Graduates of Agriculture are needed for the transformation of the agriculture sector; but they are not so awake to that responsibility. This article gives insight into some of the challenges that could be responsible for this.
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In March 2007, while in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp at Iseluku, Delta State, one of the nation’s banks came to conduct test for Youth Corps members who had graduated with Second Class Upper (2.1) and above. In camp, besides being a corps member, I earned money as a photographer. So, as usual, I was about my photography business – handing out pictures to my fellow Corpers (clients), so I didn’t get to know on time. In the spirit of camaraderie, a secondary school friend of mine took the conscious effort to be on the lookout for me. When he saw me… ‘Tunde, where you dey since, he accused me? ‘XYZ’ dey conduct test o…’
Not to take lightly the news he broke to me, I approached the venue of the test – and thank goodness, the test hadn’t been conducted. To say it was so rowdy and disorganised is to understate the obvious. On sighting the chaos, I simply made a U-turn, went to mami market to find clients and continued in my vocation. When we retired to the dormitory that evening, my friend asked how the test went. In my characteristic jovial manner, I told him what had transpired, and my reaction to it; he just couldn’t hide his bewilderment. He told me frankly, “photo ke… you have made a 2.1, and regardless of the course you have studied, you’ve got to fight to get a job in one of these companies to have a fulfilling life”.
Whether he was right or not, I listened with rapt attention and without an iota of doubt, I sunk in his advice.
After NYSC, I returned to Pixels Digital Systems Limited, a digital photography company where I had worked as a Photographer (pre-NYSC) for 5 months. This time, I was made the Marketing Executive at the head office; and after about 9 months, due to my entrepreneurial spirit and drive, I got promoted to manage an outlet of the company.
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My friend had studied Computer Science at the University of Lagos. Right from undergraduate days, he was used to companies conducting tests, give career talks and hold workshops on recruitment tips etc.
Another friend of mine who attended Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, gave the account of different organisations that visited campus every year to head-hunt or conduct tests for final year students. Successful candidates were later recruited or sponsored for higher degrees.
It was then I found out that not only do corporate organisations visit notable campuses across the country to attract outstanding graduates into their employ, alumni of these institutions most times return to guide and perhaps, serve as the bridge for internship and/or employment opportunities.
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Over the years, having worked in various capacities at different organisations (non-agriculture related though), engaged in professional development courses and also keeping in touch with some of my old friends and senior friends from university, I began to get disturbed at some of my observations:
- Graduates of Agriculture are not seen as competitive in the world of work;
- Graduates of Agriculture mainly work as Teachers (of Agricultural Science or other subjects), a minute number work with banks, etc., quite a few as entrepreneurs still use the old traditional methods of agriculture, but many hardly work within their field of study;
- Graduates of Agriculture often veer off their primary course of study doing MBA or professional Masters and engaging in continuing professional development in their new chosen career paths, etc.
You may not agree with me on the above, but I decided to think through my university journey.
Thinking through my 5 years+ stay at the University –
- At 100 level, during a week orientation on campus, no one exposed us to the career prospects (emerging opportunities) of studying agriculture;
- At 400 level, no undergraduate student of any agriculture-related course went outside the four walls of the university for internship;
- At 500 level, no companies (agriculture-related or not) came to the University at my final year to recruit, or to talk about career opportunities in agriculture;
- No alumni returned to campus to give us tips on the world of work (agriculture-related) and prepare us towards these companies;
- The university doesn’t have a career and employment services unit;
- Does the university really care where her graduates work?
Now, Food for Thought – Agriculture has very huge untapped opportunities – but:
- Agriculture (production) is mainly practised by the aging, small holder rural farmer. Farming experience and knowledge is handed down from generation to generation; unfortunately their children are leaving the villages in droves – for the cities. There is acute rural-urban migration;
- The world requires more from agriculture beyond just production;
- Agriculture has a profound negative perception as a career of choice among youths and many educated parents in the cities;
- The curriculum of agriculture degree programmes is not compliant with the needs of the 21 century;
- Graduates of Agriculture lack the requisite exposure to the different opportunities in agriculture;
- Transforming agriculture is an enormous responsibility. Among others, it will require infrastructural support to current practitioners; and the education of young people about the huge opportunities in the sector, etc.
Agriculture in the 21 century is not for the chicken-minded. It is a sector that requires professional competence, driven by innovation and creativity. Current practitioners in their diverse disciplines not only need to learn to use technology, software, etc, but also have to consciously learn to take the lead to unlearn the old in order to absorb the new. Future practitioners must not only see themselves as lifelong learners who approach the business of agriculture from an understanding of the value-chain and the needs of the 21 century, but as professionals who want to lay a solid technological-innovative foundation upon which future generations will build on.
- What is the role of government in all these?
- What do you think an average graduate of Agriculture should be exposed to or capable of doing?
- How do you think agriculture can be taken to the next level?
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And by the way, you need not ‘fight to get a job in one of these companies to have a fulfilling life’. Fulfilment in life is not a function of extrinsic factors only. Intrinsic factors are essential. When a job doesn’t fit into your person (your interest, skills, personality, abilities, talents, values, etc) it is called labour.
I passionately love agriculture and enjoy what I do!
I am happy to share my little personal experience. Thank you for reading – would love to hear from you.