Since December 2019, the awareness and concern for the global pandemic COVID-19 has grown rapidly, and rightly so. According to data from the prestigious John Hopkins University, USA, nearly 22,000 people have been confirmed with COVID-19 globally, of which at least 84,000 have recovered while more than 8,800 have died. Around the world, countries are intensifying their efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Various degrees of measures have been taken by different national administrations; Australia and New Zealand have said they are banning entry to all foreigners, border restrictions have been imposed by Canada, the US and the European Union, India has suspended all visas for foreigners until mid-April. More stringent measures like complete lockdowns have been implemented in countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Argentina. Coronavirus has had major impact on sporting and cultural events, as national football leagues of several nations have been suspended, Monaco, Spanish and Dutch Grands Prix Formula 1 motor racing has been suspended and even celebrations for a national event like St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland has been canceled.
Most worrisome for many has been the fact that availability and accessibility of quality food during these perilous seasons would be adversely affected. Global health experts have obviously dissuaded people from going to public places like urban food markets and large restaurants. Since everyone has been encouraged to work from home, one would wonder if families in urban areas are prepared for this kind of emergency. One argues that family farmers in local areas are more prepared to handle this kind of emergency. As we assess the current situation of the world, is there a lesson to learn from the unfortunate spin of events? Surely!
Many young persons have strong affinities to social media platforms and other ICT related engagements. With a lot of energy, creativity, and enthusiasm Nigerian youths have been able to maximize ICT on several fronts such as digital marketing, e-learning, e-business etc. Agriculture can also enjoy these potentials from the youth forum.
For the food demands of the nation, continent and even the globe to be met, young people must actively participate in all sectors on the agriculture value chain; from production to processing to marketing to supply. However, if agriculture will regain its attractiveness in Nigeria, the portrait of agriculture ought to change. One of the ways to ignite the interests of the Nigerian youths and thus reintegrate them in commercial agriculture is to galvanize agriculture with ICT. Young people must begin to see the dignity in farming; young people must begin to have a mind shift which informs them that agriculture is not archaic and unprofitable.
In Thailand, one of their pervasive philosophies is called ‘Sufficiency Economy’. In principle, this philosophy encourages families to farm what they consume, or at least part of what they consume. It is not uncommon to see, for instance, a rice farm beside a home or a small livestock farm managed by a couple of families in a neighborhood. At this time of global emergency, one is challenged to see the wisdom behind this philosophy. At such a time as this, we can confirm our level of preparedness to have available, affordable and accessible food on a global scale. Are we ready? Most unlikely!
A lesson from this whole pandemic saga is the absolute necessity for urban families to practice sufficiency economy. Let more home owners have gardens and farms; let more children be taught farming in schools, let governments encourage her citizens to farm and eat healthy grown crops and livestock, let farming become a practice for more than a few local family farmers; let food become available and accessible through a growing network of urban family farmers.