You don’t need to be a chef to make a burger – how I became a human rights activistCulture & Education | January 25, 2012
After receiving a UN award that recognized me as human...
Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer and the agricultural sector has been neglected in favour of the big, quick profits that oil can bring. Wealth is unevenly distributed and half of its 160 million people live in endemic poverty, struggling to survive on less than $2 a day in rural villages where running water, electricity, healthcare and roads are scarce.
After discovering radio at an early age, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu always wanted to be a journalist. Instead, he channelled that enthusiasm into setting up a radio station in the Obitti village in the Imo state, which reaches poor rural farmers with information about sustainable farming practices and how to start their own businesses.
“I had a burning desire and passion in me to do something that would create social change in agriculture. I started the organisation with no staff and no money, set up in my parents’ house,” said Ikegwuonu.
In the Imo state 3 million depend on agriculture to survive and the Smallholders radio service has been invaluable, as these farmers do not own a TV and rely on their battery powered radio as a source of information.
Since 2007, 65% of his radio programme listeners have nearly doubled their household income by increasing production.
“I believe what you need is the passion, determination and commitment to excel in any profession which you love,” said Ikegwuonu. “The moment you love your work, you will generate fresh thinking and new ideas.”
Ikegwuonu was just 21-years-old when he started the Smallholders Foundation, and now seven years later, the foundation is giving people a lifeline out of poverty.
The 28-year-old’s hard work has been recognised, and last year he was named “Young Person of the Year 2011”, by Nigeria’s most prestigious youth awards, The Future Awards.
“Being ‘The Young Person of the Year’ award is a great honour and a great privilege…to me, it means a call for greater action,” said Ikegwuonu. “I will like to use the platform created by the award to engage other young people in Nigeria and promote three causes -entrepreneurship, education and girl empowerment.”
“Life in rural Nigeria is tough and good quality education coupled with real world experience will definitely go a long way to eradicate poverty,” said Ikegwuonu.
The foundation, which won the 2011 Educating Africa Award for Entrepreneurship in Education, aims to expand and move from its present community radio status to a county wide radio, reaching 3.5 million listeners across the Imo state.
In the next 5 years, they intend to establish 5 regional radio stations across Nigeria to reach 90 million small farmer listeners, driving the next green revolution across Nigeria.
Ikegwuonu’s advice for young people in Nigeria is: “Do something for Nigeria. You are not doing it to gain attention, but to improve the lives of those who benefit. Aim to achieve big, but start small. This will enable you have an impact. Don’t let failures, disappointments and the problems in Nigeria to frustrate you. Consider them as part of the learning process.”
Tania considers herself to be an impulsive 20 year old journalism student studying at the University of Kent. She is drawn to any kind of human rights story, and love traveling to see things for myself. Tania idealistically believe that good reporting can help change a dire situation for the better. She is currently spending her summer traveling Eastern Europe and experiencing a new culture.
The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.
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