By Jimoh Babatunde
Jobberman Nigeria recently organised an Agriculture Roundtable themed ‘Harnessing Technology and Innovation to Close the Talent Gap in the Nigerian Agriculture Sector’. In this interview, the CEO, Rolake Rosiji, talks youth involvement in agriculture, marketing and CBN intervention in the sector among other issues. Here is an excerpt
Jobberman recently organised an Agriculture Roundtable themed ‘Harnessing Technology and Innovation to Close the Talent Gap in the Nigerian Agriculture Sector’. What are the take-aways from the roundtable?
The Nigerian agriculture sector has continued to demonstrate its potential for transforming the economy and labour market dynamics in Nigeria.
In the past eight years, the sector has contributed an average of 24% to the country’s GDP and provided a means of livelihood for over 70% of Nigerian households.
Jobberman organised the agriculture roundtable to harness ideas and provide recommendations for enhancing productivity in the agriculture sector in Nigeria.
The key takeaways from the roundtable following discussions and contributions from both public and private sector players are, first, it is germane to strengthen our educational institutions with industry relevant curriculum for improved technical and soft skills in agriculture.
Businesses should leverage available technologies for increased productivity and enhanced outcomes.
Online technology tools such as Jobberman’s online trainings and certificates and job listings can also be used by agriculture and agri-tech companies to improve their workplace productivity.
Additionally, private/public sector collaboration is important to drive productivity and growth in the sector.
Finally, the government needs to create an enabling environment for agribusinesses to thrive and grow. This can be through the provision of credit facilities, tax reductions, development of policies for the growth of value chains, and access to land among others.
Once these recommendations are followed, I believe that the sector will witness massive growth and economic prosperity.
During the roundtable you identified five skill gap areas in agriculture, how do you think these gaps can be bridged?
The approach to bridging the skills gap issue in the agriculture sector has to be multidimensional.
It will involve joint efforts from the government, private sector institutions as well as an effort on the part of the youths.
Closing this gap will require significant investments in skills development (core agricultural, technical, digital and soft skills) to enable candidates transition into jobs and contribute meaningfully to the sector. Agricultural curriculums and programs at federal and state levels should be re-designed to fit modern day requirements and realities in the sector.
Additionally, organizations should provide education and expertise through offering internships, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities to train and equip the youths with the tools and skills necessary for optimal performance in the sector.
The youths as well should look out for relevant opportunities they can tap into to upskill and build the skills required to excel in the sector.
Employers in the agricultural sector are not only looking for hard skills. In addition to technical knowledge on the job, employers need employees to possess softs skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving skills which is essential for the future of work as we move fully into a digital work environment
How can the youth be mobilized to play a vital role in harnessing the benefits of our natural resources?
With Nigeria’s population predicted to be over 400 Million in 2025 and the youths making up 70% of this number, the future of the country is truly in the hands of the youth.
Their role has become critical not just in the agricultural sector, but also in national development. It is therefore essential to leverage the growing number of youths in Nigeria and position them as change drivers.
Nigeria needs to harness the innovative, energetic, and creative spirit of young people to make transformational and lasting changes in all aspects of the economy. The ideas promoted by the youths can and will take shape when they are supported.
Most young people are excluded from policy decisions that affect them now and have implications for their future, effectively preventing them from using their ideas and energy to address complex issues affecting society at large.
Steps must be taken to remove obstacles to youth engagement so that young people have the opportunity to contribute to the economic and social advancement of the country.
Interestingly, in recent times, young people have taken the driver’s seat – leading innovation, and technological transformation that is disrupting agriculture and its value chains.
Youth-driven agtech agencies are attracting social capital to develop strong, globally competitive structures that can harness emerging opportunities within the sector.
I believe the Agricultural sector needs a marketing revamp. If young people see development opportunities in the setor and areas where Nigeria has competitive advantage which they can leverage on to generate income and create employment, they will be more likely to consider the agricultural sector as a viable sector.
Also, the Fourth Agricultural revolution will bring new agricultural technologies to achieve a transformation in the agricultural sector, through the use of AI to make smarter planning decisions and power autonomous robots. These technologies will make the sector more attractive to the youths , create more job opportunities and economic growth.
There has been much talk about attracting youth to agriculture, but there are still issues of finance, access to land among others, do you really think the government is serious about having the youth in agric.
Over the years, the government has made efforts to support youths in Agriculture. For example,in 2013, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture designed a Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to increase decent rural employment opportunities for Nigerian youths along priority areas in the agricultural value chains.
This included training, funding and mentorship across livestock, fishery, animal husbandry, entrepreneurship, bookkeeping among others.
The programme was expected to create 750,000 jobs for youths in the agricultural sector, over a 5-year period. So far, 6,618 young Nigerian agropreneurs have been trained in different value chains.
The CBN’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme(CACS) is an Agricultural loan established to provide credit facilities to commercial agricultural enterprises at a single digit interest rate.This is to help agribusinesses get access to funds to grow their business.
The Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the Federal Government is a programme for capacity building for youths across agricultural value chains, attracting private sector investment in agriculture, developing rural infrastructure and enhancing access to financial services and markets.
There are many other agricultural initiatives of the government that I haven’t mentioned.So,the issue is not whether these initiatives exist, what matters most is increasing the impact of the initiatives to cater to the growing number of youths in Nigeria. This way, the results will reflect positively on the national economy.
At the Agriculture roundtable, Mrs Karima Babaginda, the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, mentioned that in the coming years, the government will pay more attention to skills building,technology adoption and youth engagement in its policies to encourage youth participation in the sector.
How will you rate the intervention of the CBN in production of some commodities like wheat, rice, and maize so far?
Nigeria’s grain staples are maize, wheat, sorghum and rice.
Grain farming is predominantly undertaken by smallholder farmers in Nigeria who face challenges accessing funds and the availability of quality inputs to improve yield. Through the Anchor Borrowers Programme(ABP) the CBN has been able to control the price of maize and drive up demand to make the market more profitable for farmers .
Over the years, there’s been an improvement in rice production in Nigeria. Prior to this time, Nigeria was the largest importer of rice from Thailand but as of today, Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in Africa and the 13th largest producer of rice in the world with a production of over 6.5million metric tons within a few years. I think that is commendable.
The wheat market has witnessed growth from what it used to be. In 2020, wheat production for Nigeria was 55 thousand tonnes, growing at an average annual rate of 11.83%. While the market still has growth potential, the recent foreign exchange restriction is impeding growing domestic demand.
The government should implement measures to increase foreign exchange (forex) availability to farmers as currently importers are forced to source forex outside official CBN sources. Many of the milling companies have started looking at partners like subsidiaries or parent companies outside of Nigeria for help in getting dollars.This situation is negatively impacting the price of wheat products and derivatives like bread due to the high costs of production by the millers and bakers.
Land borders with neighbouring countries which are major sources of food supply to Nigeria should be opened, to enable Nigeria meet its food and agricultural product needs.
Also, insecurity issues in the country affect domestic cultivation of food as farmers are unsure of the safety of their plants and cannot guarantee a marketable harvest.