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Thursday, August 18, 2011

International Youth Day: Boosting Agro-business with ICT


Awosanya Yinka Olusanya
The International Youth Day (IYD), celebrated around the world every August 12 started in the year 2000. The purpose for IYD is to recognize efforts of the world's youth in enhancing global society.
Youths, the part of the population that fails between the ages of 15 and 34 years forms the largest part of the population of a given developing nation, like Nigeria.
This same set of people are being faced with the problem of unemployment as tertiary institutions would not stop producing graduates on a yearly bases, into the already saturated labour market.
These youths, most of whom have no interest in agriculture, the backbone of growing economies in developing countries, even those that studied agriculture-related courses, majorly would prefer to work in the banking sector or a simply white collar job, thereby leaving agriculture to suffer great neglect.
The realization of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) values and its attendant adaptation by the Nigerian youths have really gone a long way in providing employment to a large number of the youths, and if this knowledge of ICT is being put into practice in the agric sector, definitely Nigeria is going to witness a drastic reduction in the rate of unemployment.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) among others have at one point or the other lamented the risk associated with youths’ non-interest in agriculture. Pointing out some of the needs to get youths involved in agriculture, such as food security, employment generation and climate change involvement.
Food production at the mercy of older generations, some school of thoughts argued, could lead to an increase in the cost of food as more mouths are chasing a few supplies.
As it’s now evident across the world and Africa precisely, youths have high percentage in the usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT); therefore, it would not be out of place to state linking the youths with agriculture through ICT tools for development (ICT4D).
Experts have noted some reasons why the youths are not showing enough interest in agricultural business to include lack of infrastructural facilities in the rural areas; which is really contributing a great deal to the manner this class of the society see agriculture.
Also, governments at all levels attach no priority to youths’ involvement in agriculture despite the fact that 60 per cents of the population are youths, with unemployment taking up two-third of the sixty per cent.
There is need for a bridge to be created in an effort to boost youth’s interest in agriculture, As youths’ involvement in agriculture will give a great difference as they will bring into agriculture practice experiences and knowledge of other sector especially ICT.
It is indeed necessary to integrate ICT experience into agricultural practice right from the school, which has the potential of luring the teaming youths into the agricultural sector even before they graduate from post-primary level, despite the fact that more youths are becoming extremely conscious of the power of ICT, especially in bridging the gap, even at the rural areas where most farm settlement are located.
The ICT sector, being ever growing and improving, if the youths having the larger population are carried along it would be of a great deal in bringing to life the failing state of the agricultural system by initiating some projects in this regard, considering that ICT offers knowledge and knowledge is power.
Additionally, youths’ involvement in agriculture would go a long way in increasing the rate of production as more hands would now be involved with wide range of new intelligent ideas, innovations and technologies introduced.
Equally important is the adaption of ICT and other related tools in the production processes as well as other areas of agriculture.
Deploying technology so to say, would pave the way for the quality of farm produce to be well preserved. Just as the youths would put into practice the knowledge they had gained in school.
Youth’s involvement is an excellent source of ideas and innovation and areas of interest in the agricultural sector as intellectual intelligences are welcomed and given a fair chance to partake in the agricultural processes of food production.
Other merits of youth involvement comprised of reduction in crime rate in our society as well as rehabilitating some whose behaviour are not socially acceptable by providing them with a gainful employment.
In her welcome address at the Nigeria 10th Year Telecoms Anniversary award night, the honourable Minister of the newly created Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson said Nigeria has a well developed and robust ICT for development strategic plans with potential of boosting agriculture.
She said the strategic plans articulate how the deployment of ICT could be used to tackle challenges, giving opportunities in health, agriculture, education, human resources development, and e-government among others.
Youth’s employment and wealth creation, she said form part of opportunities this will give due to the comfort of the youths with technologies.
She further said that ICT in the next decade will provide infrastructure to improve agriculture productivity, connecting farmers in the rural areas with their buyers from the urban through better pricing policy with mobile solutions that will provide the needed information about soil, weather conditions and agricultural extension services.
However, there are certain issues that needed to be resolved in order to attract the youths into the business of agriculture; poor state of infrastructural facilities is one of the major factors.
Lack of funds and land are other agents that are responsible for the rate at which youths are involve in agriculture. Even as the issue is lack of machineries to be use as they are too expensive for individuals.
Youths’ involvement and bringing about of ICT would give room for export opportunity as productivity will be increased thereby creating mutual relationship with other nations of the world.
In an effort to achieve this, there should be provision of adequate infrastructure and facilities, and machineries by the government and corporate bodies.
Improved health care services in the rural areas and social amenities would largely encourage the youths who may not have business going to cities to really focus on available businesses at the rural communities, bulk of which is centre on agricultural business.
Inclusion of agriculture as a compulsory course of studies in secondary schools would go a long way to help grow the interest of youths in agriculture, through hands-on at school gardens.
Government’s hand-on training for the youths in agriculture in the form of seminar or orientation programme for the prospective young farmers on the basics and different aspects of agriculture and its processes will add value to the course of engaging the youths of nowadays in agriculture deeply connected with technologies.
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