Investment in agriculture by entrepreneurs with the level of technological know-how available to us will positively impact our economy.
The first time I saw a rubber plantation was when I snuck out of school with some friends to go for a visiting day at Mayflower School, Ikenne. Of course, we were there to see our ‘girlfriends’.
Right opposite the school were (I don’t know if they’re still there) miles and miles of trees that had swirls cut in their trunks. These trees were tall and willowy. They looked hard and brown, very unattractive to my hyper-active childish eyes. I didn’t know what they were till years later when my mother and I drove down to see my sister who was then in the school.
“What are those, mum?” I asked. “That’s a rubber plantation. So those must be rubber trees.” She answered. I was impressed. Until that moment I thought rubber was man-made – the same way I thought eggs were manufactured in a factory somewhere. It was eye-opening, and it fed my curiosity.
Soon enough, I found out about the existence of Apoje, an oil kernel plantation. Such was the richness and purity of the oil manufactured there that the Chinese came to buy our kernel; and are one of the world’s largest exporters of palm oil.
What happened to our farms?
Of course, the obvious answer would be that our government became distracted by and with oil money because with oil they were making in a day what agriculture pulled in a month, or so – you know these figures get exaggerated all the time.
But since the goal was to make as much money as possible, in the shortest amount of time as possible, so as to steal as much as is possible, then oil took over.
But now, things have changed, maybe not as far as the government is concerned, but at least, with the control of income on a grand scale. We have entrepreneurs who are doing great things for themselves and, in some indirect way, for the nation.
And then, here comes my question: why aren’t more entrepreneurs interested in agriculture?
Before asking what entrepreneurship has to do with agriculture, let us consider the definition of entrepreneurship. It “is the willingness to take risks and develop, organize and manage a business venture in a competitive and constantly evolving global marketplace” – Google.
This simply means that entrepreneurship is not technology and apps and gadgets and toys and social media alone. There’s a lot more to it than what’s being discussed on CNN.
Again, why aren’t entrepreneurs interested in agriculture?
The answer’s pretty obvious for the most part. We’ve all been consumed with the ‘get-rich-quick’ phenomenon that is consuming our leaders. Instead of looking to solve problems, we’re looking to make money. We’ve become consumed with consumption instead of building new things or leveraging on old to build new structures and infrastructure. We only want to eat.
And the irony of this situation is that there’s actually money to be made in agriculture.
Consider the reality that Nigeria was once on the cusp of being the major worldwide distributor of palm oil. Consider that at some point our rubber was highly desired in major countries in the world. How about our cocoa? Our groundnut? Pepper? And even to a certain extent, cooking oil?
These are industries that were thriving at some point and, with the right ingredients and right hands, considering all the technological know-how available at our fingertips these days, I don’t see why new people and interests cannot invest in this industry.
I have a couple of friends. One in particular works in an IT firm during the week, but on weekends, however, he can be found on his farm somewhere in the outskirts of Lagos. Another one quit his job in one of Nigeria’s prestigious banks to become a full-time fish farmer – and he has been doing quite well for almost two years now. And between me and you, that’s part of my retirement plan.
That’s a secret.
Nigeria, and by extension Nigerians, need to change our focus from being a consumer economy to being a creator economy. In other words, we need to import less and export more. We can create jobs, generate income and strengthen our economy with agriculture, making the nation more relevant than it currently is.
So maybe it’s time to take off the suits, wear the coveralls and boots, and get our hands dirty again.
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