ENTREPRENEURIAL SKILLS IN AGRICULTURE: A STRATEGY FOR GRASSROOTS YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA

By | June 26, 2016
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Dorcas U. Weor

 Moses T. Akorga

Department of Agricultural Technology, Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture Yandev, Benue State,Nigeria

Email: dorcasweor@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Abstract

 

Over the years, Nigeria has faced the serious challenge of youth unemployment. Both the public and private sectors of the nation’s economy seem to be saturated with manpower and are no longer willing to accommodate the large number of the teeming unemployed youths in the society. Most of these youths are graduates from schools, colleges and universities. The introduction of entrepreneurship studies at all levels of education is a bid to proffer solution to the problem of unemployment in Nigeria. Agriculture has many occupations which youths can acquire skills in schools, colleges and universities as well as short-term out of school programmes at grass roots levels. The acquisition of these skills is expected to equip them for gainful enterprises or businesses in agriculture with the application of entrepreneurial skills acquired through programmes. The purpose of this article was to determine the type of programmes established by government towards entrepreneurial skills to provide employment for youths in agriculture; to examine the relevance of entrepreneurial skills and prospects/occupations in agriculture for youth employment and self-reliant in Nigeria. Constraints to entrepreneurial skills development were highlighted. The article concluded that the entrepreneurial skills programmes established by government over the years have yielded little positive results and more efforts are needed for their better implementation. Suggestions were made to this effect.

Keywords: Entrepreneur, entrepreneurial skills, agriculture, youth, employment grass roots.

 

 

Introduction

 

For several decades now, the Nigerian government, the private sector and several other concerned citizens have noticed the serious challenge of graduate unemployment. Both the private and public sectors seem to be saturated and are no longer willing to absorb the large number of graduates produced on yearly basis. This challenge has drawn the attention of many scholars who attributed the problem to several factors including poor educational programmes which produce job seekers instead of job creators. The introduction of entrepreneurship studies at all levels of education in Nigeria is to help students develop skills that will make them self-employed after graduation. Graduates and the general populace need to be enterprising in order to be self-reliant for the country to move forward economically, and agricultural sector is endowed with several opportunities that will provide skills for business enterprises for the production of goods and services.

According to Anyanwoucha (2001) an entrepreneur is a person who makes plans for a business or a piece of work and gets it going. He is the chief coordinator, controller and organizer of the production process. He combines other factors of production such as land, capital and labour. Harper (2003) defined entrepreneurship as the mechanism for wealth creation, explanations of economic growth and development. Qualities of entrepreneurship include initiation, creativity, innovations, self-employment, employment in small start-up firms, and use of appropriate skills needed for success in a business (Adepeju,2009).Gwary,Kwaghe,Ja’afar-Furo and Dennis (2011) defined entrepreneurship as a process by which individuals become conscious of business ownership as an option or viable alternative, develop ideas for business and learn the process of becoming an entrepreneur and undertake the initiative of developing a business. Nwobasi (2011) identified entrepreneurial skills to include managerial skills, job/technical skills, human relations skills, innovative/enterprising skills etc.

Many able bodied and highly qualified persons who could not secure gainful employment have remained economically dependent on their parents. This is because they lack the necessary occupational skills to be self-employed and to effectively function in present-day world of work (International Labour Organization (ILO) (n.d). Combiningentrepreneurial skills with occupational skills available in agricultural sector makes agri-businesses successful ventures.

Agriculture can be defined as the art and science of cultivating crops, rearing of animals and general management of soil for human uses. It is a deliberate attempt by man to cultivate crops and rear animals for the benefits derived from them. Agriculture also involves the preparation and processing of plant and animal products and marketing or disposal of these products (Erebor, 2003). There are several occupations available in the agricultural sector. These include agronomy, horticulture, forestry, animal production, aquaculture and bee farming.

Agricultural activities can contribute greatly to the development of youths. These activities can be a source of empowerment for self-employment and self-reliant for these youths (Gwary et al., 2011). They can acquire skills for the production of goods and provision of services in these fields of agriculture.

International Labour Organization (ILO) (n.d) defines youth as a time of life, full of promise, aspiration and energy, between childhood and adulthood. It is a period to go out to secure their future and to contribute to the welfare of their families, communities and societies they may find themselves. This stage of life is very important in determining young people’s paths to achieving productive, employment and decent work. They are energetic and capable of learning and maintaining skills that can make their communities to flourish and the nation strengthen.

