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Food security for a mega population...and the Youth - Feedback from the Youth policy dialogue series, Nigeria

Just few days after been nominated as the Local Representative for Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) in Lagos, Nigeria. I was privileged to attend the Youth and Policy Dialogue Series on: Food Security for a Mega Population organized by HEDA resources, Lagos - Nigeria on 5th March, 2013. It was a very wonderful occasion involving individuals, farmers, scientists, government officials, youths and people from all walks of life coming together to discuss on a very important topic: Food!

The programme began with Mr. Kenton Dashiell, the Deputy DG, IITA – Ibadan, Nigeria highlighting the MDG1 goal: Reducing poverty and hunger, he stated that he taught the definition of poverty should be someone who lives on less than say $20 - $50 a day, instead of the $1 a day.

Youths in Nigeria do not want to be farmers due to what they consider as lack of profit in farming, He encouraged the youths to create a programme where they can service 10 customers(Farmers) per day at N300 (about $2) per customer.

There are various opportunities for youths to help in Agriculture, they include:

  • Providing access to credit facilities for the farmers.
  • Youths should be available in the rural areas where there are more farmers.

Due to the recent terrorist attacks in the Northern part of Nigeria and the high cost of transportation from there to the south which has sky-rocketed the price of basic food products especially in Lagos, there is a strong need to grow the following crops in commercial quantity in or near Lagos. They include: Tomato, Onions, Pepper, Vegetables, Okra. Crops like: Turmeric, garlic, cabbage, cucumber and carrot will also do well in and around Lagos.

In order to make money from Agriculture, youths need to be as creative as possible. The value chains in Agriculture is very wide, young people need to choose areas in the value chain and make research on them know they challenges the farmers face in these areas and proffer solutions to them.

Young people need to do a self evaluation in order to know what they have that others don’t and package themselves to help others meet that need. They need to support agriculture through Agricultural Entrepreneurship. There is a ready-made market for Agriculture. There is no alternative to job creation than agriculture.

Some notable Quotes:

‘farm Loans are usually meant to be long term, however the banks want their money in short term’

‘More than 64 million Nigerians go to bed hungry, everyday!’

‘70% of foods eaten in Lagos are grown in other states and outside Nigeria’

‘32% of young Americans are into farming’

‘Bananas are imported into Lagos from Ivory Coast’

‘Anywhere there is a problem, that is where the gold mine is’

‘Agro chemicals are being abused in Nigeria’

‘I think food & Agriculture are not the only important things in an economy, they are the most important’

‘We need to understand the entire Agriculture value chain, and know the areas we can fit in then create innovations to meet that need. Farming is highly profitable, farming is the future.’

‘Private sectors need to come in and assist farmers.’

‘Start small, think big! – Youths need to start small rather than look for non-existent white collar jobs.’

The Programme came to a close with the Executive secretary of HEDA Resource center, Mr. Arigbabu Sulaimon moderating the general comments and the YPARD Local Representative in Lagos State, Mr. Kalu Samuel making the final Comments, encouraging the Youths to support Agriculture as a means of development:

“If 64 Million Nigerian people go to bed hungry everyday then there is a great job for we the youths to feed them, let us all put the ideas we learnt from this programme into use so that together we can feed the hungry population!”

If you missed the Programme, you can view the conversation by using the Hashtag: #WetinUThink.