How To Make Agriculture Youth Friendly In Nigeria: The Problems and Solutions.

Encouraging Youth Farming

Encouraging Youth Farming


Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic recently and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.

With most young people – around 85% – living in developing countries, where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income it is vital that young people are connected with farming.*

The Problems.

1. Perception / Image
The number one impediment against youths embracing agriculture as a livelihood in nigeria and africa as a whole is the image problem. Youths generally feel agriculture is a dirty profession. A profession that doesn’t allow you make up or knot a tie. With over 70 percent of farmers as adults who live in the rural areas with non existent basic amenities. The idea that a young school graduate will abandon the sparks of city lights and sojourn the rural areas to establish a farm is rather absurd. The paper based educational system we run in nigeria is also a factor to consider. The system gives the youths a false sense of elitism. We are so deceived by our certificates that we are not ready to pick the hoes. It is so surprising when an agricultural graduate prints resumes and start looking for jobs. One begins to wonder in what capacity we hope to be employed. Life in The agrarian communities also indirectly discourage youth participation in agriculture. Truth be told all the sons and daughters of farmers are in the city or planing to be. They see the efforts of their parents compared to the rewards and they vow to make things better. Tell me, when the farmers off springs are fleeing the farm stead, what will attract a city youth to the farm stead?

2. A faulty agricultural curriculum.
I fault the present agricultural curriculum on two fronts.

a. Outdated and Insufficient Curriculum.

b. Theoretical agriculture.

a. Outdated and Insufficient Curriculum.
I recall a lecturer of mine back in school. The course was cash crops. She went ahead too give export data on each cash crop and surprisingly, all numbers were for the 1970s. The most up to date was 1985. I imagine what projections an agricultural student could make with a 1970 data in the 2000s. After that class, only two possibilities scream at me. It is either the lecturer was too lazy to research or there were insufficient agricultural data. I chose to go with the latter because in the 1970s, nigeria was basking in the wealth of its new found oil. Leading to the neglect of agriculture.

b. Theoretical Agriculture.: Ask any agricultural student. They will tell you how cumbersome the curriculum is. I know university education in nigeria is mostly theoretical, but agriculture is super theoretical. There was no department we didn’t borrow a course from. Statistics, business admin, law, anatomy the list is endless. I am also aware that agriculture is a broad course. You need to learn the business side, learn the physiology and anatomy of livestock, and understand the residual effects or herbicides and fertilizers hence the chemistry. However back then the class work was gigantic coupled with overcrowded classrooms and the obvious less farm work. Lecture periods were purely dictation classes.

3. A Barrier In The Information Channel.
There are about 21** agricultural related research institutes in nigeria. Yet the diffusion of information and adoption of innovation rate is grossly underwhelming. As a trained extension agent, it is disheartening to declare that there are about one extension agent to three thousand farmers (1:3000***). The present ratio is inadequate for effective agricultural information diffusion. This is part of the bottleneck that hinders the flow of information. How do I cope with three thousand farmers? Yes there are mass communication channels of disseminating information (Television, radio and newspapers.) But each with its peculiar limitation such as power, and even the conflicting times that the agricultural programs are aired. Let’s not forget the near absence of agricultural programs compared to music programs.

4. Government Policies. Thank God for YouWin! Nigerian policies hardly involve the youths. The champion agricultural policy in nigeria today is subsidized fertilizers for farmers which end up being politicized.

The Solutions.

1. Perception/Image. There is more to agriculture than hoes and cutlass. We need to make known the opportunities that exists in the agricultural sector. One of such possibility is the value chain re orientation. Research institutions and universities need to seek new ways of using agricultural products. If cassava for example has about ten commercially viable by products, it will create an artificial rise in demand and scarcity of the produce. This will enable more youths to see the areas where their expertise are needed. Thus creating several jobs on two planes.

I) The increased production of cassava.

II) The commercially viable products of cassava.

This will have a multiplier effect on sectors of the economy because there will be need for marketing, branding and packaging etc. Replicate this model for other crops in nigeria and we have a staggering bountiful agricultural sector.

2. A New Agricultural Curriculum. A new curriculum should be in place. One that ensures active participation of students in farm and crop management. It is obvious that one year of farm work is not enough for a country who intends to feed its teeming population. A semester of broiler production and a semester of vegetable production does not elicit enough interest for sustenance and continuity. For mastery to be achieved, repetition must occur.

