Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Harambe 2.0 Experience

Yesterday, I was at the Harambe 2.0 Conference. It was a symposium on Youth and Development as regards agriculture (weird right?). That was what I thought at first but it was actually cool. The theme of the conference was "Planting the Seeds of Tomorrow" and it held at the Shell Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan (where I have church service!).

It was to start for 8am but I got there at 10.30 (don't ask). When I got there some guy was already there cracking jokes. His name's Seyi law and apparently he was cracking everybody up. I guess I was lucky because shortly after, the event started. The President of Harambe Nigeria, Tola Summonu, gave like an introductory speech and explained that the aim of the conference was to show the diversity of agriculture and the opportunities that reside for young people.

After that, the keynote address was given by Father Godfrey Nzamujo who is apparently the director of Songhai Center in Benin Republic. He spoke about the current situation of agriculture in the country and how to improve on it.

After his "talk", Sage came to deliver a poem and know it is not Wise Sage the blogger. He was good and he reminded me of Veeja from The Fault is History album by Souljahz. After his poem we were then split into focus groups to discuss some questions like that. That too was cool. I even represented my focus group. Then, there was a performance by Dipp, the guy who sang the dangerous song which was cool but loud and I mean that literally (Loud performances are cool with a larger audience).

The main part of the discussions was when the panelists spoke. There were two sets; the younger generation and the older ones. The younger ones spoke on A generation of Agricultural Excellence and the people in the panel where Mrs Mosunmola Umoru of Honeysuckles Ventures, Emmanuel Etim of Community Development Association and Aigimawu Omon who is a student at OAU, Ife. The moderator for the panel was Tosin Bucknor and she did a good job I must add. The older peeps where Ndidi Nwuneli, the CEO of Leap Africa, Professor Aromolaran of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Mr Audu Ogbeh, founder Efugo Farms and former PDP Chairman, Mrs Lucy Kanu the founder of Idea Builders and also Mrs Caroline Okafor, Head of Communoications, Notore and the moderator was Chude Jideonwo who also did an impressive job. Personally, I enjoyed them old folks more than the younger ones. Maybe, it is because I learnt more from them than the younger ones and you know I love knowledge. Let me share a couple of the things I learnt with you

  1. Per Capital agric growth in Nigeria is less than 2%
  2. Per capital economic growth is between 2.2 and 3.4%
  3. 2009-2018 is apparently the decade of the youth( Hallelujah! Welcome to your season)
  4. We (Nigeria) import beans from Bukina Faso
  5. We (Nigeria) import rice from Thailand and Vietnam
  6. I guess the only thing you have that might not be imported is your brain (OK. I am just Kidding)
Anyways, it was an amazing conference and I had fun (I guess?). The conclusion of the whole discussion there was that the youth are the ones who can effect the change (Go YADA!!!!) and make the agriculture sector in Nigeria the bomb! That sounds cliche don't you think? We hear that a lot which brought me to a very important question I wanted to ask but I didn't get the chance.

It is no news that new media technology is actually a major tool through which major corporations reach the younger generation. Major corporations make use of the new media technology which is mainly the Internet to reach out to the youth. Now, everybody at that conference said the same thing over and over again in different sentences. They say the youth are the change. My question is how do you intend to inform these young people about agriculture? How are you creating the awareness? You might say through the conference and workshops but let us be REAL. How many Nigerian youths attend these things? All the young people at that conference will not be up to 0.5% of the Nigerian Youth so what are we talking about? If the main people who can cause this change are in the dark about agriculture, we will have maybe Harambe 20.0 with another theme. I don't know if you feel me? yes, we can cause these change but how are these stakeholders (the ones who were in both panels) using new media technologies to spread the word about agriculture? Do they have Internet presence? if they do, are their sites user friendly? Do they use social networking sites like Facebook and twitter to market their cause? What would have been really cool is if the conference was streamed online via the Harambe website to many Internet viewers or if the stakeholders follow the footsteps of their foreign counterparts by having a STRONG Internet presence. They say they want to start a movement for youths to engage in agriculture but really where do you want to start a movement? Is it from a conference that happens once a year? Your guess is as good as mine. The average Nigerian youth is on the Internet at least an hour everyday. Steal his attention besides take a cue form the Light Up Nigeria campaign.

The second thing is fine, you have convinced young people agriculture is the way but the information is not enough? Land is a major problem. I mean one of the panelist asked how many of you have access to land. A few hands were raised and in my mind I am like, yeah right. Also, they failed to explain the roles available to young people in agriculture. Not everybody can be a farmer or rear cattle's but everybody can make the sector grow. If they had said, OK, "if farming is not your interest (Definitely not mine), you can invest in the sector (which I plan on doing)". There are different roles young people can play in agriculture but that wasn't really talked about. Much of what was said was how you can farm and make money and the benefits of farming and how Nigeria needs to step up their game when it comes to agriculture.

In the end, it was an AMAZING conference because I learnt a whole lot. I wish I had stayed for the dinner but I had to get home. Besides, I am a Covenant University student and we don't wear Jeans and a shirt to a formal event. Agriculture is beneficial people, invest in it people. We at YADA are going to promote the cause.

Go Harambe!!! Thank you for the knowledge. Can't wait for the next conference.

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