Thursday, 23 July 2015

Cactus


Sahara is the largest desert in the world. If a chopper were to drop you in the middle of this desert, all around you, as far as the eye can see, will be miles and miles of nothing but rolling sand. The only other companions you’d find are the hot unforgiving sun, above your head, and the whistling dry winds, blowing dust into your nose and sand into your eyes. But from the Beginning, it was not so. Sahara was once a green belt full of trees and shrubs, and nectar-seeking butterflies and bees. There were prancing goats across its plains and calving cows in its valleys. Many civilizations rose and fell in the expanse that is now forgotten by everyone and forsaken by all. 

In one word, what happened to the Sahara is change. As the unfortunate wind of change blew away the rain-bearing clouds, Sahara’s destiny never remained the same again. 



Its colourful gardens disappeared, the teeming animal life failed and the humans, who had come to take it as their home, migrated elsewhere. Only one thing remained in the desert and it survived because it was able to adapt. It is the African peyote cactus. When you look at it, there isn’t much to see, but if you look again you’d appreciate something special about it.  Unlike everything that was in the Sahara, the cactus didn’t just expect change, it prepared for it. It didn’t exert itself budding beautiful flowers or showing off thick strong boughs. Rather, it created an in-built tank to store life-giving water.


In Nigeria, today, everyone is expecting change. We mouth it everywhere we go. You walk into a restaurant and hear the customer, who has just been served a tiny piece of meat saying, “Where is the meat? Well, no problem, change is here!” You find yourself in a cab where the patrol police collects N100 from the driver, he drives off and mumbles, “It’s just a matter of weeks now. Change is here!” You get home and the wife asks you for house upkeep, which is 50% more than it was last month, and you say to yourself, “No shaking, change is here!” But how many of us are actually prepared for what we are declaring? How many of us are dreaming like the rose and oak and how many of us are preparing like the cactus?

The change of baton in the leadership of the country is one coming with a lot of expectations. One of these is the much-touted job creation that was sold to us during the campaigns. But I have a feeling that getting the jobs, in question, will not be business as usual. They won’t be the kind commanded by thick CVs or the sort that is cornered by nepotistic connections. These jobs will favour those who have the heart and mind to take risks. The incoming government harped on two sectors to realize their objectives, namely, agriculture and mining. I think if you are preparing for change you will be positioning yourself to tap into the opportunities that will come with them. We will talk, here, a little about agriculture.
If your parents or relatives have farmlands, lying fallow in the village, this is the time to start thinking about putting them to use. If processing farm products is what appeals to you, this is the time to start working on leasing that unused factory and getting the necessary machines, even if it’s on credit, to start your own food-processing plant. If transportation is what gives you the kicks, you might want to start inquiring on how to get trucks to set up a business freighting raw and processed farm products. If selling food products is your thing, before they lay embargo on importation on some food items, start building contacts with local farmers and food producers; they will be your suppliers in future.
And if you are asking, “Where will I get the start-up capital from?” Going by the policies enumerated by the incoming government, I believe that soft loans will be provided for entrepreneurs interested in the agro-allied sector. I suggest that you pay a visit to places like the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture etc. and get information on the different loans they provide. Even if you are told that you are not eligible now, you would have learnt what you need to do to be able to access the loans when they are available. Change is coming; don’t be a rose and don’t be an oak tree. This is the time to become a cactus.

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