3. Barriers in Information Dissemination.

Research institutes and universities need to figure out a way to push out the research data gathering dusts in school libraries and let innovations be modeled in universities. One of the functions of universities in their host communities is to diffuse development. If the agricultural community on university campuses actually champion the innovations, diffusion and adoption will be easier. When agricultural model farms in universities turn out good yield and are well packaged, the surrounding communities will love to have access to such inputs. Thus encouraging innovation adoption. Imagine having UNILORIN Garri, UNAAB CASSAVA, UNIABUJA Maize, FUTA Honey etc available in the host comunity markets. The success of such agro products will improve farm related economic activity. It will also add a sense of pride and a feather to the cap of students who produce such products.
More farmers will also be reached by this means and will reduce in some way the workload of extension agents in such areas. Also when youths are exposed to and aware of innovations in their field of study, for a considerable period, they will be encouraged to practice their profession.

4. Government Policies:
A lecturer of mine once opined that agricultural students should be encouraged financially. This can be achieved by providing loans for students who might wish to pursue different aspects of agriculture. The twist is to make this funds available and accessible right from commencement of his/her study program with their certificates and some other things as collateral. He said this will ensure the student is well adapted to agricultural production and would have achieved a level of competence upon graduation.

In what other ways can Nigeria make Agriculture Youth friendly? Please share your views in the comment box. You can also join the conversation on twitter ~@phemyte.

* Engaging Youth in Agriculture – The Key to a Food Secure Future?

** Number of research institutes in Nigeria

*** Information Needs of Small Scale Farmers in Africa: The Nigerian Example

7 Commonly Overlooked Reasons Why Startups Fail in Africa

According to StatisticBrain
25 percent of startups fail in the first year.
36 percent fail in second year.
44 percent of startups fail in the third year.
By the tenth year, a whooping 78 percent of startups are dead.

Why is this so? The reasons for these startup failures might not be far fetched. It might also not be the common lack of funds or infrastructure we are familiar with. But they sure have an impact on startup failures.

1. Fear of idea theft.
Face it! You are scared your idea may be stolen. So you guard your ideas jealously. You tell no one about it. Well this only slows down your progress, because you shield your ideas from potential investors and countless others who may help finetune your ideas or product.

2. Most Startups Work in Isolation.
Another reason why most startups fail to get off the ground is that they work in isolation. From ideation to product launch it is a solo effort. You design your product. You research. You develop. You seek funds. You market. This a whole lot of work for a man to do. By the time you are launched, you are already exhausted. And some people at this point just let go of the dream. Have you ever wondered what would have happened to microsoft and Bill Gates if Paul Allen wasn’t around? Well Gates might have gone ahead but it would have been a arduous task. Look at some of the successful business around. Google, Apple, Yahoo, Twitter. They were all co founded.

3. Most Startups Lack Business Management skills.
Many people are efficient in the creative process of businesses but are disasters in business management. Yes you can design that wonderful product but can you manage a business? The management side of business is a different ball game. Most inventors are introverts. They are busy thinking, busy researching. Their job is to deliver the product and this mostly cuts them off from social interaction.
You must work within your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. If your strengths lie in product creation, it’s only wise to employ or partner with someone with management skills. Steve Jobs hired pepsi CEO John Sculley to boost sales in 1983.

4. Startup founders want to be CEO.
Sincerely, it is a wonderful feeling to chair a billion dollar company. The title CEO also has a nice ring to it. The problem here is that everyone is trying to invent or discover the next big thing. So we can be called CEO. However, not every one can nor will pioneer the “next Big Company”. Some people are just there to support. I think It is a perspective problem. We think those under the spotlight are the stars. Well in a way, but there are no stars without a backstage crew. You should understand your passion and reason why you want to start that company. Don’t be fooled by motivational speeches that says, “you can be anything you want to be”. Not that you can’t. You just need to find your place. Some of those speeches are misinterpreted out of context.

5. Most Startups Want To Pioneer The Next Big Thing.
Many entrepreneurs want a single product that solves all problems. Instead on making a product that solves one problem then add improvements later. Google started as a search engine to aggregate search results in realtime, faster and relevant. Now they own gmail, youtube, google plus, Android and a whole lot more businesses. The time you spend in planning that next big product, competitors are already launched. They have feedback and are back in the boardroom , working on improvements.

