The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olusola Oyewole, has charged students, embarking on the Farm Practical Year (FPY), to take the programme seriously and be worthy ambassadors of the University in their various locations of posting, stressing that the FPY programme is a key requisite, qualifying them to earn a degree from the University.

Professor Ololade EnikuomehinGiving this charge, during the 2016/2017 Orientation Programme, organised by the Centre for Community-Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS) of the University, the Vice-Chancellor, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development), Professor Ololade Enikuomehin, disclosed that FPY was a phase in the academic life of the students, even as he admonished then to make good use of the opportunity. “This exposure might be the only one you will have, to have first-hand experience, to fit into the kind of farming that is practicable worldwide. Give it the seriousness that it demands”. Congratulating the students for qualifying to be part of the FPY experience, the Vice-Chancellor assured them that on the part of the University Management, it would do all it can, to ensure that the FPY was a memorable experience for them.

Giving an overview of what the FPY programme was all about, the Director of COBFAS, Professor Emmanuel Fakoya, pointed out that the Centre was established, as a way of bringing the Bachelor of Agriculture (B. Agric) students close to the realities and practice of agriculture in Nigeria. He noted that through the programme, students get first-hand training and experience in communities, where farmers reside and practice farming with the same socio-economic system to where the farmers operate. According to him, the programme was reviewed in 2015, whereby two components were added to it, including on-campus training for students, in order to take advantage of available facilities on campus for six months, and community-based training in the COBFAS locations, for another two months. He added that rotational schedule would be adopted for students participating in the programme for on-campus and community-based training. Professor Fakoya disclosed that the programme was expected to also include a one-month orientation and instruction lecture on campus, two months on-campus training. for Group I, two months on-campus training for Group II, two months community-based training for Group III, one month wrap-up/ field trip and examination on campus; making a total of nine months.

The Director disclosed that the vision of the Centre was to produce highly-skilled manpower that would drive the economy in the rural communities in Nigeria, through agriculture for sustainable development and food security, while it had a mission to contribute to the sound training of agricultural students towards building great future and modern farmers, for sustainable development, in line with the mission of the University. Professor Fakoya highlighted the key component of the scheme to include; the development of rain-fed and irrigated crop farming, which involves crop-based enterprise and activities such as vegetable production, nursery production, organic farming, arable farming, plantain production and rapid multiplication of plantain suckers. Livestock farming activities, which include poultry production, ruminant production, rabbit production, dairy farming, apiculture, aquaculture and piggery, while institutional support and strengthening were part of the component on community-impact through COBFAS. Other tasks include processing, packaging and marketing strategies for garri production, cassava chips, flour production, cheese production/pasteurisation, meat processing, seed production, processing, packaging as well as training and human capital development.

Speaking on the rules and regulations governing the FPY programme and the expectations of COBFAS, the Deputy Director of COBFAS, Dr. Oladapo Fasae, said lateness to scheduled farm activities and briefing would not be tolerated, as students were expected to treat COBFAS staff with courtesy and are to attend farm activities in appropriate clothing, which had been recommended. Students are to always come to the farm with their cutlasses, farm boots, rain-coats, identity cards and other necessary tools. The Deputy Director noted that the use of hired labour for farm activities were not allowed while any form of impersonation was punishable by expulsion from the University. He advised the students to channel their complaints and grievances, through their group leaders to COBFAS staff or FPY supervisors, adding that all COBFAS properties should be handled with care as stealing of any COBFAS property would attract maximum sanction of expulsion from the University.

The Principal Farm Manager of COBFAS, Mr. David Giwa, further hinted the students on the history of the COBFAS locations at Iwoye-Ketu, Ode-Lemo, Odogbolu and Isaga-Orile, alongside their traditional beliefs, culture, ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’, so that they (students) do not run into trouble with their host communities. He also advised them to be humble and avoid unnecessary display of their property and affluence, to avoid calling undue attention to themselves. On health tips, the Acting Director of University Health Services, Dr. Abiodun Amusan, admonished the students to protect themselves from any condition that could make them fall ill. He encouraged the students to go along with several protective cloths, pairs of fabric gloves, prophylactic anti-malaria drugs, one insecticide treated net, a pair of jungle boots and cooking materials. He also enjoined the students not to forsake their personal hygiene, mismanage their time on trivial issues, avoid skipping of meals, especially breakfast and to keep their doors closed always, by putting wire-nets in their rooms and make use of rodenticide in a safe manner.

The Dean, Student Affairs, Professor Adeniyi Olayanju, charged the students to concentrate on their mission to their various FPY locations, and should not allow themselves to be involved in the politics of the various community. He noted that as a traditional setup, the communities had their own tradition, which should be abided with, even as he advised the students to be decent in their relationship with the opposite sex. The Principal Training Development Officer, Mrs. Oluwatosin Akinbola, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Area Office in Abeokuta, who represented the ITF Area Manager, informed that the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) programme was aimed at breaching the gap between theory and practicals, by creating a balance and was designed for students that engage in practical course. She educated the students on how to fill their log books, as she assured that at the end of the programme, if they (students) complied with the guidelines, they would be paid a stipend of N15,000 each. Speaking on transportation services, as provided by the FUNAAB Bureau of Transportation (FUNAABOT), the Director of FUNAABOT, Dr. Salami Ismaila, who was represented by Mr. Kayode Ige, disclosed that transportation would be made available, to bring students into town from time-to-time, as he charged the students to always be orderly and respect FUNAABOT staff.

Similarly, students of the University have been advised to move out of their comfort zones, in order to record success in life. An Abeokuta-based motivational speaker, Mr. Bolaji Babalola, has admonished students, as they begin the FPY scheme, to put in more efforts into their studies to get high-flying results. Mr. Babalola stated this at the orientation programme. According to him, “The proof that you are awake is that you will stretch, go beyond your comfort zone. Do more. The interesting thing about our mind is that once it’s stretched, it will not go back to the previous size anymore. It gets bigger and better”.

Mr. Babalola, who is also the State Coordinator for Nigeria Rebirth Project’s Labour Room Reality TV show, a project aimed at creating over 100,000 job opportunities in 2018, charged the students to create an ‘A Team’, adding that the students should ensure that relationships were always made better. His words, “If you are the best among all your friends for a long time, it’s time to change your circle. Get relationships that challenge you to know more; stretch more and inquire more”, as he added that “Our success in life is not in the colour of our skin, not in the pleasure of our homes, but in the development of our mind”.

Delivering a lecture on Farm Mechanisation, Engr. (Dr.) Ibukun Ola of the Department of Agricultural Engineering said that mechanisation of all farming processes allows one to have an optimum management of time and farm inputs. He added that people mechanise, to remove farm drudgery; for timely execution of all farm-activities as well as prevent farm losses and wastage of product during and after harvesting. In his lecture titled, “Micro-Livestock and Fish Production”, Dr. Adekunle Idowu of the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Management described fish as an important source of good quality protein required in human diet, noting that culturing fish was the most-assuring way of fish production known worldwide.