By Bukola Adenubi
The month of March has ushered in a new President-elect to pilot the affairs of the most populous nation and largest economy in Africa, Nigeria. Prior to this time, the nation has been plagued with naira shortage, scarcity of petroleum products, erratic electricity generation, bad, unmotorable road networks, insecurity and other sundry issues, which directly or indirectly, impede on food security. The massive turnout at the recently-concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections shows the pains and aspirations of the Nigerian people. In all of these and for this new dispensation, I would like to point out the roles of two groups of people: the youths and females, in strengthening the economy of the nation.
According to the World Youth Report (2020), approximately 25 per cent of the global population of 1.7 billion are youths. Of this number, 86 percent live in the developing countries. By 2030, the target date for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the number of youths is projected to have grown by 7 percent, to about 1.3 billion. As youths are increasingly demanding more, just, equitable and progressive solutions in societies, the need to address the multifaceted challenges they face, including, but not limited to, access to education and employment opportunities, have become much more pressing than ever. The youths can be a positive force for development in any economy, when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive.
Knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits of a group of people are transferred to other people, through storytelling, discussion, teaching, hands-on-training, or research. Any experience with a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual is considered education. The curriculum needs to be revised at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, to reflect generational gaps. Young people are not a homogenous group, as each has individual interests, which change over time. The unemployment rate for youths is currently three times that of adults in all regions of the world, according to a 2021 report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. In Africa, especially, which boasts of the globes’ youngest population, two-thirds of youths are unemployed or working in vulnerable, low-paying positions.
While agriculture can and does have a positive effect in many countries, it remains unattractive to young people. Both livestock and crop farmers have to contend with issues such as climate change, invasive pests, outdated farming practices, limited access to technology, technical skills, knowhow and innovation, lack of financing, poor social safety net and restricted access to markets, as a consequence of poor infrastructure, all of which hinder productivity and income generation. The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis have further battered jobs and food systems, contributing to an increase in global hunger of up to 161 million people. These limitations have fueled a generational disinterest in farming with many young people viewing it as an unstable livelihood and turning instead towards urban centres to find opportunities.
Like for many other aspects of the Nigerian economy, we now need to unlock potentials of the agricultural sector – across the value chain, including processing, transportation and equipment maintenance. In addition, promotion of smart farming techniques by linking agriculture to information and communication technology (ICT) and innovation is achievable. Many young people have smartphones and ICT knowledge, which they can use for the purposes of innovation in agriculture as well as many other critical sectors. The World Bank has reported technology to have “significant potential to improve efficiency, equity and environmental sustainability in the food system”.
Young entrepreneurs may tap into technology like artificial intelligence (AI), remote sensing, virtual reality, drone technology, and online market place to provide services to smallholder farmers. I dare say that the “lazy” Nigerian youths, financially and morally-supported to innovate and overcome barriers, have the potential to provide a living income, earn a dignified living for themselves and for their families, repair food systems, reduce hunger and unemployment, and secure a sustainable, promising future for Nigeria. The International Women’s Day is marked on March 8 around the world every year. It is a day in which the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women are celebrated. Women are certainly the backbone of the rural economy, especially in the developing world.
According to World Bank data, female population for Nigeria was 108 million (49.47%) in 2022. Over the last 50 years, female population grew substantially from 29.8 million in 1980, rising at an increasing annual rate that reached a maximum of 3.09%. Yet, women receive only a fraction of education, training, land, credit facilities and so on, compared with male counterparts. Women are faced with several challenges covering economic, socio-cultural, religious, and institutional dimensions. However, empowering and investing in them has been shown to significantly increase productivity, reduce hunger and malnutrition, and improve rural and semi-urban livelihoods. A woman has the power to influence; give her the right resource and she will produce in multitudes, good fruits that will last for generations. A saying that “Neglect the girl-child, you neglect a nation”, could not be more apt. Happy International Women’s Day to you all for this year, and beyond!
A popular song “ero oja” by a Nigerian artiste, Shola Allyson, goes thus “Ero oja olowo, ja lo lo, ja lo lo; ero oja olomo, ja lo lo, ja lo lo; ki le ti s’oja yi si o? Ja lo lo ja lo lo …; A bebe, e ma ma je k’oja yi tu mo wa lori … ” No doubt, Nigeria is richly-endowed with abundant human, land and water resources, as there is no state in the country that is without one or more resources, and more are still being discovered. These are assets that should bring us wealth and stability. As such, our leaders must not permit untoward happenings. This is what Asiwaju Bola Tinubu must not forget. From me, hearty congratulations, to the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “Igba yin a tu wa lara ooo”.
Dr. Adenubi, an Associate Professor and Veterinarian, is a columnist with FarmingFarmersFarms, +2348025409691, email@example.com