8 SEPTEMBER, 2017
In the second of the ‘Youths in Agriculture’ series, Ms. Ndianekwu Juliet, a botanist and agripreneur from Nigeria, tells us about her motivations and challenges faced in agribusiness.
Francis: Can we get to know you, ma’am?
Juliet: My name is Ndianekwu Juliet Chioma. I own a bachelor degree in botany from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. I am the CEO/Manager of Elrad Enterprises and I have practical experience in organic vegetable cultivation and raising of tree crop seedlings for sale to other farmers.
With over two years working experience in molecular laboratories, I have spent more than 8 months acquiring skills in those areas.
Francis: What motivated you to venture into agribusiness?
Juliet: My interest in agribusiness started in the final year of my undergraduate studies. I took a course called Economic Botany. The course was about the economic value of different plants. Due to my love for the course, I decided to do further research about different plant. In my research, I stumbled into different products that can be derived from coconut fruit alone. That made me love crop production and I decided if I get the opportunity, I would learn any aspect of crop production. So when the opportunity for a training in crop production came and I found out it was on organic cultivation of vegetables and later tree crop seedlings, I opted for them.
Francis: Can you please elaborate on agricultural activities you are currently involved in?
Juliet: My enterprise helps people to set up vegetable farms and tree crop plantations. We train people online on how to raise tree crop seedlings using practical videos we made on the farm. We help farmers raise tree crop seedlings on demand. We also help farmers get TME 419 and Provitamin A cassava stems sourced directly from IITA and HarvestPlus Outgrowers.
Aside this, I have a Whatsapp community where I train farmers and intending farmers on how to grow vegetables. I also invite other experienced farmers to give lectures in different areas of agriculture in the Whatsapp community. People intending to benefit from my community can follow this link: Elrad Enterprises Whatsapp forum.
Francis: What, in your opinion, are the factors discouraging the involvement of Nigerian youths in agriculture?
Juliet: There are many problems facing or discouraging youths in Nigeria from agribusiness. Some of them include the use of crude farm implements (cutlasses and hoes) in farm operations. Youths interested in agriculture get discouraged due to the use of crude farm tools. If they have access to subsidized mechanized simple farm tools(e.g. hand driven tractors, brush cutters etc.) more youths would be more encouraged to go into agriculture. Lack of access to grants and unfriendly government policies in agriculture also mitigate against the involvement of youths in agriculture. Most Nigerian youths are also lack the motivation to fully go through theoretical and practical trainings in agriculture.
Francis: How would you suggest that the factors you mentioned above be addressed?
Juliet: The issues I mentioned above can be addressed adequately through the following ways:
- the cost of simple mechanised tools should be subsidized for youths in or interested in agribusiness. This can be done by government.
- I, for one, do not support starting up an enterprise with a loan regardless of one’s years of experience in the business. Grants are the best bet for youths going into agriculture. Government and other capable organizations like charity foundations should provide grants for youths interested in agriculture. Committees should be set up to make sure such founds are used for what they are intended solely for.
- Government should implement policies that would encourage youths involvement in agriculture such as subsidizing the cost of farm inputs for youths and help create access to affordable land etc.
- If the suggestions mentioned above are available and made known to the youths at the beginning of their training in any aspect of agriculture, they would be encouraged to go through the training to the end. If they aren’t available there is a very high tendency that more than half of those who started the training would drop out.
Francis: Did you encounter any challenge personally while venturing into agribusiness?
Juliet: Of course, I did.
Francis: Could you share them with us, please?
Juliet: The challenges I faced included discouragement from my parents, getting a farm to be trained in practical skills in organic cultivation of vegetables and tree crop seedlings and ready access to market.
Francis: Thanks for sharing with us, Ms. Juliet.
Juliet: It was my pleasure.