Why govt should create a scheme for agriculture graduates —Provost, FCA, Ibadan
Acting Provost, Federal College of Agriculture, Ibadan, Dr Foluke Iyabo Oluwatoyinbo, in this interview, tells NURUDEEN ALIMI why it is important for government to create a scheme for agriculture graduates in the country. She also intimates on how the college has been contributing to the development of agriculture in the country.
CAN you tell us some of the core mandates of the college?
The mandate of the college is to produce highly skilled middle-level manpower to service the agricultural sector of the economy. We are supposed to train people in the science and art of agriculture. Training extension agents, people who extend the result of research to the end-users who are mostly farmers. Most of our graduates are in various places such as ministries of agriculture, insurance companies, the banking sector, academia, as a matter of fact, you find them almost everywhere.
How well can you say the college has lived up to the mandate?
I think we have done well. In training and producing middle-level manpower in agriculture, we have done that over so many decades since the college was established in 1921. Up till now, we keep producing graduates who are highly-skilled, well-groomed, well-trained and they are making their mark in various areas where they are serving. And we keep turning them out year in year out. Apart from that, we have trained farmers, we have trained those who are interested in agriculture, we trained unemployed youths, we run short courses for them and quite a lot of them have become wealth creators and employers of labour. So I believe we have done well, although there is room for improvement, we keep striving, we keep improving.
Talking about funding for the smooth running of the college, do you think you are getting adequate funding from the government or there is the need for improvement in order for the school to function effectively?
Nobody will answer such question in the affirmative. Money is never enough, there is always more to do with money. The government is trying at least within the limits the national economy permits. We would be a lot better with better funding. We require more.
Aside funding, are there other challenges militating against the efficiency of the college?
Not the college per se, but the whole sector. I believe that the government can help a lot by providing opportunities for engagement for our products. It will encourage a lot more people to come here to undergo the training that we are offering. For instance, I believe that the government can put up programmes for agriculture graduates. Programmes that will make them to practise what they believe without necessarily going through the stress of looking for fund or land on their own, We could have a scheme for graduates in agriculture that will make them to contribute much better to the growth of the economy. And when that happens, more people will be encouraged to come in here. Our students will not feel that they are just learning only to be thrown into the job market to just be on their own looking for means of livelihood when most of them do not have capital or land, they do not have people who could help them. The government can come up with a scheme and it is a challenge because many people do not want to come into agriculture because of the difficulties they face in getting something done after the training.
Can you list some of the courses being offered in the college?
Presently, we run about ten different academic programmes for which we award National Diploma and Higher National Diploma after two years. We have National Diploma in Agricultural Technology, We have Higher National Diploma in Crop Production Technology, we offer Horticulture and Laboratory Technology, we also have Pest Management, we have Home and Rural Economics. We offer Agricultural Engineering under which we have manpower and machinery option, we have Post Harvest Technology. We run these courses on both full-time and part-time basis. Part-time for people who are working but only have time on weekends. So they undergo their own course for three sessions instead of two sessions and at the end of the day they get the same award of either the ND or HND.
As a professional in the field of agriculture, how would you rate agricultural practice in Nigeria, compared to what we have in other developing, developed African countries and the rest of the world. Do you think we are doing it right?
I do not think so. We can do a lot better, though we are getting better actually. In the past we used to regard agriculture as a dirty man’s job and as the village man’s job. I think we are getting to know better now but we still need to improve on that knowledge that agriculture actually is what makes a nation. In other nations of the world, in the US for instance, the farmers there are the gods of that country. Whereas, Nigeria is so naturally endowed with what we can use, to not only make food sufficient for us, but to even export to several nations of the world. But we did not take agriculture seriously in the past. I believe we are coming up and I hope we will come up.
What are those things you think Nigeria needs to do to get it right as far as agricultural practice is concerned?
Firstly, we need to change our mindset just like I have said and know that no food, no life. It should be a mantra for us. We all need to learn, knowledge is power, if you want to go into an enterprise and you do not know about it you are likely to fail. So, we need to learn and that is what we do at the Federal College of Agriculture, Ibadan. And we are encouraging farmers to come and be trained at little or no cost. After being trained, we need to take action to really go into the practice. We have a lot of land lying fallow all over the country, we have water resources that we have not been utilising. All of them just lying fallow, we need to take action to really move into the practice.
It seems we recorded excessive rains this year, as an agriculturist, how would this affect the harvest this season and also the preparation for next season’s farming?
It has been a good year, as far as rain is concerned. Much of what we practise in Nigeria as of now is rain-fed agriculture and we were so fortunate that we had a lot of rains this year. So I believe that this year we are having bumper harvest, even though there was flooding in some places, at least we know that generally, the rains were good. So, we expect good harvest this year. And it is only an indication for us to start preparing against next year, so that early in the rain next year, we move into the field and still have the overflow of the good harvest of this year into next year.
Contrary to what you just said now, some stakeholders believe that the rains ought to have stopped in October, but it is still raining in November and that it will have negative effect, what is your take on this?
But do they also remember that the rain did not start early? It could just be a shift in the agricultural calendar. So it is not going to affect the yield at the end of the day. It could only have to do with the timing, a shift in the timing. That is what I believe must have happened.