The Future of Farms – Attractive career options for a new generation

I want to be poor, live below the poverty line, never having enough to get by, this is by choice – this is the thought of most Nigerians when you say you want to become a farmer. Farming is seen as a profession for the aged, illiterate and poor or the very wealthy bored of life and waiting on death. The choice to become a farmer is a necessity and not a luxury, not a choice of poverty but a choice to make a difference!The push for food security in Nigeria is more than a governmental policy but necessity as we run towards being the 3rd most populated nation on planet earth in another 30 years. For the Nigerian environment, we contend with desertification in the North, coastal encroachment in the South, oil spillage, bush burning and deforestation, pockets of tribal, communal crisis with the menace of “boko haram”, aging farmer with the average age of the Nigerian farmer at 60, urban migration of the young for the search of a better life, and the impact of climate change. As a nation we are at a crux where we are forced to choose between “being a hungry free nation” or “a well-fed slave”. To do the same thing, the way it has always been done is the exact definition of insanity, despite the astronomical population growth, farming isn’t the next oil but rather farming “is”. Farming will remain relevant as long as we cannot download food from the internet “yet” but the mode of farming and the process of food production had to change, the change is where I stand as a farmer.The farming of the 21st century for me is one where the process must be healthy for the farmer, healthy for the consumer and healthy for the environment. To achieve this, agriculture must come with dignity for the farmer, technology-driven to attract the young and be able to pay the bills. In our farm, to push for more – we are growing our plants with no soil – this helps to ensure we can produce food any time of the year because we understand food production should not be seasonal since hunger isn’t seasonal. We can grow more in a small space, bring farms to the cities to promote urban farming, and our produce have a higher level of phytochemicals and antioxidants compared to those grown in soil. As a farm, we provide free accommodation to all our farm staff, free food, 24 hours electricity, 24 hours water and 24 hours of internet access. We are not the regular crop of farmers, we believe farmers should get the first shot at a better life, thus beyond providing the basics for a better life, our staff have a share with the company, we sincerely believe creating a future begins with giving everyone a stake in the future. One who is sure of the future is one who will care about saving the environment, understand the importance of food and health and thus ensure the quality of food not because of the consumer but because they understand it is a unique responsibility to create a healthy ecosystem as it all comes back to us.The farming model we run was influenced greatly by my mentor – Dr. Nobert Maroya, project leader for Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture ((IITA), Ibadan who I met during the mandatory NYSC service for fresh graduates in Nigeria. Food and Health has always been my vision but with him, I saw how I could tackle this problem using agriculture as a tool, as I joined the team that developed “the growing of yam in the air” – this was legendary as it had never been done anywhere in the world. On completion of the youth service, I was made the research supervisor where he allowed me to think outside the box; with my spare time our local Nigerian crops to see how it would work. As part of the YIIFSWA team, we developed a proper framework and manual for growing yams in the air, 2 years later I moved on to establish my company with a partner – Mr. P. O. Okocha Jnr – PS Nutraceuticals Int. Ltd. Today, I have had the privilege of being featured in both local and international platforms including CNN Africa, Reuters, DW etc.I want to be rich, live above average and having the best life can offer while being a farmer – not a farmer who hands work the hoes and cutlasses but rather one whose farms have robots, processes controlled by AI, bring more youths to join the team. Getting farming processes right will increase employment, ensure food security, increase national GDP and bring youths to fall in love sincerely with farming. Food security in Nigeria beyond policies and politics, innovation leads the line, youths hold the line and the future holds the mark.

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