For PROF CHIDI IBE, this message is the right conclusion to the thought provoking Keynote Speech delivered at the Agribusiness Dialogue Session organized by the British-American Nigerian Foundation and the Enterprise Development Center in the just concluded Entrepreneurship week.
Following a brief history of the booming days of agriculture in Nigeria, the neglect of the sector at the onset of oil and its current struggling state, the Professor Chidi Ibe vivified the threat of climate change to agriculture creating the burning need to accelerate a paradigm shift from traditional agricultural practice to technology driven one. In this scenario, only the youth posses the dynamism, resilience and drive to implement the technological innovation that are sure to withstand the attack of climate change on agriculture.
in his words; “Climate change comes as a major additional layer of problems putting a tremendous pressure on traditional farming system and food security”. After highlighting some of the past and recent devastating drought and flooding, he continued by saying; “Nigerian as a nation must navigate to a safe operating space and that operating space almost everyone agrees will be provided by a well built agricultural development anchored on the valorization of the entire agric value chain”.
In other words sustainable or climate-smart agriculture is the solution to build resilience. This refers to a cluster of sophisticated policies and technology. Now, the complexity of sophisticated policies and technology on agriculture calls for a focus on our critical mass, the youth if we must revolutionalize agriculture and regain paradise lost. The youth are the majority with a population of about 20 million in Africa as defined by the African Union. In Nigeria, the young population is about 92.65% between the ages of 0 – 50 and with dependency ration of about 88.2%. This is surely a ticking time bomb if not properly managed but also provide the veritable platform for the valorization of agriculture in Nigeria.
The Professor highlighted some of the programs already being developed to make youth actively involved in agriculture such as the Youth Agripreneur Program of the IITA and African Development Bank. The aim of this program is to change the youth perception of agriculture and to see it as exciting and profitable business. The content talks about making Agriculture ‘cool’.
In all these, a major challenge is the issue of funding. Prof Ibe calls for the need for commercial banks to gain a deeper knowledge of the sector to enable them provide adequate funding as is being done in other climes.
Having exhaustively discussed the opportunity provided by the abundance of youth in Nigeria to unlock the nation’s agriculture sector, The keynote Speaker expressed worry about Nigerian leaders being more in the talking and less in the doing. He therefore concluded by the calling the government to “stop the talk” and “just do it”