Chinyere Anyanwu, [email protected], 09028770040.
Gone are the days when agriculture was synonymous with subsistence farming involving dawn to dusk hard labour on a piece of land in some far away village. This understanding of agriculture made it unappealing to young people who did everything to distance themselves from it but today, agriculture has gone way beyond just farming.
Numerous lucrative agribusinesses in the agriculture value chains that can become goldmines for youths without them working on the farm have been identified, which include production, input provision, processing, packaging, storage, distribution, marketing, exporting, transport and logistics, machinery supply, and retailing, among others.
The need to bring unemployed and underemployed youths abreast of these hidden wealth creating avenues in agriculture informed the recently held AgroMoney conference in Lagos themed, “Empowering the Millennial Agropreneur”.
The conference, an initiative of Cash Your Passion Africa (CYPA), fielded agribusiness and agriculture technology experts who ex-rayed the numerous money-making opportunities inherent in the various agriculture value chains as well as ways of tapping into them for economic benefits.
According to the experts who noted that the country’s unemployment rate increased from 2.27 per cent in the second quarter of 2018 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of the same year, this trend could be reversed if the youths would take advantage of these emerging agribusinesses.
The Chief Executive Officer of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akuma, one of the keynote speakers at the event, while discussing the topic, “Empowering Farmers through Collaborative Food Production,” stressed the importance of using technology to connect people who are interested in the agriculture industry to promote agriculture, grow their finances and increase food security.
Akuma, who listed some of the major challenges of small scale farmers to include “funding, technical know-how and access to market”, and harped on the need for collaboration among various stakeholders in the sector said, “we can achieve more when we work together.”
Emphasising the huge potential market size of the country, which stands at 180 million, the Farmcrowdy boss advised young agropreneurs to “start small. If you don’t start small, you won’t learn the lessons that will help you grow.”
Leveraging technology and innovation for agribusiness expansion formed the fulcrum of the presentation of the Executive Director, Inlaks, Mr. Babatope Dare, one of the keynote speakers at the programme.
Dare whose company provides technology-based rental services to farmers, stated that “farmers lack access to information and technology to control diseases” and contend with drought and other challenges confronting farmers in developing countries. He, therefore, stated that to achieve improved food productivity and ensure food security, technology and innovation must be adopted.
He said, “according to the Food and Agric Organisation (FAO), UN, the world’s population will be 9.1 billion by 2050 and to feed that population, global food production will need to grow by 70 per cent. For Africa, it is projected that the population will attain 2 billion, so farm productivity must accelerate at a faster rate than the global rate to avoid continued mass hunger.
“So we are saying business as usual farming is not the right way forward anymore. If you want to be an agropreneur, it’s no longer business as usual. Innovation holds great promise in boosting agriculture productivity and resilience in a sustainable way and this driven by technology.”
To the young participants, he said, “there’s a whole value chain that you need to identify where you want to be.”
The Group Head, Agric Finance, Heritage Bank, Mr. Gbenga Awe, who spoke on “Accessing Finance for Agribusiness”, educated the participants on the requirements for securing loans from finance institutions and agribusiness challenges, among other issues, as well as opportunities in the agriculture value chain.
He noted that the inability of small scale farmers to track their production and market through technological means denies them the opportunity of accessing the highly needed funds.
Addressing the young agropreneurs on the indispensability of IT in agribusiness, Awe explained that, “better use of IT supports better input selection, improves land and water management, provides access to weather information and connects farmers to funding sources.”
For her part, Bridget Okonfua, President, Unique Women in Agriculture Cluster Initiative (UWIACI), another speaker at the event, who addressed the issue of “Tackling Youth Unemployment through Agriculture”, stated that agriculture practice has become a must for everyone in the country if the current and projected population of the nation will be fed.
According to her, “there are a lot of opportunities in agriculture. If you want to feed the nation, we have to diversify into mechanised agriculture.”
She said, “if you want to cash your passion, consider all we have talked about today and decide where and how you want to play.”
In her remark, the CEO/founder of CYPA, and convener of the AgroMoney conference, Lynda Omerekpe, explained that the conference was convened to, “show people the different avenues they can make money through agriculture, which is a big source of income.”
She informed that, “we want to reduce the high level of unemployment in Nigeria by creating avenues for workshops and seminars for young people to come and learn. Through learning, mentoring and capacity development, we believe that more youths who have graduated but are without jobs will be able to find something skilful to do with their hands. Whatever passion they have, they will be able to cash out from there. That cash your passion means being able to make money through your passion.”
Krixto Bax Ltd, a poultry farming business, emerged the winner of the pitched competition, which enriched it to the tune of N150,000.