Undergraduates of Universities of Agriculture will not be allowed to graduate unless they show their farms, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has declared.
There are three Federal Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria: Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State and Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State.
The universities which were previously under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, have recently been returned to the Ministry of Agriculture, where they were inaugurated.
The Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh recently during a meeting with the representatives of the three institutions in Abuja, announced that having redirected the focus of the institutions to their original mandate, they shall be repositioned to train young generation of technologically-based farmers.
Ogbeh who said that the government may not cancel any of the non-agric subjects the universities are currently teaching, but assured that henceforth all students of the institutions must be ready to contribute to the economic recovery plan of the present administration through diversification into agriculture, and must develop and own a farm before graduation.
“Now all undergraduates of the institutions must have a farm to qualify them for graduation. We do not forbid the teaching of electives like some accounting, business administration and so on, but only as subsidiaries.
“The main courses must be agriculture, agronomy, botany, animal husbandry, forestry, fishery, plant entomology, breeding, cattle breed improvement, agric engineering, veterinary medicine,” he said.
He said that the government is now trying to use academics to solve the problem of food security and will do that through innovations that are expected to come from these institutions.
“There may be an immediate reaction to the innovations we are bringing to bear on your campuses. For example, you may experience a sharp drop in admission. We know many of our younger ones are not too keen on agriculture. It is not attractive enough, they claim. Do not worry about this, and other distractions.
“Attitudes will change because, undoubtedly, agriculture is a profitable business to those who choose the path of patience and endurance. They will come running once they see the prosperity and fulfillment in those who dare to try.
The minister also stressed the need for the three universities to commence new colleges, like nutrition and medical science to take care of the innovations that are expected in the sector.
“Now to one innovation which we consider most strategic. We are aware that some of you branched off into human medicine. This is one area we will fully endorse and support but with an important and strategic modification. The faculties will now be called Colleges of Nutrition and Medical Sciences.
“Nutrition is a new area currently attracting worldwide scientific attention. Ninety per cent of human disabilities are reportedly traceable to what we eat or fail to eat. As Hippocrates said as far back as 390BC, ‘let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food’,” he said.
“If we pay attention to this, we may not only be drastically reducing our national health bill, but also raising the bar of our currently low life expectancy average. What we grow- the soil, the use of macro and micronutrients; how we harvest, store process, package and cook our meals have all become something worthy of deep academic investigation. You, more than anyone else, must make it not only your business but also your encompassing passion” he noted.