Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie
Rain has started falling in most parts of Nigeria. Raining season, as we all know, marks the beginning of farming season.
As the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 rightly declares, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” Now is actually the time of planting. It is our annual raining season; it is also our planting and farming season.
What has planting season to do with youth empowerment? What is the relationship between farming and youth development? How can we empower the youths through agriculture? What are the benefits of agriculture? By the way, are the youths interested in agriculture? If they are not, how can we make agriculture attractive to the unemployed young men and women?
Unemployment is a major challenge facing Nigeria, Africa and even the world at large. Most of our graduates, are not employed. They have no job! That is why they are trooping out of the country looking for greener pasture elsewhere. A good number of them have joined bad gang, others are been used by greedy and heartless politicians as thugs during elections. Some of them were even killed in the just concluded general election. Idle mind is indeed the devil’s workshop!
Unemployment is a major cause of hardship, hunger and poverty. World Bank Report states that three out of four people in developing countries live in rural areas and earn as less as $2 a day.
The situation is even worst as stated. For instance, in places like Nigeria where minimum wage is N30 and the prize of a dollar is N35, most civil servants earn less than a dollar a day. If those that are employed are living in less than a dollar a day, you can imagine what those that are not employed, especially those living in rural areas, are earning in a day. It is indeed a hopeless situation!
Now that we are approaching another farming season, I want to use this medium to remind our youths some of the benefits of agriculture. I want to also use this medium to encourage our youths to consider agriculture as a possible alternative. It may not be the best option, however, half bread is better than none.
Nature creates job through milling, agriculture and many other means. According to George Washington, “Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” Agriculture creates job not only for the learned but also for every hardworking man or woman in the society. One does not necessary have to be a graduate before gaining employment into agricultural sector. As long as agriculture is concerned hard work and creativity is the best certificate.
Edward W. Stewart describes agriculture as the foundation of other industries: “Agriculture was the first occupation of man, and as it embraces the whole earth, it is the foundation of all other industries.” Agriculture is not just the foundation of other industries it is also the very first occupation of human beings.
Agriculture is not just an ordinary occupation; it is also the very first occupation the Lord God provided for the upkeep and well-being of every human being.
According to the book of Genesis, “When the Lord God made the universe, there were no plants on the earth and no seeds had sprouted because he has not sent any rain, and there was no one to cultivate the land… Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it” (Genesis 2:5,15).
Agriculture is indeed a divine occupation. When God wanted to answer man’s prayer for his daily bread, He provided him with agriculture. Through agriculture human beings are able to, at less, obtain their daily food.
For Bernard Baruch “Agriculture is the greatest and fundamentally the most important of our industries. The cities are but the branches of the tree of national life, the roots of which go deeply into the land. We all flourish or decline with the farmer.”
It is very difficult, if not impossible to separate agriculture from our industries. Most of the raw materials that are used in the industries are the product of agriculture. And as Baruch rightly observed, we flourish when our agricultural sector flourishes and we decline when our agricultural sector declines.
Agriculture contributes immensely to International Trade: It is not limited to local productions and consumptions.
It contributes to international trade through import and exports of goods and products. Products like sugar, tea, rice, spices, tobacco, coffee, cashew nuts, palm oil and many others are directly produced through agriculture.
Raw-materials and most of the export products are produced through agriculture.
Agriculture provides Food Security: food is an essential need. We need food for our growth and nourishment. We cannot survive without food. Food has a direct link with land.
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah declares, “Life cannot be without food; when we destroy the lands that give food, we destroy the foods that give life!” Food is not just a basic need it is also an indispensible product. Since food is that important, how then can we secure food?
We can only secure food through agriculture. Most of the food we consume are produced directly through agriculture. Food security prevents famine and malnourishment.
Agriculture provides Raw Material for industries and other sectors: Raw materials are materials or substances used in the primary production or manufacturing of goods.
Some trees are used for the production of books and other writing materials, maize is the raw material for poultry feed; cassava is the raw material for flour, while flour is the raw material for bread.
Considering the indispensable role of agriculture in producing raw materials for other industries, Edward W. Stewart declares, “Agriculture was the first occupation of man, and as it embraces the whole earth, it is the foundation of all other industries.” Most industries cannot do without agriculture.
The following raw materials are direct product of agriculture: cotton, jute fabric, sugar, tobacco, edible as well as non-edible oils. Other industries such as fruit processing industries, vegetables industries, rice husking and even garri processing industries, get their raw material through agriculture.
Agriculture Creates Employment: It is a major source of job creation. Agriculture creates job not only for the learned ones. Apart from the normal farming exercise, agriculture also creates jobs through construction of irrigation schemes, drainage system, oppression of mechanised farm tools such as tractors, graders, and other mechanised farm equipments.
It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that Agricultural sector provides more employment opportunities to the labor force. It reduces the high rate of unemployment in developing countries like Nigeria.
Apart from food, money and job creation, agriculture is also a major channel of happiness. Thomas Jefferson declares, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”
Agriculture is not just a major source of happiness it is also a channel of beauty. It beautifies our environment.
According to Masanobu Fukuoka, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” Agriculture brings out the best in the life of every human being. As Fukuoka rightly observed, it contributes to the perfection of human beings.
With these and many other benefits and in the absence of white-collar jobs, I hope most of our unemployed youths will consider agriculture as alternative choice.
With agriculture one is assured of his or her daily bread. After all, half bread is better than none!
May I use this medium to appeal to the government and other well meaning organisations to encourage our unemployed youths by making loans and grants available to them, without much stress. By so doing, we are not just solving the problem of unemployment, but also the problem of insecurity and insurgencies.