In this interview, FarmingFarmersFarms sat with Olagunju Olamide, a cocoa farmer of seven years, who thinks it’s high time farms are digitalised and the economy be independent of crude oil. Excerpts:
Can we meet you?
I’m Olagunju Olamide. A graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state. I’m a farmer and an agricultural entrepreneur.
Being a university graduate and a 21st century youth, why farming?
Well, I believe as youths, we should create jobs if we can and not always wait on the government, and I discovered agriculture is one great sector to do that because of its economical value and the fact that it can set you ahead in life.
Has it always been agriculture from the onset?
Yes, it has always been agriculture. From a very long time, I fell in love with farming, and I went in, very early.
What motivates you?
The drive for excellence, the passion to create jobs and achieve something great and sustainable that my children can fall back on.
What kind of farming do you do? And for how long?
Cash crop farming. I grow cocoa, palm tree and orange, and I’ve been doing this for seven years. You know cocoa is a very good export produce, and we grow it in large quantities here in Nigeria. It could be exported to make final products like beverages and the likes.
As a farmer, particularly a youth, do you face any challenge (s)?
Farmers face lots of challenges regardless of age or gender as a farmer. A major one at this period is climate change, and as a farmer, if you’re not well prepared to respond to this challenge of nature, your progress will be delayed, which is a major issue currently facing every farmer. Other challenges we face are Lack of good roads that lead to farmlands and lack of electricity, because if there was electricity, we could introduce technological innovations on the farm, and the absence of means of mobile communication at farm locations.
When you say climate change affects farmers, what do you mean?
I mean times are changing, and our climate is also changing. The seasons are no longer what they used to be. One has to be very careful to be sure that it’s the right period for farming, lest you venture into unprofitable investments.
Have you experienced criticism of any sort from people within your age group because of your involvement in farming?
Yes, I was mocked at first because many thought it’s not a sustainable way to create wealth, and that I could have tried other options that may be faster.
Where do you see the cocoa industry in the future?
The cocoa industry needs a lot of transformation in order to have a brighter future, if it’s not done, we won’t have any future as people will neglect it, if well nurtured now, many billionaires will come from the industry in future.
Is there any hope for agriculture to thrive like in the past?
There is hope, if the government is deliberate and intentional about the sector. I believe it is time to shift the economy away from the huge dependency on crude oil, and we are glad the government and even other continents at large are seeing the need to go back to the farms, as a sustainable means for economy and humans to thrive
What do you think can be done regarding the challenges you have mentioned?
One of the government’s plan at ensuring food security and providing job opportunities for youths is agriculture. So, I think the government must give it enough attention. Responding to the challenges is in two ways; you can do it personally as a farmer or wait for government’s intervention. Individually, you can irrigate your farms and prevent it against drought, contact some local network providers to set up antenna and joint contributions to make roads. On the government’s part, they can create agencies or some bodies of people to ensure that farmers need are met, and by providing good roads, and network connection in the rural areas, it’ll attract more youths than you can imagine. Where there are means of electricity of farmlands, it’ll also improve productivity because people would be able to digitalise their work and even introduce technology to the farms.
Any parting word for youths, who may be interested in agriculture?
Well, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote has served as a yardstick for me, which is, “The heights by great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night” . As a youth, you have to be diligent at whatever you do and the sky would be a starting point. Agriculture is a very lucrative business, and if you’re serious with it, not minding the obstacles, you’ll be better off in years to come.