…. Plans a 2nd agricultural investment tour to Thailand
By Ebele Orakpo
The three basic needs of humans are Food, Shelter and Clothing in that order. A popular saying goes thus: ‘A hungry man is an angry man.’ Today, Nigeria seems to be descending so fast into food crisis mainly due to insecurity which has completely destroyed most of the farming communities and sent the farmers into Internally Displaced People’s camps.
Because many able-bodied youths, men and women are unemployed, hungry and angry, they are easily recruited by terrorist organisations, kidnappers, fraudsters, drug peddlers etc. To stem this tide, Mrs. Afoma Clara Adigwe, founder, Uplifting Youths Through Agriculture, UYOTA, whose passion is modern farming methods, decided to kill two birds with one stone – provide food and empower women and youths.
The London-trained actress, fashion designer and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) UK, is the MD/CEO of Chrislara Farms, which is into oil palm production, pineapple and cassava cultivation. Food security will definitely go a long way in bringing an end to insecurity.
As the American labor leader and civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez said: ‘If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.’ The question is: How can you share your food with someone when you don’t even have? In this chat with Vanguard, Adigwe who plans to set up Africa Women’s Agricultural Bank, AWAB specifically for women in agriculture, talks about her plans for women and youths in agriculture which she says is the way out of hunger and unemployment.
On why she set up UYOTA
When I set up Uplifting Women Through Farming 22 years ago, my mission was to empower women and youths through modern agriculture because when you talk about women, youths and children will be added. So I embarked on awareness programs to encourage women and youths to venture into modern agric practices. It was quite challenging convincing them to learn modern agriculture because they were not interested; they were nervous about going into the practical aspect of farming.
In 2015, I started thinking of how to bring them back to the organisation and the thought of setting up UYOTA came to mind. I started wooing those youths who had left, back to the newly established UYOTA. I encouraged them, telling them that this time, they do not need to go into practical aspect of agriculture. I motivated them to go into other areas of agriculture such as buying of farm produce; preservation, packaging and marketing.
Now, many of them are into farming, because when they buy agric produce from middlemen, they do not make much profit, so they decided to go into proper farming so as to preserve and package those produce themselves; some are even thinking of exporting the produce.
UYOTA and Food insecurity/unemployment
We will be 22 years by September this year and that tells you how far we have come.
I’m from Delta State and we have the oil. I studied abroad and upon my return I went into farming with my husband; that is to show the passion I have for my country because I know that agriculture is the way out of hunger and unemployment. Before I went to study abroad, I was an actress at the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA; many were surprised that I went into farming upon my return.
We have organised several workshops and trainings aimed at creating awareness on the need for women and youths to venture into farming. UYOTA has also partnered with other firms and institutions both local and international, 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.
I am glad because all I’ve been talking about all these years are becoming reality. Many are now going into farming. In 2017, the organisation with support from royal fathers and government officials embarked on agricultural investment tour in Thailand and we are planning for the second trip to Thailand come August, 2022. We are inviting political aspirants and government officials to sponsor youths and royal fathers to this agricultural tour.
Agric tour to Thailand
I had visited Thailand in 2008 for the first time because I see it as the food basket of the world.
While there, on a Friday, I saw people, including government officials, putting on yellow wears, when I asked the reason, I 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 came up with the initiative that enhanced agricultural practices and partnered with Thai government. Based on that, the thought of bringing some of our royal fathers to see some of the projects the late king did in Thailand came to mind.
I also discovered 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, I started off a first of its kind Agricultural TV Online program called Agrictalk Show with Afoma, to create a veritable platform for agricultural show. I was then opportune to meet Alhaji Muhammad Sodangi who introduced me to Alh. (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar (CFR), the Etsu Nupe and Coordinating Chairman, Traditional Rulers of Nigeria. The Etsu Nupe has empowered a lot of his subjects through agriculture so when I told him about the late king of Thailand’s agricultural projects, he accepted to lead other royal fathers to the first UYOTA Royal Agric Investment Tour to Thailand in 2017. That was how the organisation embarked on the first agricultural investment tour in Thailand. It was an eye opener for the participants. When the royal fathers came back, they replicated some of the projects they saw there in their communities.
The visit enabled them improve 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’ states 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.
FG’s efforts in enhancing agric practices
Every government comes up with agriculture in their agenda and wants to outdo the previous administration. I’ve been following the trend since President Obasanjo’s government to the present administration. When APC emerged as the government of the day, I visited them and pointed out some few things. Follow up has been a major problem with government. There was no follow-up on the issues I discussed with them.
With my experience in mobilising and empowering women and youths through agriculture, I thought I’d be able to add my voice to the implementation of some of their agricultural programs, but they never got back to me. This time, I’m coming up with an initiative; I do not want to wait until the next government emerges, I want to start with the present government and any of the winners in 2023 will continue.
The initiative will improve the agric sector which will in turn tackle food insecurity and secure employment for the unemployed youths roaming the streets.
We are not-for profit organisation and apolitical but our women and youths are in different parties.
We want improved agric programs and that is the reason we are introducing UYOTA Initiative to all the aspirants so that they will adopt it, the country will not continue to pay lip service to agriculture. There is need for them to adopt the concept so that the youths can vote for them and when they emerge, they will ensure enhancement of modern agricultural practice, which will improve the lives of our youths.
There are so many factors affecting the nation’s agric sector such as insecurity which has prevented farmers from going to farm. Also, roads leading to farms are bad. The issue of packaging is another challenge; our products are not well packaged. All these challenges should be properly addressed.