Who will take care of mother earth if the youth don’t take up farming? Rita Ikponmwosa believes that the opinions and experiences of youth will help to break the poverty in our soils and our soils.
Soil marks the beginning and end of all life forms. As the foundation for agriculture, soil provides us with food, fuel, feed and fibre. It acts as a water filter, medicine bank, and is a habitat for billions of organisms. This makes mankind dependent on soil, irrespective of creed, race, place or age.
In Nigeria, our rich arable soil is becoming a shadow of its former self. Every day it bleeds with toxic chemicals from millions of oil barrels emptied into the earth’s bowels, through oil spillage, especially in the Niger Delta. Pollutants like heavy metals leach from mining sites, as in Zamfara, Plateau, Enugu and Ondo States. We see deforestation, unsustainable logging practices and conversion of forests into large monoculture pesticide-dependent plantations. And so our soils lose their soul, their organic matter, lowering yields, and leading to hunger, inflation, poverty, migration to cities, and many other accompanying social evils.
Millions of Nigerian youths who have the option to take up farming can no longer do so because of the degraded nature of our living soils. The question is, who will take care of mother earth if this vibrant section of our society that holds such enormous potential, is led astray?
The glaring exclusion of youth in policy discussions and decision making relating to forests, oil and soil management is destroying the future for younger generations. We must build the capacity of our youth, male and female, so they can adapt to the emerging and impending threats to our ecosystems that are the basis of a safe environment and good quality of life.
Allowing youths to offer their opinions and experiences in shaping their future will help to break the poverty in our soils and our souls that we see today. Young people should be introduced to innovative, environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, fusing traditional and local solutions to cure our ailing soils. We must encourage young graduates who have ventured into farming to use traditional soil management to enhance rural food production, instead of destabilising existing local food systems under any pretext.
Every day, our soil cries. It is ever more important that we understand the pressures we put on our soils and take the necessary steps to reverse this. The future is not for the dead and the dying. It is for you and I. And it begins with you and I.
Rita Ikponmwosa Uwaka
Rita Ikponmwosa Uwaka (age 34) is the Forest and Biodiversity Project Officer at Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.