FOUNDER, The Sally Mbanefo Foundation and former Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo, needs no introduction as her name is synonymous with tourism, the sector on which she left her footprint and gave international prominence.
A strong advocate of domestic tourism and local content development, Sally is hitting the public glare again, this time around, as the new face of Agriculture in Nigeria, through The Sally Mbanefo Foundation.
She has emphasized the need for Nigeria to go back into agriculture, saying, “we need a green revolution for Nigeria to move forward.”
Mbanefo, who described Agriculture as “going back to basics” said this in her remarks and unveiling of the Agrillonaire – Youth-Oriented Agricbusiness quarterly, at the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of Agrikexpo and NABG Conference 2017, on Monday, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
She recalled that before the oil boom, through agriculture, Nigeria was the fourth largest economy in the developing world and major exporters of cash crops, cocoa, palm oil and groundnuts, among others.
Her words: “Our soil has been raped and oil is a curse to our dear nation! We extract oil from the s-oil; but do we add value to the soil by cultivating and reviving its dignity? Our decline began with oil boom.
“Over two third of the Nigeria’s population are youth. Nigeria is known as Africa’s giant, economically and demographically with the highest population – over 170 million people. But this giant is hungry.
“We complain about devaluation and crash in oil; yet every devaluation brings opportunities. Opportunities are abound in Nigeria. Please, dear youth, do not waste these opportunities. Take responsibility for Nigeria’s greatness. Start by helping to feed the nation. Be the generation that ends poverty in the country.”
Mbanefo enjoined the government to encourage the youth, saying “48% of the labour force in Nigeria are youth (between the ages of 15 and 30); 17.53% of the Nigerian youth are not educated, while female youth are the least educated, yet the quality of the education is in question; 79% of the youth are not computer literate; while 4.3% of the youth studied Agriculture.”
While calling on the government and the private sector to create more jobs for the youth, Mbanefo noted that “Unemployment affects the country – economically, socially and politically. Job creation is key to reducing unemployment because youth suffer the most.
“Youth employment programmes need to be sustainable and have long term action plans, taking into account, talent and vocation to build passion.”
While saying that many youth are discouraged to explore agriculture due to lack of access to land, and only a very few of them inherited land; poor mobility and proximity of the lands to the market; lack of access to technology and finance, and slow mechanization.
Mbanefo, while noting referencing a recent survey, which showed that agriculture is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, described good access to technology as key to encouraging more people, especially the youth, into farming, while encouraging farmers to diversify, saying, “seasonal crop production discourage many farmers, especially the youth. During the low season for crops, try livestock, poultry and fish farming.”
She disclosed that her NGO, Sally Mbanefo Foundation is partnering with the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) to grow young entrepreneurs, while calling for investment in human capital
She noted that “My foundation has been working with the youth since 2007 and is ready to partner with organisations to further encourage the youth and empower them.”
Discussing the ways to encourage more participation in agriculture, especially the youth, Mbanefo said technology becomes key here, “to drive storage, processing and packaging of agricultural products.
While saying the growing hospitality industry, in Nigeria and other part of the world, created increased demand in agriculture, Mbanefo suggested the movement of agriculture to rural cities, and enjoined the government and the financial institutions in the country to give farmers access to micro credits with affordable interest rate.
She then encouraged the Nigerian youth to have passion, integrity, imbibe a culture of discipline, hard work, determination, perseverance and delayed gratification, to enable them succeed in life, giving the Group Chief Executive Officer of Dangote as an example.
However, the President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Alhaji Sani Dangote, earlier in his opening address described the conference as an opportunity for farmers and stakeholders in the Nigerian Agricultural industry to compare note, to propel agriculture growth in Nigeria and Africa, by encourage youth and women to get more actively involved in Agriculture.
Dangote, who described agriculture as wealth sustainable sector commended the participation of youths and private organisations in Agriculture in Nigeria.
Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIRO), Prof (Mrs) Gloria Elemo, ably represented by Dr. (Mrs.) Bolanle Oyedoyin, called for pro-active attention for Agriculture in Nigeria. This, according to her, will grow the economy of the nation.