AGRICULTURE AND ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

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Nigeria is currently ranked the country with the highest number of extremely poor people. It is estimated that 87 million out of the estimated 180 million population of Nigeria, which represents 45% of Nigerians, are currently living in extreme poverty.

According to Nigeria poverty statistics, the poverty rate in Nigeria’s south-west of the country is 19.3 per cent; south-south, 25.2 per cent; south-east is about 27.4 per cent; north-central, 42.6 per cent; north-east, 76.8 percent while in the north-west of Nigeria is 81.1 per cent.

The weak growth in the formal economy (0.8% in 2017) suggests that employment in this space will be relatively inadequate to reduce poverty. Also, the unstructured nature of the informal sector of the
economy, coupled with harsh conditions, poor power supply and inadequate government interventions make the whole outlook bleak.

Nevertheless, agriculture can be used as an effective tool to fight poverty and combat unemployment. One way of achieving this is by making it attractive to young people. To achieve this, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should be given equal
attention as the theory. One way of doing this is by establishing viable school farms in both our private and public primary and secondary schools across the country. The idea behind this is to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the pupils and
students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it. The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to re-enforce what is taught in the classrooms. It also
equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of how to run agribusinesses, which is very important in cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in the students.

Our national policy on education lays considerable emphasis on self-reliance. It is no secret these days that whereas many school leavers (including university graduates) are finding it increasingly
difficult to secure paid employment, those of them with technical bias easily get employed as artisans.

Technical and pre-vocational subjects like Agricultural Science not only impart specialized skills, they also offer opportunities for future income generating activities and self-employment. Therefore, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should
be given equal attention as the theory. One way of doing this is by establishing viable school farms in both our private and public primary and secondary schools across the country. The idea behind this is to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the
pupils and students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it.
The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to reinforce what is taught in the classrooms. It also equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of how to run agribusinesses, which is very important in cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in the students.

Economic empowerment, as it relates to agriculture, refers to the
ability to improve one’s standard of living through the income generated from the sales of agricultural produce. This means that practicing agriculture enables farmers to do many things to improve their own lives and to make them happy.

Apart from the benefits to farmers, agriculture also supports the manufacturing industries. Agriculture provides raw materials for manufacturing industries without which the industries cannot produce.

Daniel Ighakpe,
FESTAC Town, Lagos