADAN) at the University of Benin (UNIBEN).
The programme, he said was designed for the students of faculties and colleges of agriculture in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions to build the capacity of the students in practical agribusiness skills.
“It is also to create agribusiness hubs within the school environment in order to produce successive generations of active players for sustainable agriculture in Nigeria upon graduation”, he said.
Mr. Innocent opined that the lack of interest among the youth and more unacceptability among students and graduates of agricultural disciplines was connected with the little attention given to practical demonstration of the profitability of agriculture as a business.
“There are no practical skills on the part of most students and graduates of agriculture in our institutions of learning.
“They also lack support in form of incentive, especially a financing platform for graduates of agriculture to sustainability to establish agribusiness enterprises upon graduation.
He noted with dismay that, “today in Africa, young people are not interested in agriculture and are therefore not active players in the sector”
According to Innocent, “it is a sad development that youths, especially young graduates have left the ageing peasant farmers with the goldmine whose best tools are hand hoes and cutlasses while youth unemployment and general food insecurity continues to rise in the midst of abundant resources”.
He noted that “while lack of incentives for emerging young entrepreneurs could be blamed for the seeming lack of interest by youth in agriculture, it would be a professional backlash and academic failure for graduates of agriculture to continue to roam the streets in search of white collar jobs.”
“The only way to remedy the situation is to encourage young people already involved in agriculture to champion the re–orientation process for the present crop of agriculture students to see the need and embrace agriculture as a profitable business model.”
He stated that this would create the much needed peer mechanism for the achievement of the goal of creating successive generations of active players for sustainable agriculture right from the school environment.
Mr. Innocent disclosed that the organization’s rural farm schools with functional centres “are located in Benue state (Agriculture and plants nursery beds) Kano (Wheat) Zamfara (Wheat) and Abia (Agriculture) which has continued to help build the capacity of youths and women in agriculture”.
Agriculture Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh