Dr. Babajide Adelekan, Vice-Rector of the Federal Agricultural Agricultural Enterprise, Ibadan, Oyo State, talks with FEMI IBIROGBA about the state of the economy, investment and youth involvement in agriculture and economic diversification, among other issues.
Is agriculture a potential tool for poverty alleviation in Nigeria?
Recently, there has been a tendency for 87 million Nigerians to live in extreme poverty.
This is definitely not a very good position, but first of all you cannot separate this situation from the state of the nation’s economy.
When people have where to work, they will create wealth, and this will improve their lives.
But when people have nothing to work with or they do not work, as they have to work, the problem of creating wealth will be slowed down.
Thus, this problem, which consists in the fact that few people in Nigeria, will definitely lead to poverty, and we have so many problems with our economy. First of all, the first thing to decide is the economy.
People must be transferred to work. Only when people work and produce this poverty can they be reduced.
The main way to make people work and create more wealth is agriculture. We have a natural competitive advantage in agriculture.
It is often said that we have a very favorable climate in this country; we have good soil in most parts of the country, and we have very good rainfall, very good sun and so on.
In short, we have all the production elements necessary to ensure higher productivity in agriculture.
Again, we have people who are very knowledgeable in agriculture, who are very well trained in modern agriculture.
But there is still the problem of insufficient investment in agriculture. We do not have large capital to be directed to agriculture.
When you talk about raising people's living standards, there are three very important social goals that you should focus on.
The first is education. You must educate people so that they can create work.
You must provide people with high-quality medical services so that they can even work and stay at work and create wealth.
The last is agriculture. You have to feed the population well, so that they even had the power to create wealth.
Much has been said about education, about health and all of this, but from the point of view of investment in agriculture, we have seen little lately, and we need much more than this because we need continuous investments to transfer our agriculture from the subsistence minimum. on commercial.
Now let me use an illustration.
If you have a farmer using a full range of materials, such as tractors, machinery, improved seeds, fertilizers and all that, this farmer will be able to produce food for 80-100 people per year, growing at least five hectares of land.
But if you have something like a farmer-farmer, it’s unlikely that the farmer can get enough food to feed his family.
Despite increasing knowledge and increasing mechanization in agriculture, young people are not interested in this sector. How can you attract them?
The reasons for this are manifold. The first is the capital needed to start agricultural activities is not available.
If we have some graduates of schools who are interested in agriculture, for example, they need money, they need capital, and they need tools and equipment.
By the way, they can't easily get all these things.
For example, someone can apply to an agricultural bank that wants money, but does not have a pledge for a tender. The bank will not give a loan.
Also, what other factors hinder youth?
Agriculture is a vocation in which you must invest and wait for your money. You do not get profit instantly.
For example, if you are talking about a 20 hectare mechanized farm, you may be surprised to learn that it can take about five years of continuous investment before you start making a profit.
This is five years of money, which is constantly invested in the farm, before turning into profit.
Many of our young people are not ready to wait, especially when they see that their friends are going to other sectors and it seems that they receive a very large income in a short time.
Can the development and modernization of rural infrastructure help save some school graduates or uneducated youth for agriculture?
Yes it can. In fact, this is what the government should do.
We have such a migration situation, when most people want to leave rural areas for urban areas. It happens all the time in Nigeria.
If you go to the populated cities of Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja and Enugu, you will see so many of our young people who go there without even doing anything.
These are the people we could save in rural areas to produce wealth through agriculture.
But you cannot blame them, because in rural areas the basic things needed to keep them are not available.
You said that capital is the main factor, and graduates or graduates do not. Could you suggest that the federal government take its certificates as collateral? Do you subscribe to this?
There was a time when they tried it about 20 years ago, but I will not subscribe to it, because you are a limiting and binding person, and also attach him to the future.
Agriculture is also a very risky business, that is, large-scale agriculture.
So, like it or not, someone going into agriculture will also have problems.
Some will succeed, and some will fail.
Now suppose that someone goes into agriculture and fails, and then decides to look in a different direction, at least on the improvement and the attempt of other professions.
But you collected the certificate of the person. So where will he go now?
He tried farming quite normally, but because of his guilt he could not.
So what do you suggest as a way forward?
The way forward is still for the government to work to remove obstacles that prevent young people from having direct access to capital.
For example, armed robbers can arrive at a bank and rob. And then take the money.
The bank does not experience any real problems, because the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) will return the money to the bank. Do you understand?
Similarly, the government must find a way to protect such capital, which is freed up by farmers, guaranteeing it to young people.