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FECA driving Nigeria’s economic diversification – Ag.Provost

Dr Emmanuel Moyinjesun is the Acting Provost of the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (FECA).In this interview with Josephine Oguntoyinbo, he spoke on the innovation of the school and other sundry issues of interest.  

Excerpts:

Agriculture is the in thing now that oil  sales and price are falling,  how is FECA fairing to meet this demand ?

As a Federal Government Agency, we owe it a duty to achieve something in this regard.We are all aware that the present government is interested in diversifying the economy to agriculture, as a training institution, it is our duty to build up the capacity of students and people.

There are different ways we are approaching it. We want to change the perception that farmers are dirty, wearing tattered clothes, and using cutlasses. We can be modern day farmers, making millions  therefore, we are showing them the new technologies, right market opportunities, and financial linkages.

Agriculture is a business, it is not a welfare work. We are training them to be providing jobs for themselves, become employers of labour ,and be  shining examples to upcoming youths. We have started capacity training for many people since 2015, we just finished one last week, we are training young ones, unemployed youths, women and groups.

Interestingly, the Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA)  came here to learn. We are training people in fish farming, cassava processing, poultry ,bee keeping, and so on. Despite the schedule of work, people can still practice, we call it short term courses, we are taking them through this so that they can become agriculture entrepreneurs, raising up production, processing, marketing in a value  chain and equally become self employed.

We are also training them on how to increase their fruits intake ,like I always  say,  fruit is the best medicine, if you do not eat fruits, you will use more drugs. We have trained more than three thousand people within the last four years, and after the training, there is what we call  tracers studies, we follow them up through monitoring and marketing .We help them to sell their products ,we have agro shop and restaurant  here in the school.

We have also adoptedsome  villages and schools. We have set up garri processing industry in Owode and they are producing in a large scale, people of the community are working there doing a great job. We also have garri processing centres and poultry in the nearby communities, as a way of encouraging women, youths and the communities as a whole. We have another one at Ibule-soro.

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We started with poultry, a very interesting project that people are now copying. When one of our partners  came to evaluate the programme, one of the women working there requested for garri factory, and it was given to them. We also have cocoa nursery, same thing is happening at Ureje village and the people working there are doing great.   We are diversifying the economy and if we have more fund, we will expand to other communities.

We have also adopted secondary schools into the programme, Aquinas College is now into fish farming and poultry and recently the Association of Secondary Schools Staff came here for training, from the secondary school level, we are training the younger ones   how to do farming in a proper way.

We are also at Ogbe  High School, Oda, training them on  the modern technology of farming, we recently adopted Celestial Grammar School into the training. We are organising career talk, demonstrating how to farm, and organising Agricultural quiz to arouse their interest.

We are mobilising the younger ones to show interest in agriculture as a way of catching them young. As an institution, we have funding agencies supporting some of our projects. One of them built the Agro shop and the restaurant in the school. We are reaching out and  outsiders are coming to meet us, while government is still funding us too. The only issue we have now is that we have been excluded from TETFUND and they are still giving it to the universities  polytechnics, and the colleges of education.

I am really concerned, because Agriculture contributes to the economy and nobody can live  without food, therefore everybody is involved, they need to fund agricultural projects, as a way of enhancing the sector. For us as an institution, we are still reaching out to all the associations. The rice, maize, cassava farmers among others, there is a synergy between us, as a federal institution. Both the state and the local governments should do more to enhance farming .Even the civil servants, many does not know what to do after retirement, they should come and learn new things to become employers of labour.

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What is the institution doing in terms of exposing students to practicals beyond the school?

We have a programme called SIWES where we supervise our students, at the end of year one, they go out for practical, we are also in touch with established industries, some are  big poultry farms, bakeries and so on. They are all over  the industries ,getting more experience, and at the end of their two years, they will go for another one  year attachment in  other places ,covering livestocks, crops and marketing so that they can garner more experiences before coming for their Higher National Diploma (HND), we do not limit the training to the school ,we are  a practically based institution. Our goal is to teach practical agriculture with results, not only theory and we are determined to keep the tempo. Besides, our students are well exposed even while in the school, every morning ,particularly in the first year, they are made to engage in  farm activities where they  practise the practical aspects of agriculture, they learn how to do the necessary things before going outside. Both internally and externally, we are grooming them, we are still looking for more linkages outside, so that our students can go and learn, while their students can also come here to learn.

The Federal Government is diversifying into agriculture, in your own opinion, can you say they are doing enough in this regard?

At the federal level, they are trying, they will keep improving, the issue is this, constitutionally, agriculture is on the concurrent list, therefore, it is a culture for the Federal, States and the local Governments in Nigeria to fund agriculture, it is their constitutional  duty, but they are not giving the sector adequate resources, the local governments administrators should look into it.

Government at all levels should brace up, the resources are there, we have cocoa, oil palms, rubber among others. The farm settlements, industries and so on have all gone down .Secondary schools authorities must be mobilised to start agriculture in schools, even right from the primary school level. Look at many primary schools, no field, not to talk of farms, they are not complete schools, they may have buildings, but that is not what build people.

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We are producing graduates, they have no jobs, they can only speak English, those are  the issues that we must address, look at the NYSC in the 70’s and the early 80’s, they have farms, but today, they will be sweeping the street, calling it community and humanitarian jobs, they do not plant and they will be saying that there is no job.

They should wake up, we must address the issue now, we have slept as a nation and we are paying for it. Most of our foods are imported and that is why we can not get light, good roads and so on because, what we are suppose to use for all these things are being spent on importing goods and the Federal Government is trying to curtail it, asking us to plant rice.

We need the technical will to support these  things. OSOPADEC, NDDC and other commissions should invest in agriculture, when you go to other countries, they have plans to feed their people, most of this institutions do not know their constitutional roles.

 Look at the NGOs, many of them are busy pursuing HIV and AIDS and all those programmes that will fetch them money, how many of them are working on food security? Even philanthropists, and the private sectors  how many projects are they sponsoring. Look at  Shoprite, all the products we are rushing to buy are from the South Africa, we are enriching the country, these are things we want to change, we have to build up the younger ones to go into agriculture, so that they can become agricultural business entrepreneurs that will supply quality products to those organisations.

We should stop enriching farmers outside the country. It is a food for thought, we must get it right.

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