According to the United Nations, Nigeria's population is currently estimated to be 186,988,000.
The last National Baseline Youth Survey conducted in 2012 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), determined that there were 64 million youth (15-35 years) out of a population of 166 million Nigerians. More than half of this number (54%) were unemployed. Current youth unemployment is 45.65%.
Nigeria has always been a nation of farmers. Most farmers live in the rural areas and they are mostly engaged in subsistence farming. They live tough, hardscrabble lives with limited access to social services like health, education, or even clean water supply.
Farming is unattractive to young Nigerians because subsistence farming is labor-intensive, harvests are unpredictable and farmers have limited bargaining power at the markets. Of course, rural life is devoid of recreational options that young people are used to in the cities. For these reasons, young Nigerians with limited education have for years drifted into the urban centres in search of non-existent blue collar employment. Most of the uneducated migrants end up in dead end occupations like okada riding or street hawking. Educated young Nigerians on the other hand prefer white collar jobs which are also limited.
Falling oil revenue, coupled with rising exchange rates, is forcing Nigeria to move away from food importation. There are enormous opportunities for those who can scale the hurdles and invest in farming and agroprocessing. Many educated young Nigerians are becoming more interested in farming because of the potential profit from the fast-growing population looking for well-packaged local substitutes to the imported foods they've become used to but can no longer afford. But these budding young agropreneurs need an enabling environment.
In order to encourage educated young Nigerians to go back to farming, we must study and adopt existing models that have successfully achieved this goal. The best example of this is the kibbutz model in Israel.
A Brief History of Farm Settlements
The first kibbutz was established in 1909 in Degania, south of Lake Kinneret in Israel. Currently there are almost 300 kibbutzim in Israel with the population in each of them ranging between 40-1,000 residents. The total population living in all registered kibbutz is estimated to be close to 130,000.
Here is an excerpt from a report by the Jewish Virtual Library:
The Chief Obafemi Awolowo Administration in the Western Region of Nigeria created 36 farm settlements starting from 1959. These farm settlements were intended to replicate the kibbutz model and encourage educated young men to go into farming. Plots of land between 2,000- 8,000 acres were made avaiable on leasehold basis to selected young men. The young farmers were also provided with credit and communal services for processing crops as well as storage facilities, marketing services and other inputs like fertilizer, insecticides, tools and equipment. There is an excellent review of the Western Nigerian Farm Settlement published by Dupe Olatunbosun in 1971 available online here.
During the Fashola Administration, Lagos State established the Lagos Agricultural Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric YES) which was coordinated by Mr. Gbolahan Lawal, the Special Adviser on Special Projects who later became Commissioner for Agriculture. Through the Agric YES programme, the state established a training camp in Epe complete with hostel accomodation, recreational facilities and demonstration farms. The Agric YES programme was part of a comprehensive programme to revive the practice of agriculture in Lagos State. The programme also acuired 84 heactares of land in Osun State and is in the process of acquiring land from Oyo State government to establish farms to produce food for the benefit of Lagos State.
Osun State hosts 3 of the Western Region-era farm settlements at Ago-Owu, Esa-Oke and Oyere, as well as 3 others established in the 1990s at Igbaye, Ifon-Orolu and Oluponna. The Aregbesola Administration in Osun State is currently rehabilitating and upgrading these farm settlements and other newly created ones.
What a Modern Farm Settlement Should Look Like
Farm settlements should be established on large expanses of land which would be subdivided for individual young farmers. The largest available land mass in the Southwest region is in Oyo State particularly in Oke-Ogun, Ibarapa, Ogbomoso zones. There are large expanses of land available in the Northern Nigeria and some states in Southeast Nigeria.
Each farm settement should have a central pool of agricultural equipment which can be rented to individual farmers on a day to day basis. The rental cost could be incorporated in funding packages made available to the farmers through agencies like the Bank of Agriculture or Bank of Industry.
Communal Factory Space (co-working space)
Modern farm settlements should focus more on agricultural processing within the settlement to add value to raw agricultural produce before sale. Simple examples include production of fruit juice and pastes and production of snacks.
The communal working space would have basic food processing equipment and other general machinery for industrial production. It could be modeled after the makerspaces or hackerspaces which are now popular in advanced economies. The resident Agropreneurs would also pay for use of this equipment.
Packaging & Branding Services
Pre-processed and processed farm produce should be packaged on site in the settlement before sending to market. Some of the agropreneurs could specialise in providing this packaging and branding service to other residents.
E-Commerce and Payments
Resident agropreneurs should have access to e-commerce services on site to fulfil orders. This could be provided by e-commerce and payment solutions providers like Konga, Interswitch, E-Transact, Flutterwave and others.
Logistic Services: Silos, Cold Stores, Haulage
Farm settlements need substantial storage facilities including dry stores (mini-silos) and also cold stores for perishable produce. The modern farm settlements also have to consider establishing haulage services for the agropreneurs to move their product to market. This could be another opportunity for enterprising entrepreneurs. Imagine a 'Uber' for agricultural logistics! These haulage services should include air cargo services to move perishable fruits and vegetables to supermarket shelves in Europe and the Middle East. The airports at Ilorin and Ibadan are well-positioned to serve as cargo airports.
Farm settlements would necessarily be established in remote locations. Most Nigerian youth are not keen about living in rural areas. Therefore it is absolutely essential to provide recreational facilities like football fields, gyms, jogging trails, bicycling trails, table tennis, volleyball, basketball, tennis etc. Availability of these facilities will make it easier to endure the isolation and relative boredom of a farm settlement.
Accomodation can be in form of hostels, studio apartments, detached bungalows on well-landscaped grounds of the quality found in international agricultural institutions like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan.
Funding for farm settlements can be sourced from various agriculture funds administered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Agriculture (BOA) and Bank of Industry (BOI) and philanthropic orgnaisations like Dangote Foundation or Theophilus Danjuma foundation.
These are my initial thoughts on what farm settlements of the future might look like. I'm looking forward to your comments.