Oluwatosin Alliyu

MDES

Okowa: Empowering and Supporting the Next Generation of Urban Farmers in Nigeria

Advised by Martin Bechthold (GSD) and Julia Lee (SEAS)

Like many African countries, Nigeria is made up of mainly young people. To be more exact, in 2018 the median age of Nigeria was only 18.4.1 While Nigeria has such a young population, which could be a major advantage, this population is largely underserved. More particularly, around 35 percent of people ages 15 to 24 are unemployed.2 With little job opportunities to explore, agriculture remains an untapped space for the youth. The agriculture sector is the next big frontier in Nigeria with Nigeria’s main export resource, oil, quickly drying up. The question that I aim to address is, How might we reduce the barrier to entry into the agriculture sector for the urban youth in Nigeria?

There are many challenges to entering the agriculture sector for the youth; from access to land, in terms of price and location (i.e., most of the farms are in the northern rural areas of the country), to access to adequate training, resources, and finance. OKOWA, which means “our farm” in Yoruba, is a three-part system (i.e., an urban hybrid greenhouse system, a digital SMS-based education tool, and a farm-to-customer one-to-one matching process) that aims to address some of these barriers while empowering and supporting the next generation of urban farmers in Nigeria. During the scope of my IDEP, I focused on developing the hybrid container greenhouse system that uses hydroponics to grow a variety of products. By introducing a hydroponic farming system into the urban landscape and using a hybrid container greenhouse that leverages natural sunlight while ensuring a controlled growing environment, this proposed intervention allows for the production of fresh produce all year round. By creating a system that provides farming space, education, and support, OKOWA is making it easier for the youth to explore a viable career path in agriculture.

1. Simona Varrella, “Demographics of Nigeria – statistics & facts,” Statista, November 3, 2020, https://www.statista.com/topics/6477/demographics-of-nigeria/#:~:text=One%20main%20feature%20which%20characterizes,we ll%20as%20in%20the%20world.

2. Paul Adeyeye, “Agricultural investment and the growing food insecurity in Nigeria,” Dataphyte, August 24, 2020, http://www.dataphyte.com/economy/agriculture-economy/agricultural-investment-and-the-growing-food-insecurity-in-nigeria/

Digital rendering of a shipping container with a large glass window. An inset shows rows of green plants on racks.