by AljazirahNigeria | January 10, 2017 12:33 pm
One of the five Nigerians contesting for positions in the forthcoming election of the Executive Council of the African Youth Commission in its General Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Obiora Anthonia in this interview with AljazirahNigeria, said proper implementation of AU Agenda 2063 and engagement of youth in agriculture will lift Africa out of poverty.
By Adebusuyi Olasunkanmi
Why did you choose to contest for Commissioner of Agriculture despite other positions?
I have always been enthusiastic about agriculture for some time now and I have several projects engaging youths and women in agriculture. So expressing interest in the race to be the Commissioner for agriculture comes naturally. I see it as an opportunity to reach out to other Africa nations with these projects because the council will serve as a bigger platform to achieve my vision.
And I know that coming with this initiative, I am confident that this is the right time and right place to join in the restructuring and development of Africa in this global race. And I know that my wealth of experience in Urban farming and in the entire agricultural sphere will improve the sector in Africa.
As an individual, I understanding the relationship that connects food, people, health, and the planet together. If we want to reintroduce food security and agriculture to our young generations, it will also take youths to be the vehicle and you know that agriculture and women empowerment are two inseparable sources to contribute to the rural economy.
How would your election help African women and youths in agriculture?
Well for years, my vision, ideas and programs toward ensuring that food and agriculture become more socially and ecologically sustainable, more accessible, and toward putting food quality, food safety and public health above corporate profits has been a mission I embarked on for some time now. My Office as the Commissioner for Gender, Rural Economy and Agriculture if elected, based on my experience will serve as a catalyst to unify and strengthen the movement toward sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty, biodiversity and agricultural diversity, and that will help to alleviate hunger and poverty globally with youth and women in the forefront.
Encouraging youths and women into agriculture will ensure that Africa takes its rightful place in feeding itself and the world since the loss of smallholder farmlands to wealthier landlords and global corporations has been one of the primary causes of hunger and poverty. So we will support all measures to help people remain on or return to their traditional lands. My election will enable me to actually achieve my vision of reaching out to the people in Africa with the help of Head of States of member nations to ensure that where people and communities have been deprived of their traditional lands resulting in inabilities to grow their own foods or to live in a self-sustaining manner, we will strongly support distributive land reform to put people back on the land.
With the Nigerian government focused on encouraging youth to go into agriculture, do you think your election will enhance this?
Right now, hundreds of millions of Africans rely on farming for a living, but they don’t grow as much and they don’t sell as much of their surplus as they could. As a result, Africa had to import $40 billion worth of food last year. Something is not functioning properly when half of the continent’s labour to produces food, and the continent still buys its food from somewhere else!
In Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, 2012 national youth survey report; youths of working age, between 15 to 35 years are nearly 70 million persons in a population of 166 million Nigerians; of these youths 54% are unemployed.
Before now we have being working to help mop up some of these youth by engaging them in agriculture across the value chain but this platform will enable us to better through our programs and projects engage more of them in Sustainable Agriculture trainings and practice, though now our focus will be Africa.
Hydroponic farming is one of the Agricultural technologies you have been promoting in Nigeria. How do intend to replicate this to other Africa countries?
Some of the Africa illustrious sons, like Kofi Anna and Sam Dryden both agreed that the new African food system should be built around the idea that agriculture is about more than producing calories; it is about changing society. These five components should be valuing the smallholder farmers, empowering women, focusing on the quality as well as the quantity of food, creating a thriving rural economy, and protecting the environment. We must dare to think big and change our mind set. Soon it will be AFRICA’s turn to help feed the world!
Since hydroponic technology will ensure there is food production all year round without the fear of climate change I am sure our leaders will embrace it once they understand the benefits. So we will ensure that we use every opportunity to enlighten our African leaders on the important of this and their need to introduce it in their countries.
Women empowerment is an issue that has gained increased attention in recent time, do you think you will be able to engage them notably if elected?
When you empower a woman, you empower a nation. Women are the people who are educating the next generation and we are sure that women can raise their children in a stable, healthy environment, we will be helping to raise a more educated and inspired generation of Africans. I see women empowerment as a process that involves recognition, capacity building and action. Then again, the Africa woman faces discrimination at her home, starting from womb to tomb. She ventures out to the street and she’s not sure what harassment would greet her at the corner. If she bears a daughter, she doesn’t know why the rest of her life won’t be the same again! The saga continues; generation after generation; leaving little chance for the society to take a giant leap,
In order to make the women realize their inner strength and importance in the society, Agenda 2063 has taken a pledge to illuminate their lives with pride and dignity. I also support the AGENDA 2063 and will not hesitate to support its implementation by enlightening young African women like me not to be discouraged.
Political participation of women in Africa, what would you say to this?
Women engagement in politics in Africa is poor and moving on a snail speed, though many countries have legal frameworks guaranteeing seats for women in parliament. 10 countries in Africa have achieved the 30% target for women representation in parliament and the process is continuing. But I support the target of African Union Agenda 2063. At least this will ensure that Africa of 2063 would achieve full gender parity. It would see women occupying 50% of elected offices at state, regional and local bodies, and 50% of managerial positions in government and private sector would be women. The economic and political glass ceiling hindering women’s progress would finally have been broke.
What are your immediate plans once elected?
Once elected into office, I will commit myself to sustain the efforts of all past, present & future Pan Africanist, by ensuring that I utilise the period in championing the course of youth and women.
The need for gender empowerment and engagement cannot be underestimated, besides the need to reduce youth migration from rural to urban cities due to poor rural economic livelihood and discouraging agricultural production still at the crude stage. I will strongly advocate for a paradigm shift for Rural Economic Development through Gender & Agricultural Transformation: Route to Africa’s Unity and Development in line with the aspirations of our Africa’s founding fathers.
Thus, these are my strategies and immediate work plan for agriculture:
Thank you for granting Aljazirah this exclusive interview!
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