Make Agriculture attractive for youths- NATEN

The Network for Agricultural Technical Education of Nigeria (NATEN), has called on all stakeholders to make Agriculture attractive for young people to encourage participation in national development.

The Chairman of NATEN, Prof. Justina Mgbada made the call at the ongoing three-day International Workshop on Demand-Driven Curriculum for Agriculture Education in Nigeria.

NATEN is supported by the USAID-funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Programme, implemented by Winrock International.

According to her, Research shows that 60 per cent of farmers in Nigeria are aged people, noting that if nothing was done, nobody will be left to continue in the future.

She said that demand-driven agricultural education was an opportunity to train young persons in higher institutions on value addition and in line with the current realities of the country.

Mgbada said when the curriculum of agriculture was reformed into a demand-driven approach, it would be attractive, saying if Nigerian youth embrace agriculture, more than half of the country’s problem would be solved.

“We found out that one of the major things we need to do is to make agriculture glamorous by making it attractive to the youths.

“Its true that there are no jobs, students pass out from schools, they do not get jobs, instead of them to go to the farms, they come into major cities, wash cars, cleaning windscreens, and doing other menial jobs.

“We have many natural resources that when harnessed well, the country will develop, that is why the curriculum of agricultural education needs to be changed and modified and made demand-driven.

Mgbada, a prof. of Agricultural Extension, however, urged all stakeholders to support the demand-driven approach toward changing agriculture practice and encourage value addition in a sustainable manner.

Prof. James Jayeoba, the President, Association of Deans of Faculties of Agriculture of Nigerian Universities, said the workshop was timely and an opportunity for a paradigm shift from the regular theory to demand-driven curriculum development.

According to him, it is an avenue for making agriculture practitioners problem solvers in line with the realities of the society and to develop their mind set toward value-added activities.

He said that many agriculture graduates were unemployable because trainings received were not in line with the realities of the time, with many of them having to sort added knowledge outside the school environment.

“A paradigm shift in our regular agriculture education curricula is apt and this training is beneficial to all.

“We must move from theoretical-driven curriculum to demand-driven curriculum, so that we can have the orientation that students acquire hands-on experience on relevant equipment and reality in the production system.’’

Jayeoba expressed optimism that the workshop would change the face of agriculture training, saying it would be stepped down regionally for more awareness for lectures and future curriculum developers.

The Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Prof. Garba Sharubutu, said low political will was hampering agricultural education in Nigeria.

He noted that the workshop was critical for Agricultural development, saying the implementation of reformed curriculum was a big issue and was worrisome.

“There is the need for a demand driven curriculum and implementation, it must be tested and implemented and we want strong political will to implement them.

“Currently, there is low interest from tiers of government to implement and reform curriculum, sadly, most conversations are merely for political reasons, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Education must align its needs and harmonise it.

“The agricultural education system needs a minimum standard, Agriculture doesn’t have machinery for skills development, there is need for industrial attachment, hands on experience is crucial also, we have unexposed and inexperienced graduates.

“So, its not just about having a good paper work, but implementation, there is no need for blame games in leadership, but for all stakeholders to take ownership in changing the narrative.’’

Prof. Oladele Idowu, said the importance of demand driven strategies and methods was to improve employability of students, saying many countries were shifting from supply driven to demand driven approaches.

Idowu stressed the need for skills and training to gather practical skills, saying this would also encourage agriculture value chain and bring private sector participation.

“Needs assessment must be seen before developing curriculum for schools, this will help in capacity building and value addition, especially on current issues.’’

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