Agriculture involves cultivation of land, raising and rearing of animals for the purpose of providing food for man, feed for animals and raw materials for industries (Anyanwu, 1987). It involves forestry, fishing, processing and marketing of these agricultural products.Agriculture has been the main source of gainful employment, from which the nation can feed its increasing population, providing the nation’s industries with local raw materials and as a reliable source of government revenue.
Agriculture is not glamorous as it suffers from negative perceptions, especially among the youths. Majority of the manpower involved in agriculture are aged. In the minds of many African youths, a farmer is someone like their parents, doing backbreaking labour in the fields and getting little for it. Youths view agriculture as a profession for the old, wretched, poor, non-lucrative and out of date; a job that does not win government attention, energy – sapping and has low societal prestige. Consequently, youths migrate to urban areas in search of white collar jobs and to reach up for things that are lacking in rural areas (Adebo, 2009). This leaves the majority of work in agriculture to old human races, contributing to low productivity, low income and hence the evil cycle of impoverishment and food insecurity (Mangal, 2009).
Youths serve as a good measure of the extent to which a country can reproduce as well as sustain itself (Famiwole, 2012). They are energetic, learn easily and seen as “vital sources of manpower for development” (Odusanya, 1972; Olujide, 2008). It is heartbreaking that the youths who are seen as the future of a nation and agents of development are not interested in agriculture. As agriculture is a vital tool for increasing food production, moving people out of poverty and eventual development of a nation, it is imperative to focus on the youths and drive them towards agriculture
Young Farmers Club (YFC) was established with the slogan “Catch Them Young” aimed at attracting the youth in all secondary schools across the state to appreciate and choose agriculture as a career. It was targeted towards inculcating in the youth a need to embrace agriculture both as a career and business. The kind of education (formal or informal) that youth are exposed to or have access to will determine the nation’s overall development and youth organisations such as YFC provides capacity building in the area of agriculture. The trained youths can then take over from their aged parents in producing food for the growing population.
In many developed states, Young Farmers’ Clubs are active and well established. For instance; the Dominion Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (DFYFC) has served to establish Young Farmers’ Clubs throughout New Zealand (McLintock, 2009). Canada takes in its own 4-H program, which broadcasts data on new farming methods and maintains experimental farms, research stations, and research institutions throughout the country. In Australia, each state has several agricultural research stations and an extension service. Great Britain has a program of youth clubs called a Young Farmer’s Clubs that resemble 4-H (National 4-H, 2012).In England and Wales YFC, activities encompass agriculture, athletics, community volunteering, environment, and social activities (National Federation of Young Farmers‟ Clubs [NFYFC], 2011).
In Nigeria, Young Farmers’ Club is an organization in which young people (9-20 years) are encouraged to learn about better farming and homemaking techniques. The members are under the guidance of the agriculture teachers, agricultural extension personnel and local volunteer leaders (Adebo, 2009). The members of the club are allowed to elect their officers, plan their own programmes, execute these programmes and hold meetings regularly. They also carry out worth-while projects or activities in farming, homemaking, community development and other related areas. A young farmers’ club programme is a practical one that emphasises “learning by doing”. It has several objectives amongst which is to engage youths in several projects, teaching them new skills and methods recommended by the agricultural and home-making technicians which they in turn use in their home and farm projects. The skills and improved methods they learn and use become a part of their lives. YFC also has a way of developing self-reliant members as they are usually exposed to craft-work, practical farming and other meaningful activities that can make them become self-reliant individuals. Members have the potentiality of generating income and disseminating improved agricultural technologies to their parents and other farmers because they have more trust in them than in the formal extension agents (Ajayi, 1998; Adewunmi, 1999; Adekunle, 2001). Participating in the various activities of YFC may lead to improved learning, student personal development and career development. The goal of YFC was best summarized by a maxim by Benjamin Franklin, 1750 “Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I will learn” (Northern Illinois University, 2011).
YFC’s Pledge Credo
A typical YFC’s pledge credo can take any of the following forms, (Ogunsanya, 1973; Oguniiditimi, 1984);
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, community and country”. “A farmer’s life is the life for me, I love it dearly; enough for self and some to give to such poor souls as need them”.
A study carried out in Abia state, Nigeria to determine the proportions of schools in the state with functional YFCs programme identified that only 27% of secondary schools have functional YFCs. (Mbanaso, Ajayi, Ironkwe and Onunka, 2013). This functional percentage may be generalized for other states in Nigeria. The projects embarked upon by the YFCs were agriculture, home economics, handicrafts, educational and managerial projects. The activities most frequently embarked upon by these clubs were crop production under agriculture and food preparation under home economics. Several factors were identified as reasons for the non-existence of YFCs in the schools. These include:lack of logistic support by government, negative attitude of government towards YFCs in secondary schools, lack of legislation backing up YFCs in secondary schools, lack of rural youth agricultural extension personnel, Lack of farm input supply, lack of financial support by school authorities, lack of student motivation by school principals, lack of farmland, negative attitude towards agriculture as career by students, lack of interest from students, lack of support from parents/guardians.
Therefore, in order to establish a functional YFC in schools, the following principles should be borne in mind.
1)It is necessary that every student offering agriculture should be a member
2)The agriculture teacher should serve as a leader by giving advice on the running of the club
3)Students should be acquainted with the aims and advantages of the Young Farmers’ Club
4)Elections should be conducted to select officers to run the affairs of the club
5)All members should be fully engaged in the activities of the club
6)There should be a workable constitution to guide members in the running of the club
7)All the necessary resources such as finance, equipment and manpower needs geared towards achieving the objectives of the club should be provided
8)There should be proper records of all the activities of the club
9)Members should be grouped into committees for proper execution of projects
10)There should be a well-planned and regular schedule of club meetings. If possible meetings should be held on weekly basis
11)The club should be formally registered with the school authority.
12)Parents of club members should be informed about their wards’ involvement in the club.
In conclusion, Young Farmers Club (YFC) is a vital tool in encouraging secondary school students to take up agriculture as a career and business. This can help in contributing significantly to the expected increase in agricultural production and improved rural life. However, certain guidelines must be borne in mind for a successful YFC; especially the emphasis on practical learning or ‘learning by doing’. In this way, trained youths can take over from their aged parents as well as disseminate improved agricultural technologies to their parents and other farmers. Also, the level of unemployment in the nation will reduce as youths can be gainfully employed in agriculture instead of waiting for ‘white collar’ jobs.
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