Youths are risk takers and more likely to have access to extension services and make use of agricultural loans more effectively (Amaza and Tashi-Kalma, 2003). They are capable of developing the attitude, knowledge and skills that make them to undertake active functions in the society and collaborate with adults to tackle serious issues of life (Gobeli, 2004). Gwary et al. (2011) gave some of the possible agricultural occupations which offer opportunities for entrepreneurial skills for youth in Nigeria. These are food crop production, livestock production, orchard management, aquaculture (fish farming), mechanization, marketing, processing and distribution and forest jobs.Youthsinvolvement in agriculture provide them with economic benefits and means of self-reliance.

Mbam and Nwibo (2013) reported that farmers who engage in farming as enterprise in the South East part of Nigeria have the benefit of poverty reduction.They were able to procure inputs, make profit in arable crops and livestock. In processing of cassava, yam, palm oil, rice legumes and nuts, there were also positive impact as well as distribution and marketing of the products when entrepreneurial skills were applied.

Short-term out of school programmes are directed towards youths who are not graduates and have no steady jobs. They are the rural or township jobless youths who roam and engage in manual jobs for a living.

The acquisition of agricultural skills is expected to equip both graduates and non-graduate youths for gainful enterprise in Nigeria. This paper highlights the roles played by Nigerian government in entrepreneurial skills development for youth employment. Furthermore it examined, agricultural skills available for youths to become self-employed and self-reliant, and be involved in acquiring entrepreneurial skills for setting up agri-businesses in Nigeria. The paper also explored the challenges of the grassroots youths entrepreneurship skills acquisition in agriculture in the Nigeria societies, and suggestedthe way forward.

 

The Role of Government in Entrepreneurship Development in Nigeria

Effots at entrepreneurship development in Nigeria started before independence. After independence, government at different periods have made efforts to encourage farmers, graduates and youths in general to become entrepreneurs in the field of agriculture by introducing different programmes. The objectives of some of these programmes addressed youth entrepreneurship development as stated by Erebor (2003). He maintained that farm settlement schemes were set up in 1959 by the then western Nigeria government. Some of their aims were:- to encourage rural development; to encourage young school leavers to take up farming as a means of livelihood; to discourage rural-urban drift of young school leavers in search of “white collar”  jobs; to show that by going through organized and scientific planning, young school leavers can own and manage farms. The programmme was aimed at training young school leavers in different fields of agriculture in six months to two years and later provide funds for them to set up their own farms.

The operation feed the nation (OFN) came on board in 1976 with the aim of making agriculture popular to involve the old and young to provide food for all Nigerians and to reduce the cost of living. Green Revolution was established in 1979 and lasted till 1983 with aims different from OFN except that it also aimed at providing job opportunities and abundant food for Nigerians.

School-to-land programme was developed by river state government. One of its aims was to create job opportunities for young school leavers. The National Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) established in 1986 and National Directorate of Employment (NDE) also aimed at creating employment opportunities in agriculture. They also have as one of their aims the development of small scale agro- based industries. Other recent programmes which promote entrepreneurship in agriculture are the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN), the Young Entrepreneur (YE) and Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) of the Federal Government in 2012 ( Odia & Odia, 2013).

Relevance of Entrepreneurial skills in Agriculture for Youth Employment

The need to promote entrepreneurship education started in Nigeria in the mid 1980s. This was due to the collapse of the nation’s economy attributed to political instability and inconsistencies in the social-economic policies of successive governments (Odia & Odia, 2013). As a result, there was high youth and graduate unemployment. The introduction of entrepreneurship education was aimed at offering functional education to youths to make them self-employed and self-reliant; provide young graduates with adequate training for them to be creative and innovative in identifying business opportunities and establish careers in small and medium scale businesses among others (Nwobasi, 2011). Entrepreneurial skills can be gainfully applied at grass roots level in agriculture which hitherto has been neglected by the youths. This can be made possible through the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) Programme. The YouWIN Programme is a collaboration of the Federal Ministries of Finance, Communication and Technology and Youth Development to organize an annual Business Plan Competition for young people aspiring for businesses in Nigeria. The prospective entrepreneurs are given loans to start or develop their business (Odia & Odia, 2013). Youths can be encouraged through this program to go into agri-businesses for the production of goods and services.

Food crops such as roots and tubers, cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruits, beverages, spices etc. can be cultivated and produced competitively under the YouWIN Programme for income generation. Cash crops like groundnut, soya beans, cowpea, melon etc. can be produced for small and medium scale enterprise. Production of livestock animals like poultry, swine, rabbit, sheep, goat, cattle can also serve for small and medium scale enterprises. Other areas for business enterprise include bee farming, snail rearing, fish farming, charcoal production, broom making, basket, mat, chair weaving etc.

