Agriculture in Nigeria has long been the backbone of the nation’s economy, providing livelihoods for millions. However, in recent years, the sector faced challenges such as an aging farming population, outdated techniques, and a lack of enthusiasm among the youth. Yet, a promising change is underway as young farmers and entrepreneurs increasingly embrace agriculture, breathing new life into the sector.
Youthful vanguard of Nigerian agriculture
Nigeria boasts a youthful population, with approximately 60% of its citizens below the age of 30. Harnessing the energy and innovation of this demographic in the agriculture sector has the potential to transform it dramatically.
1. Entrepreneurial spirit
Young Nigerians are not merely taking up farming, but are also becoming agricultural entrepreneurs. They are reimagining the sector with fresh ideas, introducing technology, and creating value-added products. For instance, startups like “Farmcrowdy” have been successful in connecting investors with small-scale farmers, allowing them to invest in agriculture.
2. Technology adoption
The youth are keen on leveraging technology to improve farming efficiency. Mobile apps, drones, and data analytics are being employed to monitor crops, predict weather patterns, and optimise resource use. These tech-savvy approaches not only boost productivity but also attract the younger generation to agriculture.
3. Agribusiness opportunities
Young Nigerians are exploring various aspects of agribusiness, including processing, marketing, and distribution. They recognize the potential in adding value to raw agricultural products, creating a market for locally processed goods, and reducing post-harvest losses.
Challenges and solutions
Despite their enthusiasm, young farmers and entrepreneurs face some challenges:
1. Access to capital
One of the primary barriers is access to capital. Starting and scaling up agricultural ventures require substantial investment. Youth are increasingly looking to government grants, private investors, and agricultural cooperatives to secure funding.
2. Land ownership and tenure
Navigating land ownership and tenure issues can be a daunting task for young farmers. The government can play a role in simplifying land acquisition processes and providing secure land tenure arrangements.
3. Training and education
To be successful in agriculture, young entrants require training in modern farming techniques, agribusiness management, and financial literacy. Various government and non-governmental organisations offer training programmes aimed at equipping them with the necessary skills.
The Nigerian government has recognised the importance of youth engagement in agriculture and has introduced several initiatives to support their participation:
1. N-Power programme
Under the N-Power programme, the government employs young graduates in various sectors, including agriculture. This initiative not only provides employment opportunities but also exposes the youth to the practical aspects of farming.
2. Youth Empowerment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP)
YEAP is designed to encourage youth involvement in agribusiness. It offers access to funds, training, and mentorship for young entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector.
3. Anchor Borrowers’ Programme
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme provides loans to smallholder farmers, many of who are youth, to cultivate specific crops. This programme aims to boost agricultural productivity and reduce food imports.
The stories of young Nigerians making a difference in agriculture are inspiring and encouraging others to follow suit:
1. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji
A co-founder of Andela and Flutterwave, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji has turned his attention to agriculture. He founded “Future Africa”, an investment fund focused on supporting young agripreneurs, who are solving problems in the sector.
2. Ada Osakwe
Ada Osakwe, a former Vice President at Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, launched “Nuli Juice”. Her company produces nutritious juices and promotes the use of locally-sourced agricultural products.
The youth engagement in Nigerian agriculture is a beacon of hope for the sector’s future. Young farmers and entrepreneurs are not only revitalising agriculture, but also shaping it to be more sustainable, technologically-advanced, and economically-viable. Government initiatives, access to funding, and training opportunities are further propelling this positive trend. As we celebrate the vigour and vision of Nigeria’s young agriculturalists, it is evident that they hold the keys to a more prosperous and food-secure future for the nation. Their passion, innovation, and determination are paving the way for a vibrant agricultural sector that can meet the country’s growing food needs and contribute significantly to the economy. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”. In Nigeria, they are not just leaders of tomorrow, but the architects of a better agricultural landscape.