The establishment of extension is one of the boldest attempts by the federal government to tackle the multifaceted problem of agricultural development in Nigeria.
The aim of extension is to initiate action towards change in the behavioral complex of people that will translate to improvement in income and standards of living. In other words, extension services asset rural youths to improve their productivity through active participation in their farm activities (Ajayi 2002).
In the developed countries such as Britain, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and the United states of America, the involvement of youths in agricultural production through agricultural extension programmes, especially the young farmers club, contributes significantly to agricultural development (maunder, 1973, Clyde 1973 and Maizoor et al. 1995).
In Nigeria, the attitude of youth towards agriculture as a profession has been reported to be negative and this is partly responsible for the low level of agricultural production in the country (Oluwatayo et al., 1989). It is better to motivate the youths to develop interest in farming and rural life through vocation agriculture in schools so that they will be able to farm on their own, join the young farmer clubs (YFCS) and other extension programmes in their areas and be more responsible to agricultural extension programmes after their secondary school education (Bradfield, 1996). An evaluation of youth participation in agricultural activities in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State is the focus of this study.
The nations progress and development depends to some extent on the growth, modernization and development of some rural areas because without sound rural development, there can be no balance in the national economic development. For any change to be considered as development, such as change must suggest a feeling of progress and must result to the upliftment of the quality of the human life. However, since rural development is also important in the direction of self help, a way of improving the development of rural area is to understand the roles played by youths in the development of rural areas (Akubuilo, 1990).
Youth are the greatest assets that any nation can have, not only that they are legitimately and actually the greatest investment for a country’s development, Fariude (1999) defined youth as the time a person’s latent powers and attributes are developed to their highest potential, when intellect is at its sharpest and energy is at its promising.
The youth has also been looked at as a concept and defined as the period in an individuals life which runs between the end of childhood and entry into the world of work (Onvekwusi and Effiong 2002).
According to Nigeria’s national youth development policy (2001), the youth comprises all young persons of age 18-35, who are citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria. This category represents the most active, the most volatile and yet vulnerable segment of the Nigeria population.
Development in itself is a self generating process, whereby human potentials and relationships are optimized for the purpose of satisfying needs within the context of changing belief and value systems of cultural units and the large community. This is seen as a strategy aimed at improving the economic and social life of the society (Anyawu, 1992).
Jobowo (1992), however, defined development as the transformation of rural community into a socially, economically, politically, orderly and materially desired condition with the purpose of improving the quality of the life of the rural population.
Lissete (2000) defined rural development as a process of structural changes in the increasingly complex economic, social, cultural and technological quality of life in equitable, sustainable and efficient way.
Fadeyomi (1998) observed that viable rural development could not be achieved when there is sustained growth in rural income and standard of living which could be brought about primarily from agriculture.
Therefore, Ogbuozobe (1997) concluded that the totality of community development process and movement is embedded in the principle of citizen participation which enjoys whatever is done to improve the welfare of the people.
Lagun (2002), observed that investment in the youth is the only way to ensure the future growth and development of any country. He further asserts that increasing number of young people must be trained and as quickly as possible to provide leadership in agriculture, industry, government and rural development projects. These youth just be developed intellectually, morally, socially and with relevant skills to face a rapidly advancing technological world.
Farinde (1999) stated that, rural youth participation in rural development projects can increase social responsibility and decrease risky behaviors.
Therefore, Odebode (2000), reported that rural youths constitute a strong and very important labour force in development activities of rural communities. So youth participation in rural development project are geared towards brining an improvement in the standard of living of the people and change in their attitudes, knowledge, behaviors and skills.
Furthermore, rural development is aimed at planning and executing changes in the rural area with the primary objective of reducing r eradicating rural poverty. Rural development is also aimed at brining full and productive employment along with availability of infrastructural facilities in the rural community to change the situation in which many rural people operate only at the subsistence level to a market orientation and level. Rural development is thus the outcome of series of qualitative and quantitative changes occurring among a given rural population and whose converging effects indicate the standard of living and favourable changes in the way of life of the people concerned (Ekong, 2005).
Whatever are the dynamic nature of development strategies, certain basic fundamental needs of the population must be met, such needs include; health facilities, educational facilities, housing, combination, extension services and other facilities required for the day-today activities in the rural community.
But for the purpose of this project, the emphasis is on the involvement or participation of rural youth in agricultural development. Some other development activities that the youth could participate include; electricity project, pipe borne water project etc.
Nigeria is passing through socio-economic and technological changes that are separating rural development from agricultural development. The nation’s progress and growth in a developing economy like Nigeria depends to some extent, on the growth, modernization and development of their rural areas. This is so because, in many developing countries, a large proportion of the population live in the rural areas, such that no national development can succeed without rural development.
Youths are rightly seen as leaders of tomorrow hence, the kind of education (formal or informal) that youth are exposed to or have access to will determine the nation’s overall development. However, these young people do not know how they can contribute their best to the development of their areas. Those that know the need of them to play significant roles in the socio-economic development of their localities do not know how to go about it (Ebii, 2000). It is in view of this, that the study provides answers to the following research questions that were posed.
What are the personal characteristics (such as gender, educational level and occupation) of youth in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State?
What are the roles played by youth in rural development in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state?
What are the attitude of youths towards rural agricultural development in Owerri West Local Government Areas of Imo State?
In addition, successive governmental administrations in Nigeria have initiated policies aimed at involving the youth in agriculture as a lucrative vocation. Some specific programmes implemented in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state to enhance youth participation in agriculture include, Young Farmers Club, YFC (1958) of the ministry of agriculture, the farm settlement scheme (1959), the school-to-land programme (1990). The foregoing programmes had laudable objectives that the outcome did not match the material investment (Ogbuozobe, 1997). Moreover, little effort was made towards enhancing the effectiveness or sustainability of the programmes (Obdebde 2000). Also among the programmes are the NYSC agricultural scheme and the NDE agricultural projects etc.