In a period when the Nigerian economy is mired in recession, young people in Nigeria are beginning to wake up to the harsh realities of life. This is exemplified by UKA OGECHUKWU KATE, a 300 level student of History and International Relations at the Ebonyi State University, whose photos went viral online recently after she took the bull by the horns by going to the farm to harvest cassava and fry it to make garri.
Kate, who hails from Edda in Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, spoke with THESHEET.NG’s Olumide Aduloju about her new found fame, and how investment in Agriculture is the best weapon against hunger and poverty.
Please tell us how it came about that you became a social media sensation.
Actually, I have been on the social media, precisely Facebook for quite sometime, but was not really recognised. What really brought me in contact with people around the world (not physical contact) was my little farming stunt.
Who is Kate beyond the Facebook personality?
Kate is a simple lady with a lot of dreams and visions and striving to make them come true. She believes in herself, she loves life and everything good life has to offer.
Since your post and pictures went viral, you have been in the limelight. What do you hope to get from the media attention?
Hmmm… nothing in particular. Though I never thought my little effort could go this viral, I am happy the way things turned out. It gladdens my heart knowing that I have inspired and impacted positively to the lives of many.
Have you taken any steps to actualise your ambitions to go into agriculture full-time in the future?
Not really, though I have set my plans in motion but I am keeping them close to my chest at the present.
Since your post, have you gotten any call from anyone in the government or private sector?
None yet from the government, but a private sector company named Asiwaju Agro Tech really showed profound appreciation as well as other private individuals.
Since you are still in school do you have any intention of merging your schooling with Agro-entrepreneurship?
Not really because as a final year student, I don’t need any distractions. So I want to concentrate and get my first degree. Every other thing follows.
What has been your family and close friends’ response to your sudden fame?
Their response has been positive, especially my mum. She called me one day and was like “Ada what am I hearing and seeing?” I laughed and replied “Nnem exactly what you are hearing and seeing.” She said she has known me to be a focused and determined daughter who is always proud of the little she can offer, after which she prayed for me. My friends and well wishers have been supportive and encouraging too.
Having worked with your mum on the farm, what are those farming practices you would like changed?
Majority of farmers in Nigeria practise subsistence farming. It is characterised by small and scattered land holdings and use of primitive tools. As the farmers are poor, they do not use fertilisers and other farming boosters, they lack modern agricultural facilities and these result into low productivity. These people need to be encouraged, incentives need to be in distribution to enable them produce more for large scale commercial purposes. Markets for their surplus product should be created.
How can government support others like yourself who are interested in Agriculture?
One thing I like about farming is that it is not dependent on one’s educational background, everybody can do it but if only the government can intervene. Yes, because investment in agriculture is the best weapon against hunger and poverty which can make life better for the citizens. Our agricultural sector needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to help poor farmers grow more. If that can be achieved, suffering will be dramatically reduced and self sufficiency will be built. The approach used today to fight against poverty, such as empowerment programs, collaboration with other economies, etc are outdated and inefficient. The government should commit to concrete, measurable target for increasing agricultural productivity, creating markets for agricultural products. In order to fight poverty, we need food security because it is only when you eat that you can stay alive to behold the beautiful future God has prepared for this country. Farmers both young and old need incentives, even if it means importing agricultural machines for hire, it will go a long way to encourage young farmers.
In recent times, there have been calls for the government to make the NYSC scheme an agriculture-based programme, What’s your take on this?
Yes, it will go a long way in eradicating unemployment in the country because even those who claim not to have entered a farmland for the first time will acquire the training as well as experience the sweetness of agriculture. I am not a professional farmer, but from my experience about farming I have come to understand that it is not really what people take it to be. Farming is a lucrative business and if NYSC should be made an agricultural based programme, I will give God thanks because it is happening in my time. But, I hope it is going to be mechanised agriculture (laughs) because using manual labour is going to be tough and discouraging. As a corps member who has acquired such skills, after acquiring such skill it will help a great deal in your life endeavours because with the experience in poultry farming, fish farming, snail rearing, crop farming, etc you can start up something on your own without waiting for a white collar job.
With the proliferation of smartphones, the tendency of the youth to drift towards the internet, how how do you think social media can be used to encourage more young people to engage in agriculture?
Going by how I used facebook to draw awareness to my little farming skill, every other farmer can achieve that too. Farmers can make their presence known online as well as convey the good message about farming to people all around the world. Advances in technology have drastically changed the way the is. Now, every desire can be achieved online. Therefore it is important that agriculturists explore different communication options in order to make people learn more about agriculture. They shouldn’t rely on face-to-face communication only to tell their story, they should be technology savvy and get involved with social media to advertise their goods and connect with consumers. Following the farming pictures I posted, people have been asking if I am actually into garri business so that they can patronize me. So farmers should enhance their development within social media to expand their businesses to reach the general public. The social media is beneficial because you will get to have a conversation with people about agriculture just like I’m presently doing. It is instant, quick and allows you to have a relationship with consumers. It can help spread the good message about the importance of agriculture and people will be encouraged to have a taste of it. Facebook, youtube, Twitter, etc allow farmers to share their experience with uninformed people. Farmers’ stories can be influential via social media.
Any message for the young Nigerian who don’t see the fuss about agriculture or need to go into it?
I urge Nigerian youths to go into agriculture because it is profitable. It will go a long way in reducing and eventually eradicate aging population in agricultural sector. It will also help a great deal in reducing unemployment and crime rate because when you have something doing which generates income, you will definitely think less of engaging yourself in criminal acts.
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