“I Left Nigeria Once, I will Leave Again” - Many might wonder what I am talking about. But before I tell you where I left for and why, let me give you a brief background on my journey into Agriculture. As a young boy, I grew up around computers. From an early age I could handily clone, with my own hands and with no help, a desktop computer courtesy of learning from my father. Little wonder then, that I wanted to study to be an Electrical and Electronics Engineer. But as life would have it, I got admitted into the University to study Agricultural Engineering instead (A full 5 years of agriculture).
The first two years of my curriculum was very holistic in nature. I had to do course work on all the sciences, maths, biology, chemistry, English etc, it was so difficult to see or feel the agriculture in all we were doing. However, third year came along and I began to a get a glimpse of the picture. Course works even though more of theoretical knowledge was becoming interesting and agriculturally inclined. By virtue of my interactions with some of my lecturers, I began to see that there was a lot of work and opportunities in Agriculture. I must say my interest was sparked. By the beginning of my second semester of the third year, I had picked special interest in Biogas production and agro processing. Thus with so much determination I started scouting for a place I could learn both within and outside my country.
It did not take long before I stumbled upon the Songhai Centre for Production, Research, Training and Development in Sustainable Livelihoods situated in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic a neighbouring country to Nigeria. Thus in my second semester of my forth year, while my colleagues were in the banks, oil companies and doing all sort of jobs to cover for the six month internship duration. I left for Benin Republic to learn. My stay at the Songhai Centre turned out to be for me not just a learning ground about Biogas but a whole lot. I got a taste of farming, research, rural development, food processing/packaging and the sales of farm produce in it various form. I was opportune also to work side by side with over 200 young people with different dreams and aspiration about ensuring food security in their various countries. I also for the first time practiced some of the theoretical knowledge I had. It was indeed an experience.
After the six months, I came back to my country and university for my final year. And I just could not wait to practice and share the knowledge and skills I had acquired abroad as it were. Till date, I have engaged in advocacy and capacity building with youth, letting them know that agribusiness is that tool that would transform the face of agriculture in Nigeria and that only when they key themselves in now can they make impact. I have worked with older farmers through the farmers association and helped out in some of their project. Through social media I have shared knowledge and information on the things I have learnt overtime. Presently, I also teach high school student agricultural science as part of my voluntary one year service to my country under the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Scheme and after that I am going to leave Nigeria again.
I want to study and learn more, pursue my graduate studies in Food Security and Rural Development. I want to be equipped to help both young and old engage in the best, innovative and sustainable agricultural methods and practices. Sad to say I cannot get this in my country. Remember my five years in the university was mostly theory. I need more exposure and innovative knowledge that would stand the test of time and solve the problems Nigeria and Sub- Saharan Africa has in terms of food insecurity. But I am definitely going to be back. The future is bright and can only get brighter when young men and women in Nigeria and Africa are ready to be the hands and forces of change against poverty and hunger.
In the next five to ten years and even now, Nigeria and Africa would need young professionals who not only have gone through the university wall but who are knowledgeable about practical and sustainable means to ensure food security. And YES I want to be one of those young professional and for me to effectively achieve this I would leave to learn, leave to research, leave to network and partner and YES I would come back home to Nigeria and to Africa to support change.
As the 2013 International Youth Day gets near with the theme, ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward’. I have migrated once and would do so again soon to indeed move development forward.
Picture: Gathering Woods for Ramial CHIPS Production at the Songhai Centre