Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie
L ast week, I tried to encourage our young men and women to consider Agriculture as the best alternative to addressing the problem of unemployment.
I gave a good number of reasons why I considered agriculture as the way forward towards a total eradication of unemployment and poverty in the land.
A good number of youths saw the idea as a welcomed development; they however raised some concern why they are finding it very difficult to go into agriculture.
The first challenge is the issue of funding. Most young people don’t have access to grant and loans. Before a loan is approved one has to provide a guarantor and collateral (security).
Unfortunately, most of the young men and women can hardly meet up with this demand. As it stands only the few lucky ones can access loans that belong to the entire masses.
With the current method of approving loans, only the rich ones are qualified to access loans. They are the ones that can easily provide collateral and they are the ones that are connected to wealthy men in the society who can stand for them as their guarantors.
This explains why the rich are getting richer whereas the poor are getting poorer. If we really want to use agriculture to solve the problem of unemployment, then the banks and even the government should remove every obstacle that prevents the youths from getting access to loans and grants.
Apart from the poor funding, which most of the youths highlighted as a major challenge, the issue of farmers and farmland insecurity is a major concern. Most of the young men and women saw insecurity as a major challenge facing agricultural development in Nigeria.
Farmers are raped and killed in their farmlands. Herdsmen often use their cattle to destroy crops and other farm products.
Farmers are no longer feeling secured in their homelands. Among all the comments and reactions I received on this write-up, the one from Timothy Ter Soosu on the security of farmers and farm lands is worth sharing with you.
Timothy Ter Soosu wrote “Very good observations and appeal. Agriculture has been of help to humanity.
In our context Nigeria, a lot of people survive by agriculture.
“As I was going through your write up, something strikes my mind and that was the consistent killings of peasant farmers in some parts of our nation.
“My parents lived and survive by agriculture, they train us from the fruits of their agricultural produce but now they all live with phobia because of the experience they are having around them.
“A lot of people died at the point of agricultural exercise. We need government to secure our land for conducive agriculture and above all we need God’s divine intervention.
Thanks Fr for this piece.” Timothy has said it all!
The government has a vital role to play in the protection of lives and property. They receive security votes and other security allowances.
Apart from the effort of the government we also need a divine intervention. As the Psalmist rightly declares, unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1). We all need to pray to God for security of lives and properties.
During his budget presentation, the president rightly declared that “agriculture is providing jobs for millions of our citizens….” This may be true of political farmers, not local or peasant farmers.
Most of the farmers in places like Benue and even Edo State are currently afraid to visit their farmland due to constant attack by the so-called Fulani herdsmen.
At first when the government introduced the idea of developing our agricultural sector, our youths took the idea seriously. Most of them embraced farming, especially when the nation’s economy went into recession. But unfortunately, they were discouraged when they realised that farmers and farmlands are constantly attacked by herdsmen.
These constant attacks against farmers and farmland have a negative implication on food security which the government seems to be not mindful of. Although, the government has said and done a lot in the area of food security but without the security of farmers and farmlands, food security remains a mirage.
Benue state was once the food basket of the nation but now it has gradually turned into the land flowing with blood and tears. So many farmers have lost their lives and landed properties to the so-called fulani herdsmen.
The most unfortunate thing that is happening at Benue right now is the forceful dislodgement of farmers from their ancestral home lands.
Apart from the burning of crops and brutal murdering of farmers by the herdsmen, farmers who managed to survive are perpetually detained in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps under horrific condition.
These farmers fled their ancestral homes due to insecurity. They cannot return to take advantage of the farming season which would have guaranteed food security. As a result, hunger and poverty have gradually invaded the land.
Few days ago before embarking on this reflection, I travelled to Benue State. I was surprised. I observed that there were no security presence in most of the areas where people are constantly attacked by herdsmen. Instead, as I was travelling down to the South-east there were so many military road blocks here and there.
Our soldiers happen to be the best in Africa when it comes to peace keeping. They have done well in places like Liberia. If the Nigerian soldiers could assist other African countries in peace-keeping what stops them from assisting in solving the security challenges facing the people of this great nation? Why are they slow in solving the insecurity problem at Benue State and other parts of the country?
When I first visited the IDP camp early last year, I thought by now, the people would have been resettled back to their homelands, but I was disappointed to see that the number of people in the camps have even increased drastically and these people are not getting the kind of support they deserve. Most of their children are out of schools.
In an interview with His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Wilfred Chikpa Anegbe, C. M. F. the Catholic Bishop of Makurdi on the current position of things in the IDP camps, his Lordship laments the inhuman and deteriorating condition of things in the IDP camps.
According to him, nothing is happening! Even the government is gradually withdrawing their support.
Almost all the priests I interviewed told me that the Bishop has taken the IDP camp as his major priority.
He is doing everything humanly possible to see that these people get at least their basic needs. As we know, a tree cannot make a forest.
I want to use this medium to appeal to well meaning Nigerians and people of good will to partner with the Bishop of Macurdi in the welfare of those at the IDPs.
Essentially, I want to use this medium to also appeal to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and even the State government and all the non-governmental organisations to declare the IDP camp as a state of emergency.
The government should do everything humanly possible to bring a lasting solution to the insecurity problem in Benue state and other parts of the country. The worst thing that can happen to anybody is to be a refugee in his country of origin.
Without adequate security none of the youths will be bold enough to risk their lives in order to key into the agricultural transformational agenda of the Federal government. If the government could provide adequate security for farmers and farmlands am sure most young people will be willing to embrace agriculture as a means of employment, empowerment and food security.
The post Youth Empowerment: Security For Peasant Farmers And Farmlands appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria .