Producing a new generation of farmers in Nigeria
Peter, 24, from Owu-Ijebu in Nigeria grew up on his family farm but his parents struggled to earn enough to get ahead. “Crop failure and low productivity left my family poor,” says Peter.
In Nigeria, young people have a negative perception of farming. Those living in rural areas opt to migrate to urban centres to take up low-paying jobs. Even their parents do not want them to have a career in agriculture.
Yet, official figures from 2020 show that the unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 24 stands at 53.4 percent and 37.2 percent for ages 25 to 34.
Making farming an attractive profession
To change the negative perception and encourage young people to venture into agro-allied businesses, SOS Children’s Villages started the Integrated Mechanized Farming and Agricultural Project in Owu-Ijebu.
Owu-Ijebu is a rural area with huge expanses of fertile land and a favourable climate for agriculture.
The initiative aims to turn many idle young people into farmers by providing them with the training they need to be highly productive commercial food producers. Young people are educated in modern methods of farming using mechanized equipment and new technology.
The integrated farm is a self-sustaining social business designed to serve as a demonstration farm.
“Engaging young people in agriculture is important because they embrace new ideas and technology. Active participation in farming will break the cycle of poverty and youth unemployment,” says Cyprian Omoruyi, the farm manager.
“Farming must be made attractive if young people in Nigeria are to see it as a viable source of livelihood that matches their aspirations,” he says.
Agriculture is a major employer in Nigeria, but a lack of investment in the sector has led to low productivity. Inspiring young people to return to the land will help the country grow more food to feed its huge population of 200 million and boost food security.
Peter puts techniques into practice
Peter struggled to find a job after completing his diploma in electrical and electronics engineering so he joined the SOS Children’s Villages farming project in 2020.
“I was without hope of furthering my education or getting decent employment because my parents could not afford to educate me any further,” says Peter. “When the training started at the SOS farm, I made up my mind to focus intently on the training.”
So far 730 young women and men have benefited from the training. Omoruyi, the farm manager says the uptake was slow at first but has picked up with time.
The young people from SOS Children's Villages' programs or the local community are invited to learn about crop farming, livestock production, agricultural business value chain activities, and ways to generate cooking gas and electricity using animal waste.
“I learned to avoid some bad farm practices and adopted the good ones,” says Peter. “I learned about land measurement and its usefulness to calculate the expected yield on the farmland. In this case, the input and output can be easily determined and it is easier to know when you are running at a loss.”
Peter put into practice what he had learnt by planting cassava and maize on his family’s land. He got a good harvest – over three times what his family usually harvests. Happy with the progress, Peter enrolled to be a farm trainee in the crops and livestock unit under the mentorship of the farm manager.
“With the stipends from the daily work at the farm, I hired labourers to cultivate my farm,” says Peter. “I also started saving a percentage of my stipend with the intention of furthering my education to a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. When I had saved a decent sum, I applied and secured admission to a local university.”
Peter says since he joined the farm as a trainee, he stopped depending on his parents for most of his needs.
“I learned to take responsibility for my life. I live with my parents but I take care of all my needs except for accommodation. That way my parent’s meagre resources can be used on my two younger brothers. It lightens their burden.”
Peter went on to receive a scholarship from SOS Children’s Villages to study for a certificate program in Autonomous Wind Energy Production and Supply. He attended virtual classes and studied hard to attain a Master’s Degree in Wind Energy Systems. His tenacity and success have made Peter a role model for his peers.
Peter says he has several plans. “I want to graduate with honours in my first degree, monetize my skills and help other youths, acquire a Master of Science degree before I am 30, build an autonomous or semi-autonomous renewable energy system to power electrical machines, and practice agriculture on a large scale.”