It is no longer news that Agriculture is the next goldmine in the soil of Africa as more people are starting to wake up to the reality that Africa must start to feed herself and rely less on importation of food. With over 700 million hectares of arable land of which 79% is uncultivated, Africa stands the chance of developing at a faster pace and becoming competitive on a global scale when individuals start seeing farming as a business and not just a source of livelihood for the poor and uneducated.
While most Africans still hold this view, there are rising millennial's who see the vast opportunities that lies within this sector and are taking advantage of it, most of which are women. It is estimated that 60% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa are employed in the agricultural sector, half of Sub-Saharan farmers are women, and they are also responsible for growing 80-90% percent of the food.
Among the women making an impact in the agriculture sector is 28 year old Miriam Oghenekevwe from Delta State, Nigeria.
Unlike most millennial's, Miriam developed a passion for Agriculture when she was in high school. According to her, “My motivation was from my secondary school Agriculture teacher, he saw that I was always
getting good grades in Agricultural science.” As a result of her academic success, he later “advised me to study agriculture in school,” according to Miriam.
Though her intention was to pursue a program in the medical field, she later received three admission notice into three different programs; microbiology, forestry and wildlife science and Agricultural Economics and Extension. With a passion for agriculture and support from her parents, she opted for Agricultural Economics and Extension. The decision to pursue agriculture as a teenager would eventually pay off after completing her NYSC program, when she decided to start farming full time. In a nation where millions of young people are unemployed, Miriam created her own opportunity and she has not looked back since.
Most people believe that farming is exclusively for men, but on the contrary, Miriam believes that “there are lots of opportunities for young women to excel in farming, many people believe that agriculture should be a man thing, but it's not.” From her perspective, there aren’t any challenges within the agriculture sector that is specifically geared towards women. The major difference between those who might face more challenges than others is their skill-set and experience.
While the phrase “Jack of all trades is a master of none” could be applied to most business sectors, in agriculture a farmer can grow multiple produce/crop due to the different seasons in the country that gives farmers the opportunity to alternate what they plant during different seasons. Miriam does not limit herself to just one area of farming, she is diverse and well knowledgeable with different crops and produce. According to her, she said “I am into snail farming, organic fruity and leafy vegetable farming. I concentrate more on snail, cucumber and ugu farming but do demonstrations on other fruity and leafy vegetables like watermelon, carrot,cabbage,chili pepper,tomatoes. e.t.c.”
Her experience has made her a valuable farmer in her community and across the country, as she inspires thousands of people by her work ethics. Though a young woman, Miriam also set up farms,construct screen houses for clients and sell formulated snail feed to clients. And as a way of giving back to the agriculture sector, Miriam said “I organize free Agriculture training for young people who are interested in Agriculture. I love this part because that is the only way I practice extension service as an Agriculture Extension graduate.”
As the agriculture sector in Nigeria continues to grow, Miriam has big plans for the future as she aims to make huge contributions to the unemployment rate in the nation.
She said, “I hope to own a very big farm, that can accommodate about 5000 workers or more, and also start an Agriculture training school for youths and women. I also want to hold an Agriculture related position in my state/country and the world at large. I want to be among those that will solve the problem of food security in Nigeria/Africa.
As the future unfolds we can expect to see more female Agripreneurs like Miraim as they reshape the perception of agriculture in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.