We kick off our mentor ship corner for the 2014 with an exclusive interview with Olayinka Alawode, an award winning Agric-journalist and Senior Correspondent with Businessday Nigeria. She tells us her journey in Agriculture and we indeed believe youth can pick on or two things from her story.
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – Please tell us your name and background plus what you currently do.
Oluyinka Alawode: My name is Oluyinka Alawode. I studied agriculture at the University of Ilorin. Currently I work as a journalist with BusinessDay reporting mainly agriculture, SMEs, and so on.
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – What has your experience been as an agric journalist? Oluyinka Alawode: Very fulfilling because I am able to contribute to the development of agriculture in my country even if it is in a small way, I enjoy meeting people of all classes and races which the career has given me the opportunity of and I enjoy going to places- whether rural or urban. For instance in 2009 I was in Kenya with other African journalist to study about the nomadic herdsmen and we slept in tents in a small settlement in the wilderness surrounded by wild animals but the Massai people who run the resort know how to keep the lions and other wild animals away. We also took rides in jeeps to see how the nomads shepherd their flocks in search for water and grasses in the midst of wild animals in the wilderness.
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – Would you describe it as a viable agriculture field?
Oluyinka Alawode: Yes, if one is willing to work very hard, make sacrifices by going the extra mile in reporting sometimes at one’s own cost. Pls note that many media houses in Nigeria want journalists that can report across different sectors so no one actually gets appointed as an agric journalist. But with passion and consistency in reporting agric, the person will eventually gain recognition within and outside the country as an agric journalist
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – Many young people in Nigeria do not want to pursue a career in agriculture, what do you think is responsible?
Oluyinka Alawode: it is because it usually takes a longer time to get rewards or returns in virtually every field of agriculture and achieving success demands so much hard work. For instance, an agric journalist who wants to make a mark would need to go long distances and spend hours under the sun in rural areas to do some reports when the colleagues are attending forums or doing interviews in airconditioned halls and offices
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – What in your opinion can be done to change the mindset of youth towards Agriculture in Nigeria?
Oluyinka Alawode: They must realise that the sustainable jobs and businesses of the future are in agriculture, whether you are an IT expert, a journalist, a scientist, banker, transporter, builder, marketer, industrialist, an entrepreneur, and so on. In the very near future all people with skills related to agric would be in very high demand. I can guarantee you that banks for instance would need many staff that have good understanding of agribusiness because most bank products would be designed to fund or support such businesses if the bank wants to survive. But agric is so practical that no matter how much you read about it if you don’t spend quality time in the field you may not become a true expert.
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – With your experience working with farmers, government, private sector players etc. What can you say about the future of agriculture in Nigeria?
Oluyinka Alawode: Very promising! One of my mentors said and you can mark those words –“Crude oil will soon be like salt, so cheap and easily available worldwide that the price will drop such that no country’s economy can survive on it”. Yet like salt it will still be very useful but of little value price-wise But what agribusiness offers is massive employment, food security, raw materials for industries, export base, scientists even private research companies will become very relevant ensuring they constantly come up with researches to minimise or eliminate losses in agric, banks will become more confident to support agribusiness, more professionals will take up agribusiness and do it the proper way, food produced in Nigeria will dominate the shelves in supermarkets, airlines will thrive just doing cargo trips taking agric products out of Nigeria, farms will become tourist destinations, agric teachers/lecturers with practical experience will be in great demand and so on and so forth
AGROPRENEUR Naija! – What advise do you have for the numerous youth in Nigeria and beyond who are considering venturing into agriculture?
Oluyinka Alawode: They should go ahead. They have the advantage of going ahead of others. But they must keep on acquiring knowledge that they can apply to their work as agriculturists. They should not make the mistake that the older generations of farmers made, not going to relevant forums to network or attending courses. Farmers or people in related fields to farming should take the issue of networking very seriously. Take note that good dressing adds to confidence, it does not have to be expensive but let it be neat and sharp, develop communication skills. These are needed to attract high profile customers and investors. Brand your products even if is just fresh produce, what stops you from being the supplier of quality fresh foods to some high networth individuals or organisations and the remaining can be sold in the open market to people generally
PHOTO CREDIT- Future Agricultures Flicker Photostream