Agribusiness, Cool business were the words on the lips of the 39 youths that came together in Akure Ondo state Nigeria on the 21st of November 2012 to be part of the COOL TO FARM Workshop series by Agropreneur Nigeria and the OAC-Agro Advocacy Initiative.
The main purpose of the workshop was to show to the youth that agriculture can be and is a sexy profession and self sustaining at that. It was designed to help the youths present understand their role in the agricultural value chain and what skills they needed to acquire to fit into the links.
The workshop featured speakers from all sectors such as the All Farmer' Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Ondo State Branch: Mr. Idowu Oludare who happens to be the General Secretary at the Grasscutter Rearing Commodity, Mr Isaac Oluwalade: the Nigeria Representative of the World Cocoa Foundation who works in partnership with IITA on the Cocoa Livelihood Program, Tosin Awoyinka, a 23 year old ginger juice producer who represented the Agro processing industry and Mr Bolaji Ogunseye an UNDP consultant with 25 years experience in poverty alleviation.
The youths listened attentively as each speaker spoke during the panel session. The interactions were superb as they asked insightful and informative questions to help them get on track. Some of the questions include "how can we diversify and how do we replant incase of inherited cocoa farms?, "What are the procedures to join the farmers organisations?", and "are there organisations to assist startups like us ?".
Twenty out of the thirty-nine expressed interest in joining the farmers organization right away. The Nigeria Representative of the World Cocoa Foundation, Isaac Oluwalade, who was present to show the opportunities in the cocoa sector in Nigeria had this to say at the end of the event:
we are happy that the youths are beginning to show interest in the sector and we would continue to work with the organizers of this workshop to reach more youth with the message
One interesting feature of the workshop was the presentation on YPARD it activities and how the youths can get involved in them. Olawale Ojo who made the presentation to the audience stressed the fact that YPARD was opened to all who were professional in agriculture and not necessary those in research or academics only. He emphasis the importance of not just becoming members of the network but also that they should be active in at least one of the four focus of YPARD which are to promote agriculture among young people, to facilitate access to resources and information for cabacity building, to enabling environment for networking and exchange of information among young professional and to broaden opportunities for young professionals to contribute to ARD policy debate. The youths who had all obtained promotional YPARD flyers also put down their email contact for future follow up. We look forward to have them join the YPARD family.
The experience sharing and breakout sessions afforded the youth to express their feeling, successes and challenges faced in the sector. And by moderated interactions they were able to come up with solutions and suggestions that can be implemented easily.
The workshop went beyond just the walls of the venue as there were live tweets of the events using the hash tag #cooltofarm and this allowed for interaction with those not present at the event showing the power of social media. Pre event announcements were made using both social media and traditional media. As a matter of fact, most of those present registered beforehand through social media. The traditional media was also used as a source of information dissemination as the Cool to Farm workshop made the news item on the morning of the event and a post event interview was conducted on state television channel to emphasis more on the role the youth play in this all important sector of the economy Agriculture.