Ukachi Ogujuba is a volunteer for an agric tech firm and a smallholder farmer in Imo State. In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, she shares her experience.
PT: Agriculture has sub sectors, which of the sub sectors are you active in?
Ms Ogujuba: I am studying Agricultural Economics but presently I am practicing small scale farming. I am a volunteer in an agricultural organisation, Agro Hive. I am not into the production or processing of crops, animals or any agricultural services. I just work for people in the agric sector.
PT: Agro Hive deploys ICT in providing quality human resource management services to agribusinesses, what role do you play in this organisation.
Ms Ogujuba: I work with the marketing and sales department of Agro Hive, which is an agric tech that specialises in updating people in the agricultural sector on how to use tech for agriculture. As I said earlier, I’m in the marketing and sales department where we market and sell our products and services. And also to make it known to people that these are what we do at agro hive. It was in the last programme we were able to get people to enroll in the agro skill 2.0 which was held last year during the pandemic. It was a virtual training.
PT: There are different agritech organisations in Nigeria, what prompted you to join them?
Ms Ogujiuba: When I was seeking admission, I was going for medically inclined courses like medicine and other health related courses but then I gained admission into the agriculture departments. Over time, I got to fall in love with it. I wanted to do more and learn more. That’s why I joined Agro Hive. It was at that point when I was trying to gain my stand in Agriculture that I happened to meet the CEO of Agro Hive who was also a student in my school’s Animal Science Department in 2018. We spoke and she told me about Agro Hive and I was interested just to build my career and know more about the agricultural sector.
PT: Can you tell us the difference between when you had not become a volunteer and now?
Ms Ogujuba: There’s been a lot of difference as I was battling with taking JAMB again and then focusing on the agric thing. I felt like just staying in this place as I didn’t want to go back home. My uncle called and said “So Ukachi, you want to waste my money and go and learn how to cultivate cassava for me”. These were his words as I can’t forget them. All these challenges of family members against what you do, you not wanting to go into it and trying to find a base on it. Along the line I gotta love it. I thought it like this; going into the medical line is saving lives also is going into the agriculture sector, because when you put food on one’s table it’s also a way of saving lives. And joining Agro Hive really changed a lot for me even to my social media life. I’m filled with the hunger to learn more daily.
PT: As a volunteer, can you share some interesting experiences you’ve had working for the past three years maybe on the field or other aspects?
Ms Ogujuba: One major experience is the agro skill 2.0 which was held last year around April may. We were trained on how to use different forms of tech for agriculture, feed production, etc. Another experience I had was a training we had where we trained secondary school students in the importance of agriculture which gave me the ground to give what I have to me. Another one was where we interviewed farmers and had them share their experiences with me.
PT: Are there financial benefits attached to being a volunteer? Are you paid any stipends at all?
Ms Ogujuba: None for now, but from volunteering to becoming a staff. But I’m still under the volunteering level. But during Agro Skill 2.0, where we had some Internet related stuff we were given a token for data.
PT: What challenges did you face during the training, talking with farmers who are experienced may not be easy.
Ms Ogujuba: The challenges I had were personal, I am a shy person. At first, how will I train these people, some had bigger body size. But I faced them and overcame.
PT: As a volunteer and a student what plans do you have for yourself in the next five years?
Ms Ogujuba: My plans for now is to graduate first, do my one year compulsory service then go ahead for masters and then follow what happens. I really want to build a ground in the Agricultural sector.
PT: Do you have plans of going into any other subsector?
MS Ogujuba: I do have plans of going into animal production
PT: How do you plan on establishing?
Ms Ogujuba: I have plans of going back to school to study animal science then know more about animals. In my school while in a department, you just have to take basic courses of other departments. As now, I only have the basic knowledge on animal production but I want to get the concrete knowledge on animal production and basically venture into organic production of animals. I hope along the line I will get the knowledge I require.
PT: You’ve had interactions with younger people so can you tell what you think is the problem in the sector when it comes with younger Nigerian with agriculture.
Ms Ogujuba: The major problem youths have in agriculture is funds. I have talked with a lot of people and once I put this to them they start complaining about funds as some I have talked with people who have ponds but no sufficient resources to operate. These resources include lands and funds. So others who are not into Agriculture think it’s a dirty job and suffering, this is because they don’t have the knowledge of it. They judge from what they see. Farming requires patience but the youth are not that patient. In summary, they lack lands, funds, knowledge and patience.
PT: In the field, were you opportune to meet real farmers (commercial farmers) not students or intern farmers?
Ms Ogujuba: I did but most of them actually didn’t study agric.
PT: Why do some persons who did not study agriculture end up practising it?
Ms Ogujuba: I put this to the situation of Nigeria. Some might have hunted for jobs but nothing coming through and might have the funds or the knowledge and resources to venture into agriculture and they did. Farming doesn’t require you to undergo the kind of study an engineer needs in school. You can learn from watching people and learning from your experience and theirs. The school knowledge is very important but you can do start without it and overtime acquire it to be certified and have a sounder knowledge on agriculture.
PT: As someone who has been to the field, do you think the Nigerian youth have the potential to really do well when it comes to agriculture?
Ms Ogujuba: Nigerian youths have a lot of strong potential but they really need to be supported. From the government and the environment.
PT: Aside volunteering and schooling, are there other agricultural related activities you are into?
Ms Ogujuba: I farm on a small scale on a two hectares of land. The land belongs to my late parents, I cultivate maize and cassava on the land. I hire labourers to assist me on the land because I cannot do it alone. I sell the produce in the market, it’s just a small business for my siblings and I but I’m always in town so I’m in charge of the farm.