By Funmi Ogundare
A Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering and former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Micheal Faborode has stressed the need for universities in the country to modify their curriculum to accommodate the use of digital technology for agricultural purposes, to make agriculture attractive to the youths.
Faborode made this known recently, while delivering the second Engineer Kashim Ali distinguished lecture series titled ‘Agricultural Mechanisation and Food Production for Youth Empowerment: Engineering Sustainable Development’, organised by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Auchi branch at Edo University, Iyamho, Edo State.
He said it is also imperative for the universities to focus on agri-business entrepreneurship as a way of generating employment, while expressing concern that Nigerian youths are not interested in agriculture due to some economic situations around them.
“All they see around them is poverty, misery and drudgery,” he said, adding that with the rapid growth of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and block chains, agriculture will change.
According to him, the evolving reality in several parts of Africa today, start-ups and other institutions are leveraging digital technology in transformative ways.
“For example, in Nigeria and Kenya, Hello Tractor is reversing the trend of low mechanisation by allowing farmers to hire affordable tractors to work their land, using their mobile phones.”
The don recalled that the African Development Bank (ADB) inaugurated a huge innovative programme tagged ‘Enable Youth’ to develop the next generation of agri-business and commercial farmers for Africa, adding that the bank has in the last two years, devoted close to $300 million to the programme.
“Through the Office of the Vice-President, the current administration is gradually harnessing and encouraging the entrepreneurial creativity of our youth in collaboration with non-governmental organisations such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
“What is needed is to boldly and rapidly expand the dimensions of these current seemingly tokenistic interventions through deliberate and targeted huge funding (perhaps a special nationalistic intervention by the CBN) in order to attain the huge potential of such a giant leap forward.
“Building a sustainable future for the youth should be a major overarching priority for all of us; government, the private sector, philanthropists, higher education institutions, as well as development agencies, especially youth advocacy groups.”
Faborode stressed the need for the country to develop and lead the implementation of viable action plans for sustainable mechanisation, enhanced food production and post-harvest revolution for youth empowerment, saying that it is the only way Nigeria can engineer a sustainable future in consonance with the African agenda 2063.
“The task has become more urgent with the growing population, a considerable number of whom are youths, who need to be gainfully employed in modern agriculture and agro-industries as proud, fulfilled and successful entrepreneurs, farmers and industrialists.”
The Chairman, NSE Auchi branch, Mrs. Mariam Obomeghie said the immediate past President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Kashim Ali, in whose honour the lecture was delivered, was instrumental to ensuring professionalism and ethics in the profession during his tenure, adding that the programme will be held yearly.
In his remarks, the acting Chairman, Governing Council of the institution, Professor Thomas Audu said Edo University collaborated with Auchi University to organise the lecture, adding that the topic was apt.
In his response, Ali said the lecture was aimed at seeking solution to the things that are critical to the nation.
“Our capacity to utilise our individual talents as a nation resides in us,” he said, while expressing concern that the country seems to have relegated all it has to do as a nation to other countries.
“We need to be patriotic, look inwards and see how we can use agriculture to advance our country. This will bring Nigeria out of the doldrums without us necessarily going anywhere.”
Ali who expressed excitement about the quality of scholarship from the faculties in the institution said, “We should believe in ourselves and our capacity to move the country forward.”
The programme witnessed the induction of new members and students into the NSE, as well as awards and presentation of certificates to those who have contributed to the development of the society.