My Songhai experience
In September 2010, I learnt about the Songhai Centre from my father who had read about the center in the daily newspaper. I then went online on the internet to read more about the center.
I was impressed and the BIOGAS section caught my attention. I wrote the organization via email to know what was required. The reply I got was not encouraging as I was told there were no spaces for international trainees since I was coming from Nigeria to Benin Republic and at that time the center was training over 80 youth from Benin Republic for 18 months.
Well, I persisted and in January 2011, I wrote again and this time there was space to take me in. I got all the requirement and fees ready and on April 12, 2011 I was on my way to the center. There was no time for relaxation as 13th April I started training this time not just biogas but a whole lot.
The first impression was that I would be in a shirt with a tie and maybe a suit. It didn’t take long before I knew that it was not the case. I had come to a 22 hectare demonstration farm where you learn by doing the work 24/7 be it rain or sunshine. A school of hard rocks. A place you learn only by doing it with your own hand.
The SONGHAI Centre for Training, Production, Research and Development of Sustainable Agriculture Port- Novo Benin Republic has an Integrated Farming System in Operation and thus an all round practical knowledge of agriculture was what I acquired. Be it aquaculture, poultry, feed mill production, renewable energy , Crop production and Irrigation , agro-processing and farm structures.
I can never forget my first few days in crop production where I had to go back to the basic which was the use of hole, cutlass and watering cans. It was strange and seems like punishments. However over time it became a norm and easier and easier it became.
Agriculture in Nigeria and Africa has been neglected in the past years and I advocate that it is time for change. It is time for Youth to invest passionately in agriculture. If each Youth is a producer of an agricultural product be it food crops, animals, poultry, rabbits, grass cutter etc. it would go a long way to contribute to the food basket of our continent. We would also not only be generating revenues for ourselves but we would be touching lives and making impact on generations to come.
Through focus, skill acquisition, hard work, discipline, commitment and continuity which are the backbone of the Songhai centre. Youth too can cultivate this spirit and serve as a driving force for agriculture in Africa.
Olawale Ojo, Nigeria