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Restructuring agriculture in Niger Delta

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Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan[Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan]

If you ask an average unemployed youth from the Niger Delta region in Nigeria where they wish to be gainfully employed, majority will say “An Oil Company”. Nobody

wants to be left out from the profitable nature of the Oil and gas sector even though the Agricultural sector has the potential to be the Industrial and Economic Catalyst from which Country’s Development can take off.

The past President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s led Administration in Nigeria repositioned the Agricultural sector to enhance Economic Growth even though many Governors within their various states paid lip facilities to Agricultural Development.

Before the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta, the people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria were economically active and engaged in various trade such as fishing, mat weaving, local gin production, boat building, palm wine tapping and so on but the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta in 1956 and its exploration in commercial quantity in 1958 has affected the ecosystem, destroyed the environment and as result decreased the above mentioned economic activities in the Niger Delta even in recent times.

Each time youths from the Niger Delta region in Nigeria are asked to embrace Agriculture and I read the negative comments from majority of the youths, I thought to myself, something could be wrong with our generation or Probably, Agriculture is evil.

If Agriculture is evil, why then does it hold part of the solution in reducing the rate of unemployment in the Niger Delta?

I guess it could be the perception of the youths tracing Agriculture back to our fathers where most youths introduced their great grand-fathers as “poor farmers”. Most times, the “poor” is emphasized and no present generation youth wants to be poor I suppose.

This mentality has not erased from the mindset of the modern generation. Many see farming as a dirty Job meant for uneducated people and those who have no alternatives to life but this perception can be gradually erase in the Niger Delta.

In curbing unemployment in the Niger Delta, there is no doubt Agriculture can play a major role. According to The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics Underemployment occurs if you work less than full-time which is 40 hours but work at least 20 hours on average a week and or if you work full-time but are engaged in an activity that underutilized your skills, time and educational qualifications. Accordingly rural farmers only farming seasonally will be considered underemployed if they only work on their farms during the planting and harvests period and do nothing in between. If farmers are however working in dry and wet season as in the case recently they will be considered involved in full employment. This applies to drivers, cook, teachers etch who in most case work well over 40 hours and hence are considered fully employed as their working hours and often skills meet the adopted methodology. It is important to note that the pervasive international definition of unemployment, underemployment or employment is not a function of the quality/suitability of wages earned, not on whether the person involved in a particular job or economic activity is looking for another job or unhappy with his current job. Rather employment, underemployment and unemployment are treated as a function of a person’s involvement or otherwise in economic activity even if that activity is aimed at making ends meet. The suitability of wages is covered under other quality of living standards indicators such as poverty etc. and not in determining whether one is employed, unemployed or underemployed which is a function of economic engagement.

With the explanation from The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics there is no doubt the restructuring of agriculture to meet the taste of the modern Generation will be a plus to reducing the unemployment rate in the Niger Delta.

Most times when I talk about restructuring Agriculture, I love drawing reference to the former Lagos State Governor Fashola BRT Buses. Previously nobody wants to be associated with conducting a commercial bus within Lagos State but The Governor Fashola’s Led Administration transformed the system, The BRT bus conductors put on Uniforms and they are neatly dressed, today even graduates are employed conducting buses in Lagos State Nigeria.

These techniques can also be applied to the Agricultural Sector in the Niger Delta Region, specifically Bayelsa State of Nigeria in restructuring Agriculture to be embraced by the youths and Graduates.

How can Agriculture be restructured for it to be embraced by majority of the Niger Delta youths? Is this an achievable goal?

If you look at Agriculture from the time of our fathers in Nigeria and connect to the present, you will agree with me that there is a distinction.

In trying to bring out the distinction and volunteering solution, I tried to draw a model which I tagged “Catherine Mozimo’s Model of Modern Agriculture in the Niger Delta.” After struggling for a long time, I discovered It was actually difficult for me to represent this Idea in a diagram but the summary of the model states that youths in this Modern Generation wants to be entertained as they work so if Agriculture will be restructured to be embraced by the youths in the Niger Delta region, it has to be merged with entertainment.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the following outline provides an overview of and topical guide to entertainment and the entertainment industry:

“Entertainment is any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time, and may also provide fun, enjoyment and laughter. People may create their own entertainment, such as when they spontaneously invent a game; participate actively in an activity they find entertaining, such as when they play sport as a hobby; or consume an entertainment product passively, such as when they attend a performance.”

“Entertainment industry (informally known as show business or show biz) is part of the tertiary sector of the economy and includes a large number of sub-industries devoted to entertainment. However, the term is often used in the mass media to describe the mass media companies that control the distribution and manufacture of mass media entertainment. In the popular parlance, the term show biz in particular connotes the commercially popular performing arts, especially musical theatre, vaudeville, comedy, film, and music. It applies to every aspect of entertainment including cinema, television, radio, theatre and music.”

The Entertainment Industry is a broad one on its own and merging some aspect of it into Agriculture will not only excite the youths but increase productivity and acceptability.

The Model went further to explain the effect of Merging Agriculture and Entertainment in the Niger Delta region, the Long term Plan and the short-term plan. While the short-term plan could be training the trainees as there will be different categories of people at the “INPUT STAGE” those who had Educational or previous knowledge about Agriculture and those who have little or no knowledge at all.

The Long term plan could be building an Agricultural Institute for continuous learning and provision of Accommodation for farmers and their families within a geographical location around the site.

Good Management is critical to the success of achieving this model and restructuring Agriculture in The Niger Delta region, poor management will lead to little or no result at all and to my humble opinion, Government from time is not known to be a good manager of business hence for this Model to work effectively and efficiently, the Government can outsource to different private sectors while tax is paid in return.

If this approach is carefully harnessed, in the next 5 years , I strongly believe if the Question is posed to the youths from the Niger Delta region in Nigeria where they wish to be gainfully employed, the response May probably change to “THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR”.

mozimobeke@gmail.com

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