6. Copycat.
Too many startups are just trying to do the same thing or do what others have done. A plethora of social networking sites literally cloned facebook ( Facebook Clones ) for their ideas. This only gives credence to the original product and acknowledges it superiority. No matter how good your product is, you are a second best.

7. Too Many Startups.
You must have heard the maxim “United we stand, divided we fall.” A lot of mushroom startups are established daily trying to break into an already saturated niche. This coupled with their stubbornness and pride to pool up their little drops of water and make an ocean lead to the death of many startups.

Do you have any other reasons why startups fail? Do share your ideas using the comment box below.

Join the conversation on twitter

Top Ten #AsuuShouldCalloffTheStrikeBecause Tweets.

ASUU strike is in its fourth month now and no compromise is in sight. Students are really getting nervous so they share their grievances on twitter.

Well here are my ten favorite #Asuushouldcalloffthestrikebecause tweets. Enjoy!

1. @ibromazinontop:@CoolFMNigeria #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause I have forgotten my matric number and the name of my HOD

2. @bumiey: #asuushouldcalloffthestrikebecause I have actually forgotten the topic of my project

3. @veek_vortex: @CoolFMNigeria @N6OFLIFE #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause I think am losing d genius in me. Diminishing returns is doing ma brain!

4. “@Jerryczar: @N6OFLIFE @CoolFMNigeria #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause there’s a shift of power from education to music. We gat more artist than fanz”

Better than cultism and robbery IMO

5. @Eloka_timmy: “@CoolFMNigeria: #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause asuu didn’t negotiate wit my landlord,my rent is running”

6. @hoylumeeday: “@CoolFMNigeria: #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause We can’t pay two house rent in one session

7. @divaPat92: @CoolFMNigeria #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause my sis cant spell anymore, she keeps asking me to spell words whenever she’s chatin…kai

Its obvious you spell better.

8. @adamushago: @CoolFMNigeria #ASUUSHOULDCALLOFFTHESTRIKEBECAUSE me I don tire…male student we re nw family driver, females don bcum house maids

9. “@Ameer_tsidi: #ASUUShouldCallOffTheStrikeBecause students need to go back to school, this idleness is abysmal and demoralising @CoolFMNigeria”

Prof obahiagbon in the making?

10. @iam_melp: @CoolFMNigeria: #Asuushouldcalloffthestrikebecause we are getting old we really need to graduate.

Well if one factors the five years experience HR’s ask for, this is Valid.

So there you have it. My ten favorite #Asuushouldcalloffthestrikebecause tweets.

You can also share yours in the comment box below.

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP by Biodun Owojaiye

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP by Biodun Owojaiye.

