Employment opportunities abound in the agricultural sector since every aspect of the agricultural value chain is laden with high probabilities lying untapped. In Nigeria however, the sector is said to be unattractive to young people for reasons not farfetched. The low interest can be attributed to the archaic methods of land preparation and cultivation, near absence of basic social amenities and little access to Information, innovation and technological advancement in agricultural practices within the rural areas where land is relatively available.
On the other hand, agriculture in urban areas come with high land values, contaminated soils, high cost of infrastructure, water, housing and other farm inputs. These challenges presented by urban/rural farming has influenced public perception. The picture of agriculture in the average Nigerian mind is therefore the traditional, low yield, single harvest, little profit farming obtainable only in villages.
A change in orientation is instructive in broadening the horizon of young people to the possibilities provided by the entire agricultural value chain which includes production, farm inputs, processing, packaging, storage and transportation. Many people focus mainly on the production aspect of agriculture and rightly so, as it ranges from cereals, legumes, tubers, fruits, vegetables to poultry, small ruminants, piggery, fishery, and the list goes on. Production provides a wide range of output for direct consumption in the local or foreign markets or as raw materials for industries.
Beyond production however, farm input is an aspect of the agricultural value chain that covers from fertilizers, improved seeds, herbicides, pesticides and other crop protection chemicals, to irrigation, labour saving machinery and technical knowledge. Processing comes next as more varieties can be derived from a single farm produce. For instance, cashew nut has 13 by products, cattle have about 8 by products, chicken has at least 10 by products as does many other farm produce. Packaging then comes in on the chain as a means of preserving, protecting food and product branding. Storage and transportation are intermediary activities that facilitates movement and transition from one stage of the value chain to the next. Each branch of this chain, if given enough attention, can ensure a steady decline in the rising 53.40 percent of unemployed youth in the country. The rise and fall of oil prices will no longer plunge the nation’s economy into recession as agriculture will be a bulwark and ensure steady rise in revenue generation.
Although other sectors of the Nigerian economy that have high influx of young people such as the Oil and gas, banking, ICT, entertainment, health, Utility (electricity, water), real estate and fashion can be very lucrative career paths, they all depend on agriculture for nutrition and food security. Industries in these sectors can make concerted efforts to adopt and sponsor agricultural projects and activities especially in rural areas. Established agribusinesses and large-scale agricultural industries can partner with institutions to provide and improve the technical knowledge of the students thereby providing employable hands for new agribusinesses. The suburbs should be considered for more strategic establishment of agro-allied industries, food processing and manufacturing companies to decongest populated city centers and provide easy off-take of fresh farm produce from small holder farmer cooperative bodies. This will bring in innovations, infrastructure development, technological advancement, improved yield all year round to the villages and repopulate the nearly abandoned rural areas. Improved yield and food security will be ensured as young people bring their technological capacities to bear in the provision of e-agriculture interventions which includes devices, mobiles, networks, services, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, automated systems, labour saving devices and other productivity boosting innovations.