#IamAg! Meet David Michael, Agricultural Engineer from Nigeria

Find the original post on the Farming First website.

I spent the first 11 years of my childhood in Gboko Benue state, Nigeria, where I had my primary school education. Benue state is the “food basket of the Nation” because it is mainly an agrarian state. I grew up knowing that farming was a way of life. As a primary school pupil, my interest was in sciences: primary science, agricultural science and mathematics. It was common then to ask pupils to plant seeds in tins and cans and bring them to school as an assignment. I was always looked forward to such practical work. At high school my interest grew even stronger. It was fun, and a source of pride to call plants and animals by their scientific names.

I came in contact with agriculture naturally because my parents had a farm. It was fun because it provided an opportunity to play and hunt for butterflies. It was also very normal for every adult to own a farm. We lived very close to the agriculture college where I saw farming practiced on a large scale with the use of tractors. As a kid, I would go to watch the tractors and admire the operators. One day I asked one of the operators to teach me how to work with the tractor and I remember him saying to me: “When you grow up, I will teach you.”

My day to day work involves visits to the farm to monitor and supervise any major activities of the day including land use mapping, tillage, planting, fertiliser application, weed control and harvest. I attend meetings and workshops and I give presentations and talks on climate change and agriculture when invited. I am a weekly guest on a radio talk show program where we enlighten the public about climate change and sustainable agriculture.

David Michael at work confirming the harvest in the field

David Michael at work confirming the harvest in the field

One aspect of this work that I enjoy the most is practical demonstration with communities on climate smart agricultural practices. After working as an assistant farm manager, I went into private practice and founded the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), also known as African Green Movement. Apart from my private work, I work and volunteer, I am a mentor with the Climate Reality project, the Africa Regional Coordinator Citizens Climate Lobby and the West African Coordinator African Climate Reality Project. I also consult and work as the program officer for FEED Africa implementing Global Environment Facility (GEF/SGP) and UNDP project to mobilize community actions toward climate mitigation. It is interesting doing different jobs and projects at the same time which is one advantage to a career in agriculture profession.

Because of the way agriculture is practiced presently in my country and in many parts of Africa, young people will not get involved.  To many young people, agriculture is for the older generation because of the drudgery involved and it is practiced mainly in villages and rural communities that have no infrastructure like water, light, roads and internet connection. Another major issue is access to land, if your parents do not own land then access to land becomes almost impossible.

Access and affordability of agricultural inputs is another issue. I would like to see farm settlements built with comfortable homes and basic amenities like electricity, water and internet facilities to provide temporary accommodation for young people.  Land and other agricultural inputs should also be made available and subsidised for young people so they can come to practice agriculture and return back to the cities without missing city life.

If you are looking for a job that gives you real job satisfaction, inner peace and a relationship with nature then I invite you to study agriculture. Agriculture is a noble profession because it was man’s first occupation and remains critical to the survival of mankind. It is a science that includes a variety of different disciplines from agricultural engineering to economics, crop science and fisheries. To study agriculture, embrace sciences in high school and then choose from the many courses in agriculture. You don’t need to be an expert in agriculture to practice agriculture. But you must have passion and patience to practice successfully.

This post from David Michael Terungwa, who is an Agricultural Engineer and YPARD member is part of the Farming First  series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture.Are you a young professional in agriculture with a story to share? Tweet using #IamAg to join the campaign and inspire more young people to get involved in agricultural careers.