These days, academic excellence and achievement is the subject of much derision and venomous assault. From far and wide, across the cyber space, media outlets and in the midst of idle gist, there is a surfeit of individuals who are unrelenting in pushing academics to the background. Tertiary education, compared to the primary and secondary, has been the most hit with not a few alluding to its perceived ‘uselessness’. There are many reasons put forward by those who belong to this school of thought. One of such is the seemingly numerous ultra-successful individuals who didn’t attend a university or at best were drop-outs, opting to pursue other ‘valuable’ ventures instead of ’wasting’ time in the University. Since, dropping out halfway didn’t impede the progress of these ones in life; many argue that university education is perhaps overrated. This group of individuals often measure achievement, success, progress in terms of wealth alone, which though acceptable is not always sufficient.
What they see.
It is a fact that Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after just one semester, co founded Apple Inc. became one of the icons of modern technology and died a billionaire, as The Walt Disney Company’s single largest shareholder. It is also a fact that Bill Gates, co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation , a Harvard University drop-out who never went back to complete his studies, today is the primus inter pares of billionaires and the most consistent one of the last two decades. That Mark Zuckerberg, also a Harvard University drop-out and cofounder and chairman of Facebook is one of the world’s youngest billionaires is true. Larry Ellison of Oracle dropped out of both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago and yet sits atop a multibillionaire dollar fortune today. Paul Allen, the man with whom Bill Gates cofounded Microsoft also dropped out of the University of Washington and is at present a billionaire.
What they ignore.
In the same vein, It is also true that the Oracle of Omaha who has a fortune of about 53.5 billion US Dollars (2013 estimates), Warren Buffett, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and a Master of Science degree in Economics from Columbia University while Indian business magnate estimated to be worth 27.5 billion United States Dollars (2013), Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries holds a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mumbai. It is also real that Carlos Slim (73 billion dollars, 2013), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Telmex, America Movil, Samsung Mexico and Grupo Carso studied Civil Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico as George Soros (20 billion United States Dollars, 2012) of Soros Fund Management received a PhD in Philosophy from the London School of Economics many years ago. Brothers, David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries with separate fortunes of 34 billion United States Dollars each both obtained Masters Degrees in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after completing their Bachelors. Bernard Arnault (29 billion United States Dollars, 2013), business magnate and art collector, chairman of LVMH and owner of several other luxury brands is an Engineering graduate from the Ecole Polytechnique just as Lakshmi Mittal (16.5 United States Dollars, 2013), Chief Executive Officer of ArcelorMittal, the World’s largest steelmaking company graduated from St Xavier’s College, Calcutta with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Business and Accounting. For every ‘drop-out’ billionaire, it is accurate to say one can name a ‘graduate’ billionaire. And these degrees are not honorary, neither were they obtained in the twilight of their lives, they were earned as young men.
What they don’t see.
Observing the drop-out billionaires, it is apparent most of them had considerable talent or a competitive edge which conferred advantage in one area or the other. Bill Gates attended a private school where he was early exposed to computers at a time when computers weren’t so popular. It is on record that he scored a verifiable 1590 out of a possible 1600 in his SAT (it used to be 1600, not 2400); this makes it all the more plain that he did not opt out because he was a lazy student. Moreover, with Paul Allen, he had developed a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800, the first personal computer while still a student at Harvard. He left Harvard so he could devote more time to Microsoft. Larry Ellison had encountered computer design before dropping out of the University of Chicago; hence he had a straw to cling to. Steve Jobs had received lectures at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Palo Alto after school while still in high school, so he wasn’t entirely without skill when he dumped College. Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard University so he could dedicate more time to Facebook. Paul Allen had a perfect SAT score of 1600, and dropped out so more time could be spent on building Microsoft. These men didn’t drop out because they couldn’t cope or because they felt that University was useless, they were smart and had things to hold on to. It would have been folly on their part if they had left school with no worthy alternative.
A number have claimed that the university stymied their intellectual development, but this folks forget that a university education confers more than just ‘book knowledge’, even though there is nothing wrong with ‘book knowledge’. It provides an arena for socialization which is one of its latent functions. A ready-made example of this is noticeable in the story of billionaire Google cofounders, Larry Page (23 billion United States Dollars, 2013) and Sergey Brin (22.8 billion United States Dollars, 2013) who met in Stanford University as PhD students. Also, the structured way of doing things in a university help imprint timeless values such as purpose, time management, character, punctuality, perseverance, tenacity, determination, diligence and many more. These values are sine qua non to achieving success in any field, the act and art of making billions inclusive. It is evident that many billionaires possess these which should naturally be by-products of attending a tertiary institution (though not everyone acquires it). The billionaires who dropped-out have had to acquire these traits on their own. It goes without saying then, that receiving formal education up to the tertiary level can and should quicken one’s steps to wealth, if wealth is the objective. Quick to highlight that Orville and Wilbur Wright never completed high school, little mention is made of their perseverance and the many hours of diligence and hard work they invested in their work. Mention is rarely made of the volumes of Mathematics and Engineering these brothers consumed independently. And so it is with billionaires, people only see the billions; they don’t see the values that helped acquire them.
Some more examples
The Canadian, David Thomson, studied History at the University of Cambridge while Masayoshi Son, a Korean National, graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley. Michael Bloomberg, current mayor of New York City, studied at Johns Hopkins University where he majored in Electrical Engineering, while Jorge Paulo Lemann, a Brazilian, earned a degree in Economics from Harvard University. Alisher Usmanov, a Russian, attended Moscow State Institute of International Relations where he obtained a degree in International Law even as his compatriot Suleyman Kerimov obtained a degree in financial accounting and economics at the Dagestan State University. The Americans, Carl Icahn and Jeff Bezos, studied Philosophy and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science respectively at Princeton University. The aforementioned men have one thing in common, they are all billionaires, and none has a fortune less than five billion United States Dollars (as at 2013-08-19)
Bringing it home
A brief reconnaissance of the Nigerian billionaire landscape reveals realities that are not in any way new. Jim Ovia (Southern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana), the founder of Zenith Bank Group, West Africa’s second largest financial services provider by market capitalization and asset base is not a drop-out. Otunba Mike Adenuga (North Western Oklahoma State University, Pace University) chairman of the first indigenous telecoms company in Nigeria Globacom, Equatorial Trust Bank and Conoil completed university as did Michael Ade Ojo (University of Nigeria, Nsukka) of Toyota Nigeria Limited and Elizade Nigeria Limited. Jimoh Ibrahim (Obafemi Awolowo University, Harvard University) of Global Fleet group and the NICON group is no drop-out just as Otunba Subomi Balogun (London School of Economics) of FCMB and Mr Oba Otudeko (Leeds College of Commerce) chairman of Honeywell group and Bharti Airtel Nigeria isn’t. Pascal Dozie (London School of Economics, City University London.) chairman of Diamond Bank and MTN Nigeria and Hakeem Belo-Osagie (Cambridge University, Oxford University, Harvard Business School) chairman of Etisalat Nigeria also completed their university studies. Fola Adeola, founder of Guaranty Trust Bank, a boardroom guru and business maverick attended Yaba College of Technology. Successful drop-outs who stand out are not the rule; rather, I daresay, they are the exceptions.
Entrepreneurship is the Way
While it is clear that founding an enterprise, establishing a business is the way to go if amassing billions is the aim, it is also clear that if these enterprises become big enough (and they have to be big, if one is to be a billionaire) then the founders will need those with the know-how and technical wherewithal to help them run it. Asides the big conglomerates where the founder also serves as the CEO, other companies have men who have attended tertiary institutions at the helms of affairs. The Fortune 500 companies for example, have executives that earn millions upon millions in dollars as compensation annually, and a few of these men are billionaires. An example is Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google. It is shallow thinking to say a company will only pay you to be comfortable and that no company will pay you to be rich. The truth is that if you have great value to add, and the company is big enough, you will be paid enough to be rich and wealthy. And smart CEOs don’t depend on salary alone; they also receive bonuses, stock options and restricted stock grants. However, one must admit it is better and nicer to do the paying and there is no law that says just because one attended a university, one cannot start a business. If anything, business outfits owned by graduates should be better managed.