Youths can acquire skills to render services as business enterprise in agriculture. These services are as follows; garri processing, groundnut and palm oil extraction, groundnut cake processing, soya beans meal preparation, grafting and budding of citrus and other tree crops, palm wine tapping, slaughtering of animals and meat dressing, spraying of weeds, pests and diseases on crops, etc. Services available in veterinary field are vaccination, castration, de beaking, notching and tattooing of animals. Other services include post harvest processing and preservation of farm produce like cassava, yam, and sweet potatoes. Acquisition of these skills can be through apprenticeship or mentorship.

Agricultural sector is one out of several others which Nigeria needed to explore for her resources. The ban imposed by the Federal Government with respect to the importation of live or frozen birds has helped to increase the demand for locally produced birds. Fish farming using ponds or containers or fishing in natural waters offer opportunities for enterprise (Ihugba & Njoku, 2013). According to Ladu (2015) fish is a very rich source of food to the world’s population. Fish products are useful as medicine, animal feeds, fertilizer and leather. Fish is useful for learning and research; recreation and sport, as well as a predator for biological pest control.

 

Constraints to Grass Roots Youths Entrepreneurship skills Development in Agriculture

Several constraints to youth’s involvement in programmes introduction by government and strategies toward entrepreneurship in agriculture have been identified. Farm settlement scheme did not succeed because it was ill- planned and school leavers were too young for the rigorous job of agriculture.Secondary the Ministry of agriculture exercised too much control over these youths and this did not go well with them. Finally the removal of government who introduce it led to its discontinuity. Several of the other programmes ended due to change in government and poor planning. (Erenor, 2003). Mandama (2010) stated that factors limiting youths and farming households from venturing into entrepreneurship world in Nigeria include lack of motivation and finance, inadequate management skills, poor infrastructure and forced taxation. Duniya (2010) reported that entrepreneurship development has made little impact in Nigeria due to low productively in agriculture. This leads to low income and consequently the inability for the entrepreneur to procure farm inputs and to gain access to relevant services.

Gwary, et al, (2011) identified low capital, land scarcity, lack of awareness of prospects of enterprise available in agricultural sector. Other constraints include lack of access roads, electricity, water, schools and hospitals in farming communities, land tenure problem and lack of support from government.

The attitude of youths towards agriculture is worthy of note. Agriculture is often regarded as an occupation for the resource poor and the elderly. Young people prefer to migrate to urban areas to look for other means of livelihood like motor cycle riders, road side mechanics, wheel barrow pushers, taxi drivers, hawkers of second hand clothes and the like. Beside the aforementioned challenges, entrepreneurship programmes in Nigeria hardly target the general rural youths who are not in school. Rural youths at grass roots are hardly encouraged to go into agriculture business using strategic approaches that make business in agriculture to flourish in Nigeria. Youths in rural areas who desire to go into agri-businesses do not have entrepreneurial skill, and resources like land and capital. The resources are government owned and for the adults.

 

Conclusion

This paper has concluded that the government of Nigeria has introduced several programmes towardsentrepreneurial skills development among youths as a deliberate plan to provide employment for graduates and non-graduates in Nigeria in agriculture. However, the programmes have witnessed little positive results due to poor planning and several economic and infrastructural constraints. More effort is needed to bring entrepreneurship skills to the youths in the agricultural sector for the realization of better results. The YouWIN program was seen as ideal in promoting grass roots small and medium scale enterprises for goods and services available in agriculture in Nigeria.

 

Suggestions

In view of the ongoing study the following suggestions were made:

  1. The Federal Government through Entrepreneurship education in Nigeria should re-focus on the teaching and training of ordinary youths residing in the rural areas in order to expose them to opportunities for marketing their farm produce more efficiently. This will stimulate them to be creative, innovative and to develop feasible business plans to set up better business ventures.
  2. Rural youths should be encouraged by extension workers and NGOs to engage in meaningful agricultural produce enterprises and agro-based services to generate income that will facilitate the growth of national economy.
  3. Agricultural programmes set-up by the Federal Government should be introduced to rural youths by extension workers through the traditional heads andthey should be encouraged by way of forming groups or cooperatives for young farmers to participate fully in agricultural activities.
  4. Government Land policies that will make land available for use by youths should be enforced. Elders should give youth freedom to sell and enjoy the benefit of their enterprise and exercise their skills as much as possible.
  5. Local processors of produce should be encouraged by extension arm of agriculture to form associations to market their skills.
  6. The YouWIN programme should be re-enforced to reach more farmers, especially the rural youths.
  7. Federal Government should provide soft loans for rural youths, agro-based industries and adequate marketing channels for proper marketing of perishable farm produce like vegetables and fruits.
  8. The state and local governments should revisit the law on taxation on agricultural goods to encourage farmers engaged in small and medium scale enterprises.
  9. Farm settlement scheme should be reintroduced to involve more matured youths who are between the ages of 25-30 years.

 

 

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