Igbodo is a rural community close to Asaba the capital of Delta State in Nigeria. For the first two months of my one year national youth service I was stationed there. Igbodo is not exactly your idea of a place to dwell, but within its remote nature, lurking behind the thick trees and jungle-like vegetation is an agro-wealth mine base – a fertile terrain that supports the sumptuous growth of crops like cassava, yam and maize. Thus for the people of Igbodo agriculture occupies a prominent place in their daily survival.
Market days in Igbodo, like several rural communities in Nigeria come every four days. On such days traders come from several states in the eastern, western and southern parts of Nigeria to buy the agricultural produces which the Igbodo Market, just adjacent the Asaba – Benin Expressway has to offer. The indigenous people of Igbodo refer to the community as ‘the food basket of Delta‘, reminding me of my own state Benue, which holds the appellation ‘the food basket of the nation’. However the productivity of the farmlands in Igbodo sometimes made me mentally relinquish the position of ‘food basket of the nation’ to Igbodo. Unlike most parts of Nigeria, maize is harvested all-year round in Igbodo. The yam produced from the lands are usually so large, in the dark one could mistake a tuber for a year-old baby and would be easily forgiven. Thus maize is cheap in Igbodo, garri a derivative for cassava is ‘unbelievably’ cheap in Igbodo and the human-sized yams, do I need to say more?
Igbodo has no factory, no virile form of commerce – of course besides the market that basically traded agricultural produces, thus livelihood entirely comes from the farms. As a result, farming is taken seriously by the people of Igbodo; every member of the family who had attained a sensible age was recruited, or conscripted if you like into the Farm Army. The market days are almost sacred. While I still taught in a secondary school in Igbodo I noticed on markets days my students came late to school, if at all they showed up….they had to take their farm produces to the farms, that was more important. I thought they were toiling with their education but it became obvious to me that even their school fees had to come from that market so I cut them some slack.
So for Nigeria, Igbodo is a potential wealth mine, especially for young people interested in small and large-scale agriculture. A good portion of the land still remains uncultivated as almost every family mainly indulges in subsistence agriculture.Enthusiastic Young Farmers: They Need Education…
In spite of the positives on the agricultural front, Igbodo however has a huge problem…a generation of youth who in spite of going to school are basically illiterate. This grim realization hit me, when out of 11 students who came to be enroled in Junior Secondary School One, only one could spell his name – I mean only his name but not even his surname. The remaining 10 could not even spell their names, after finishing six years of primary education! Thus for the people of Igbodo, there is the huge need for transforming the emerging youth, who are by default actively involved in agriculture, into an educated population.
Most of the children in the community attend government primary schools that are devoid of basic learning facilities, including teachers. So for most of them, education is simply the ritual of putting on uniforms, going to the classes to interact with their peers in the local language and coming home – a cycle of illiteracy, growing to maturity. In an era where we are looking forward to a youth generation that would explore the use of ICTs and other hitherto novel techniques for modern forms of farming, the production of an uneducated youth population is a huge drawback.
It goes without saying that the government in Delta State of Nigeria needs to invest more in providing quality education at least at the primary level for these young boys and girls who are already farmers from a tender age, to equip them with the much-needed skills for the certainly emerging Nigerian Agro-Revolution.