Receiving a university education is not a measure of one’s life success and it obviously doesn’t mean without it one cannot ‘make it’, however if one gets the chance, one should grab it with both hands and make the most of it. It becomes even doubly important, when one has no obvious ‘outstanding’ or special talent, emphasis on the word obvious. The absence of a special talent that can elevate one above one’s peers and a lack of clear cut opportunity which if pursued wholeheartedly can project one to wealth makes receiving a thorough and qualitative education more important. ‘Book knowledge’ alone may not guarantee stupendous wealth as can be seen in the case of many University professors but there are numerous examples to prove that it also does not hinder its legitimate accumulation. The fact that the drop-out billionaires have sent, and are still sending their offspring to tertiary institutions is proof enough of its importance. It is also appropriate to echo this; a university degree is not absolute. One must also be aggressive in acquiring skills and knowledge along the way, which is the only true way to become and remain immensely valuable.
Not all drop-outs are billionaires, one must look before leaping.
Thank you for your time!

“Steven Jobs.”. Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation 2008
“Bill Gates.”. Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.

Random Thoughts: Providence’s Task

Every generation must recognise & embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history & providence to perform. Chinua Achebe.

Those who have recognised their tasks have moved the frontiers of human existence (in all spheres) forward. Ours is not to complain or criticise the past. Neither is it to wallow in self pity in our present predicament. Our foremost & single task is to identify, recognise & embrace the TASK!

Of course the TASK for everyone would be different. Some would find theirs in technology, some in politics, some in medicine, others in business. Wherever your providence ordained TASK lies, identify & embrace it. Therein lies your solution to your generation’s problems. Therein lies your fulfilment & joy!