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Why Nigerian women, youths should embrace modern agricultural practices, by Adigwe

Afoma Clara Adigwe, the founder, of Uplifting Youths Through Agriculture (UYOTA), is passionate about Nigeria’s agricultural sector. Adigwe also believes that if Nigerian women and youths are motivated to participate in modern farming, it will be a panacea to food insecurity and unemployment ravaging the nation. In this interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, she called on political aspirants to ensure youths in the country are empowered through farming when they get into power. She also spoke about the forthcoming agricultural investment tour in Thailand organised by her organisation for the youths and royal fathers in the country. Excerpts:

What informed your decision to set up Uplifting Youths Through Agriculture?

When l set up Uplifting Women Through Farming twenty-two years ago, my mission was to empower women and the youths, because when you talk about women, youths and the children will be added as well. My aim was to empower women and the youth through modern agriculture. So, l embarked on awareness programmes hoped to encourage women and the youth at the same time to venture into modern agricultural practices. But it was quite challenging convincing the youth to learn modern agriculture.

The youth then were not interested in agriculture, they were nervous about going into agriculture; I mean the practical aspect of farming. In 2015, l started thinking of how to bring them back to the organisation, the thought of setting up Uplifting Youths Through Agriculture (UYOTA) came to my mind. In 2016, it became independent of its own. I started wooing those youths who left back to the newly established UYOTA; I begin to encourage them, telling them that this time they do not need to go into practical aspect of agriculture; I motivated them to move into other areas of agriculture such as production of farm produce; preservation, packaging and marketing of such produce. Now, a lot of them are into farming, because most of those produce, when they buy from the middle men, they do not make much profit; so, they decided to go into proper farming so as to preserve, package those produce themselves; some are even thinking of going in to exportation.

In what way has your organisation contributed in solving food insecurity and high rate of unemployment in the country?

We will be 22 years by September this year and that tells you where we are coming from. I am from Delta State and we have the oil. l studied abroad, upon my return l went into farming with my husband and that is to show the passion l have for my country because l know that agriculture is the way out of hunger and unemployment.

Before l went to study abroad, l was acting in NTA and many were surprised that l went into farming after studying abroad. We have organised several workshops and trainings aimed at creating awareness on the need for women and youths to venture into farming. The organisation has also partnered with other firms and institutions both locally and internationally to educate people on modern agriculture. The organisation has also wooed some foreign investors. We have exposed our members to best agricultural practices in order to make them gainfully employed and in the process increase yield in primary food production and achieve food security. l am glad because all my preaching then is coming to reality. Many are now going into farming. In 2017, the organisation with support from royal fathers, government officials embarked on agricultural investment tour in Thailand and we are planning for the second trip to the same Thailand in August, 2022. We are inviting political aspirants and government officials to sponsor youths and royal fathers to this agricultural tour.

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Why Thailand? And what was the outcome of the tour after five years?

Before the tour, l visited Thailand in 2008 for the first time because I see that country as the food basket of the world. While l was there, on a Friday l saw people including government officials putting on yellow wears, when l asked the reason, l was told that the citizens were doing that to show respect to their late king, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej who uplifted Thailand through agricultural projects. According to them, he comes up with initiative that will enhance agricultural practices and partner with the government of the day in Thailand. Based on that, the thought of bringing some royal fathers in the country to see some of the projects the late king did in Thailand came to my mind. While there, l also discovered that there is a kind of farm settlement in Thailand. In that settlement, if one wants to study agriculture for three or six months there is free accommodation and free training. So, back here in Nigeria, in 2016, l was putting up a TV programme, l was then opportune to meet, Alhaji Muhammad Sodangi who is from Bida; he loves agriculture; he became interested in participating in the tour and that was how the organisation embarked on the first agricultural investment tour in Thailand. It was an eye opener for the participants especially the royal fathers and government officials, when the royal fathers came back; they replicated some of the projects they saw there in their communities. The fact is that the visit enabled them double their farming skills and offer employment to the youths. This year’s tour will create a veritable platform to woo investors from Thailand to the participants state through the empowerment of youths in agriculture which include; aquaculture, agro-allied and derivatives in that direction. It will improve technical and technological support to boost agricultural production. Also, the visit will empower and create jobs for youths in the smart agricultural business value chain. On the other hand, it will create an export agro-based production as a sustainable revenue income generating point.

How would you assess government effort in enhancing agricultural practices in the country?

Every government always comes up with agriculture in their agenda and they always want to improve more than the previous administration. l have been following the terrain since the administration of former President Obasanjo to the present administration. When APC emerged as the government of the day, l visited them and pointed some few things. Follow up has been a major problem facing the government of this country. There was no follow-up on the issues l discussed with them. With my experience in mobilising, and empowering women and the youth through agriculture, I thought l will be able to add my own voice to the implementation of some of their agricultural programmes, but they never got back to me so that is the reason; this time, l am coming up with an initiative; l do not want to wait until the next government emerges; l want to start with the government of the day and any of the emerged winners will continue. The initiative aimed to improve agricultural sector in the country which will in turn tackle food insecurity and secure employment for the unemployed youths roaming the streets. We are not-for-profit organisation; we are not in support of any political party but our women and youths are in different parties. We want an improved agricultural programmes and that is the reason we are introducing UYOTA Initiative Concept to all the aspirants so that they will adopt it, the country will not continue to pay lip service to agricultural projects. There is need for them to adopt the concept so that the youth can vote for them and when they emerge they will ensure enhancement of modern agricultural practice, which will improve the lives of the youth in the country. There are so many factors affecting agricultural improvement in the country, there is problem of insecurity which has prevented farmers from going to farm. Also, roads leading to farms are bad. The issue of packaging is another challenge; our produce are not well packaged. All these challenges should be properly addressed.

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