Sailing through the algorithm of creating a revolutionary change in the agricultural sector requires all hands on deck.
The itinerary behind getting all hands-on deck to ensure a formidable transformation requires young professionals being the key target audience under the broad umbrella of Agriculture. The scenario is a difficult one but having in place, a well-crafted and functional structure with proper priorities for young people to give them a platform, a community, a network and ultimately, a feeling of self-belonging – for young people and by young people.
The birth of this top-notch priority for young people resulted into an international platform of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development which is simply – A movement by young professionals and for young professionals for agricultural and research development. One of the adaptive process of doing it right for young professionals is organizing a Café where young people meet, interact, learn, share experiences and discuss on possible ways of advancing youth interest in agriculture.
YPARD Nigeria organized its first YPARD café on 10th June, 2017 as a pilot to other states of operation across the country. The café had a broad theme “Understanding challenges and opportunities in extension and advisory services”. The café had in attendance seventeen young professionals from different spheres of agriculture including, farming, consultancy, IT professionals and an agricultural teacher against the intended forty participants.
At the start of the café, Majid Tokurah, the Lagos representative welcomed everyone and reinstated the purpose of the café as an indispensable platform to strengthen YPARD Nigeria and its network among registered Young professionals. Participants introduced themselves - stating their names, what they do, the year they joined YPARD, how YPARD has benefitted them and the possible way of advancing YPARD and its operations among members.
It was a satisfactory and encouraging section as individuals shared their agricultural journey, academic background, perspective about agriculture and how they have significantly benefitted from YPARD with specific emphasis on information sharing on agriculture and existing opportunities. With the ball already in motion, the country representative expressed his happiness that YPARD is meeting its set objectives to ensure inclusiveness for young people in agriculture. Detailing the YPARD mission and how YPARD Nigeria contributes to the set objectives, concerns were raised about YPARD Nigeria activities and area of adjustment were addressed with the assurance of reviewing the activities to ensure relevance to young people.Instantaneously, the country representative encouraged members who are farm owners to develop training program for young people in their state of operation and YPARD will be ready to support such initiatives.
Discussions on extension and advisory services
Young people taking charge as extension agent and working closely with farmers is a key to attaining food security, sustainable agriculture and inclusive economic growth because there is shortage of extension agents. Setting the pace right, YPARD Nigeria invited its member and an agronomist with International Fertilizer Development Cooperation (IFDC). Tolulope Ayeyemi shared her success story of how her Dad teaches agriculture in secondary school and how her over seven years of working closely with farmers, agro allied dealers and extension agents across the country has helped her career and also thought her the fact about farmers being the most interesting and difficult set of people to work with.
Restating the definition of extension agents as the carriers of information and innovation to farmers, enabling them boost productivity and increase income. The keynote speaker asserted that agriculture is critical to any country’s economy and that food is one of the basic necessities of life. In one of her prior observations, she noted the increased rate of food importation in Nigeria. Thus, the need to scale up extension agents and services in the country, knowing well that food production and consumption is constant.
Another focus of the discussion was on how technology such as mobile telephony, internet and echnology Transfer Plot (demonstration plots) etc. are changing the face of agriculture and extension services to farmers. The speaker identified farmer’s plot and demonstration plot (Small plot adoption SPAT) as evidence based for the adoption of technologies being introduced by extension agent – a clear result formed farmers’ decision to adopt technology, so extension agent must scale up these initiatives.
Given the existing opportunity in the extension and advisory services, the speaker identified some consideration for young people towards taking the lead in providing solutions to the problem of agriculture.
The café ended on a high note as participants were provided with some key organizations that support agricultural extension, advocacy to farmers and a run-down of YPARD Nigeria activities for the second half of the year. The meeting ended with members networking with one another and afterward, some of the participants embarked on a field visit to a school farm garden managed by a YPARD member.