Agriculture is one of the earliest occupations of mankind. It is simply defined as the art and science (or management) that deals with the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals for man’s use. In other words, agriculture is the deliberate effort made by man to till the soil, cultivate crops and rear animals for food and other purposes. It also involves the sales of produce from agriculture, because production is not complete until the produce gets to the final consumer.
Yet, despite the important role of agriculture in our economy, many present day pupils and students are being denied the knowledge of basic agriculture, agriculture business, and indeed the entire agriculture value chain – the process through which food gets from the farms to the dining table.
It is indeed a sorry situation when school children in Nigeria, a country widely acclaimed for its rich agricultural potential, do not have the privilege of experiencing practical agriculture during their school years.
To curb this problem, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should be given equal attention as the theoretical aspect. Several factors contributing to the non-availability of school farms to support practical agriculture classes in schools include encroachment of land by developers and members of host communities of schools, use of land for other non-agriculture-related projects, lack of adequate infrastructure in schools, hence, no space set aside for cultivation; un-affordability of farm inputs by schools, lack of funds to sustain the cost of farm inputs, bush burning, deforestation as a result of human activity – thereby destroying the fertility of the soil, changes in weather, erosion, insecurity, among others.
School farms are not just spaces for growing food items. They are complete learning zones, which largely succeed in taking learning to new heights. School farms come in handy when it comes to teaching a variety of topics in agriculture, be it crop rotation, mixed cropping, inter-cropping, etc. For a successful school farm, implements and practical equipment should be purchased and distributed. And, whenever the school records bumper harvests, pupils/students can be fed from the produce, while proceeds from the ones sold can be used to develop the school.
Many years after our independence, school farming was a major component of the schools’ curriculum, and there were no exemptions as to who participated in practical agriculture and who did not. All pupils and students trooped to the farms at the designated time. The idea behind this was to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the pupils and students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it.
Today, agriculture in schools should be handled in such a way that from a very young age, pupils begin to take interest in farming. Efforts should be made to popularise farming as an honourable occupation. This will help to reduce apathy towards farming.
Ighakpe Daniel, Lagos.