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My greatest life goal has always been to
be actively involved in efforts geared towards achieving food sufficiency,
globally. An important lesson I learnt as a child is that food, clothing and
shelter are the basic amenities of life and I believe that food is the most
critical to human survival. I know that achieving food sufficiency is a
macro-level activity but I want to contribute my quota, regardless of how
minimal the impact will be.

As an immediate feasible step, I plan to
focus my efforts on my country, Nigeria, which has a lot of untapped potential
in the agricultural sector. Although we are a leading producer of several
commodities including sorghum, cassava, yam, and cocoa, it has been projected,
based on our current population growth rate, that we could experience famine by
2050 if we do not quickly increase our level of agricultural mechanization.

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Generally, Nigeria has been unable to
realize the full economic benefits obtainable from its agricultural sector
because it is plagued by several challenges. Notable among the challenges are
high volumes of post-harvest losses, lack of a well-coordinated market for
export of commodities, low quality of seeds planted, inability of farmers to
access adequate funding, heavy dependence on subsistence farming, and lack of
knowledge in best farming practices.

Unfortunately, most of these challenges can
only be solved by the government’s intervention. However, individuals can
contribute especially in the area of bridging the knowledge gap and I want to
be one of such persons. Therefore, I need to gain the knowledge which I can
pass on to others through businesses I plan to operate in my country as well as
through formal and informal educational media.

It is no news that the United States has
made a success in the global food and agro-allied space, topping the chart in
the production of commodities such as wheat, soybeans, corn, etc. and serving
as home to leading food processors like PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Kellogg Co and
Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. Interestingly, most of these successes are
attributable to farm exports. Therefore, I decided to pursue my Master of
Business Administration degree here in the United States and specifically in
Iowa State, one of the states at the forefront of the successes recorded so far
because I believe there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.

Studying at Iowa State has given me and
will continue to grant me access to local farmers and food producers, through
internships, company visits and/or networking events. I would be able to gain
knowledge that I will leverage to successfully run an export-focused business
in my country after I graduate. More importantly, I will be able to transfer
same to players in the industry and contribute to development of my country’s
agricultural sector.

However, coming to study in the United
States was a decision I made against all financial odds. I recall my mum saying
to me “are you sure this is a feasible decision? “where on earth will
the funding come from?” I come from a very humble background and the
situation worsened when we lost my dad five years ago and was left with my
mum’s meagre income from her high school teaching job. I had to work multiple
jobs, for three years, in my country to save up some money for my study.
Unfortunately, my savings can only cover my first-year tuition despite
receiving financial aid (assistantship) from my graduate program.

Currently, I live in the cheapest
accommodation available, cook my meals to reduce cost, wear braided wigs which
I brought from my home country because I cannot afford to visit salons and work
the maximum hours allowed for an international student – 20 hours per week, to
cover these living expenses. In the past couple of weeks, I have had reasons to
questions the reasonableness of my decision to come here and considered
quitting. However, like many other decisions I have made in life, I am always guided
by the words of my father while he was alive – “There would be no need to
celebrate success if it was easy to achieve.”

If awarded this scholarship, I will be
able to cover a significant part of my second-year tuition while I continue to
leverage the student work opportunities for my other expenses. This means that
I will be a step closer in my journey towards averting a famine in Nigeria and neighboring
countries that depend on her for sorghum, maize, yam and other commodities.

Ultimately, after gaining a deep
understanding of the Nigerian agricultural industry and as the country achieve
food sufficiency, I plan to establish food production and processing businesses
in the country, with a focus on exportation. Through this effort, I will
contribute to job creation and tackling of unemployment in my country.

Unemployment has been a major issue in
Nigeria for as long as I can remember. The unemployment rate, which currently
stands at 14.2%, has been on a rise consecutively for the past 9 quarters. This
consistent increase is due to fall in revenue from oil prices, which in turn
led to shortage of foreign exchange which a lot of businesses depend on.
Lay-off of workers and closure of businesses heightened as oil prices fell.
Ultimately, Nigeria plunged into a recession in June 2016.

Increasing revenue from non-oil exports
has been identified as one of the most feasible ways of tackling this issue,
both in the near and long term. The Agriculture and Manufacturing industries
are two industries that could help Nigeria achieve this turnaround. However,
given the level of development both industries are at, I believe the
agricultural industry is a more realistic “messiah.”

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for
a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Unemployment is a
macro economic issue, but I believe I can contribute my quota to tackling the
menace through the businesses I will establish in Nigeria. My intended business
will entail working with farmers, agronomists, extension agents and several
other farm workers. 

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I'm Erica!

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