According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 23.9 percent with the youth accounting for more than 70 percent. Increased involvement of youth in agricultural activities will help reduce the problems of the ageing farm population and increasing youth unemployment.
Nigeria’s government has attempted to stimulate youth’s interest in agricultural production and processing since the late 1980s. In 1986, the federal government established the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to provide vocational training to the youth, and in 1987, the Better Life Programme was created to empower women, especially female youths in the rural areas through skills acquisition and healthcare training.
In addition, the People’s Bank and the Community Banks were established in 1989 and 1990 respectively, to provide credit facilities to low income earners embarking on agricultural production and other micro enterprises, with special consideration to youth engaged in agricultural production. In 1992, the Fadama program was initiated to enhance food self-sufficiency, reduce poverty, and create opportunities for employment for youths in the rural areas. Most state governments as well as private agencies have also provided internship and training opportunities for youths to create agricultural enterprises.
Despite these programs as well as the expanding markets for primary and secondary agricultural commodities, the involvement of the youth in agricultural activities has steadily declined in recent years, in spite of the high current youth unemployment rate, and abundance of agricultural opportunities available for youths to go into agriculture.
Overall, some empirical studies found that economic push factors (such as the lack of rural credit, unemployment, and rural poverty) are most important; while others suggest that economic pull factors (such as, perception of high wages from urban employment) are dominant.
Reasons for rural youth involvement in non-farm activities and migrating to urban areas
The economic pull factors include the perception of greater job opportunities due to the presence of industries or companies in cities. Economic push factors include poor physical infrastructure and social amenities in the rural areas, search for education and skills acquisition, and the absence of desirable job opportunities. Other factors include a general dislike of village life or expulsion from rural communities resulting from the commitment of an offense or crime. Research reveals that economic factors were the dominant reason for rural youths increased involvement in non-farm activities and migrating to urban areas.
In order to improve youth involvement in agricultural production and processing in Nigeria, attention should be given to the factors leading to youth migration to urban areas. In addition, the economic constraints facing youth in agriculture (lack of credit, weak profitability, capacity constraint, etc) should be examined.
Youth should trained on modern ways of agriculture and agri-business immediately after high school, after the training, those who choose to start an enterprise should be funded and encouraged while those who choose to work should be placed in farms of those who choose to create enterprises, that way their knowledge is used to build their businesses and that way it becomes sustainable and money realized from the business will be used to further their education in any course of study they choose.
In addition, youth who are currently into agriculture should be encouraged and honoured so that others will take interest in agriculture. We can only reduce youth unemployment in Nigeria through sustainable agriculture, if we want do things right. We can never expect the same results, when we do the same things!
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