By Elcee McEdwards |
Compared to where it used to be in the 60s and 70s, Nigeria’s agric sector is still very much in a state of recession. That must have informed the decision of the Nigerian Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, to engage popular singer, D’banj, as a brand ambassador for the Nagropreneurs (Nigerian Agricultural Entrepreneurs) Initiative, aimed at attracting youths to agribusiness.
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, unveiling the initiative a couple of months back, explained that the chief goal was to recruit roughly 750, 000 young entrepreneurial farmers for the country. The thinking is that this group of young entrepreneurs would, in years to come, become the engine for transforming Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
The choice of D’banj as the Ambassador for the Nagroprenuers Initiative was based on the belief that, considering his popularity among Nigerian youths, he can help to sell the idea.
In the words of the minister, “We want to change the labour component of agriculture. Most farmers today are old, at an average age of 60 years. So we must get the younger people to imbibe agriculture as a business. D’banj, on his own part, reasons that agribusiness is the newest way of creating wealth, and that the youths of Nigeria can embrace it with swag, without necessarily resorting to cutlasses & hoes.
“Without cutlasses and hoes?” you are wont to ask. Yes, by that he means that this group of youths will be aided to get into large-scale mechanized farming. To this end, the Koko Master, recently went to the studio to produce one of Africa’s biggest musical collaborations, titled – “Cocoa Na Chocolate”, featuring Femi Kuti, Omawumi, Fally Ipupa, Juliani, Dama Do Bling, Vusi Nova and many more artistes, in promotion of the initiative. The song speaks of the need to regain confidence in Nigeria’s agricultural produce, insisting that we can get anything we desire from the land of Nigeria and Africa.
It is interesting to recall that, in past decades, before the era of oil and gas, agriculture used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. It is generally believed that, with Nigeria’s vast arable land and immense labour force, she should have no business with poverty. Perhaps, this Nagropreneur Initiative could again bring back the days of ‘Alien Cotton’, rice, wheat, groundnut, cocoa, oil palm, rubber and other cash crops that can serve as foreign exchange earners for Nigeria, thereby stemming the tide of poverty in the land.
It would also be recalled that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was set up before mid 1960s. As at then, Nigeria grew beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, cotton, kolanut, oil palm, plantain, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans, yams and vegetables (onion, tomatoes and pepper), amongst other crops, in both small, medium and large scale. At a time, the country was responsible for over 60% of global supply of palm oil, almost 40% of groundnut and over 25% of cocoa and 20% of groundnut oil.
However, the contribution of agriculture to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined from 63% in the 60s to about 30% in the 80s and 90s.
Drawing the first blood, D’banj has disclosed his plans to start a farm, which would be known as Koko Farms, as a way of encouraging more youths to embrace the initiative. How many other youths are willing to follow suit? If there was ever a time agriculture needed to be taken seriously in Nigeria, the time is now.