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Background of the Study

Oil palm production has various enterprises that require activities of an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is a person who starts, organize and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk; running a small business with all the risk and reward of any given business process (Zhang, 2015). Entrepreneurs also act as managers and oversee the launch and growth of an enterprise. Most entrepreneurs and motivated professionals know the importance of investing in themselves, building valuable skills and improving their strengths over time. By now, many business owners have made their business-related plans for what they want to accomplish in the future. Their new roadmaps may include growth targets to achieve, product to launch, new markets to enter, events to participate in and relationships to build. If one have these types of clear targets and milestones built into his plan for the year, it is a great start. However, it is equally important to set skill-building goals that will ultimately help one become more successful in his business. Whether it is setting aside time to improve on his weakness, or hire a coach to help push into a new playing field with his strengths-investing in ones skills is never a bad move.

As the economy continues to grow and unemployment levels start tapering off, the business landscape is not only becoming more competitive, but increasing unpredictable as well. In fact, a recent report compiled by Deloitte, forecasted that 2017 will be the most disruptive year ever in the world of business, characterized by transformational shifts in how companies engage customers, and in how business people learn new skills. For the entrepreneur, the next question will be which skills will be changing the game most in the future? Then it is time to choose courses, buy books and got a mentor (Ryan 2017).

Entrepreneurship is the process of designing, launching and running a new business which is often initially a small business offering a product, process, or service for sale or hire. It is also the process by which either an individual or a team identifies a business opportunity and acquires and deploys the necessary resources required for its exploitation. Every New Year, entrepreneurs look back on their accomplishments and plot a new course with the goal of exceeding the previous year’s performance. There are many ways to plan for future business success, but investing in oneself by building new skills or improving existing ones, remains one of the smartest decisions one can make as an entrepreneur. Some experts think of entrepreneurs as people who are willing to take risk while others define them as people who start and build successful business. Thinking about the first of these definitions, entrepreneurship does not necessarily involve starting one’s own business. Many people who do not work for themselves are recognized as entrepreneurs within their organizations. Regardless of how one define entrepreneur, one thing is certain; becoming an entrepreneur is not easy (Rajesh, 2017).

Personal characteristic, interpersonal skills, critical and creative thinking skills as well as practical skills are features of an entrepreneur. First, one need to examine his personal characters, values and beliefs, one need to have the mindset that is typical of a successful entrepreneur which include optimism, vision, initiatives, desire for control, drive and persistence as well as risk tolerance and resilience.

To be a successful entrepreneur, one will have to work closely with people; this is where it is critical to be able to build great relationships with one another (team), customers, suppliers, shareholders, investors and more. Therefore, interpersonal skills include leadership and motivation, listening, negotiation and ethics as well as communication skills. In critical and creative thinking skills, an entrepreneur needs to come up with fresh ideas and make good decisions about opportunities and potential projects. However, creativity is a skill that one can develop if one invests his time and effort (Rajesh, 2017). Practical skill is the manipulative skills, the technical knowhow of work in a given enterprise. An entrepreneur needs the practical skills and knowledge to produce goods or services effectively to run a business.

In this context, entrepreneurship is described as the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage oil palm venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a species of palm commonly called Africa oil palm or macaw-fat. It is a principal source of palm oil. It is said to originate from west and southwest Africa, specifically the area between Angola and the Gambia. Mature palms are single-stemmed and grow to 20m tall. The leaves are pinnate and reach between 3-5m long. A young palm produces about 30 leaves a year. The flowers are produced in dense clusters; each individual flower is small, with three sepals and three petals (Obahiagbon, 2012).

Oil palm requires evenly distributed annual rainfall of 2000 mm without a defined dry season. In areas with dry spell, a deep soil with high water holding capacity and a shallow water table augmented with copious irrigation will satisfy the water requirement of the palm. Temperature can be a limiting factor for oil palm production. Best oil palm yields are obtained in places where a maximum average temperature of 29-33oC and minimum average temperature of 22-24oC are available. Higher diurnal temperature variation causes floral abortion in regions with a dry season. The crop requires 1800-2000 sunlight hours annually, more than 300cal/cm2 per day, constant sunlight of at least 5 hours per day for better oil palm yield (TNAU, 2013). Moist, deep and well drained medium textured soils rich in humus content are considered ideal. Gravel and sandy soils, particularly the coastal sands are not ideal for oil palm cultivation. Heavy clay soils with poor drainage properties may pose problems of aeration during rainy seasons. The palm fruit takes five to six months to mature from pollination to maturity. It is reddish, about the size of a large plum, and grows in large bunches. Each fruit is made up of an oily, fleshy outer layer (the pericarp), with a single seed (the palm kernel), also rich in oil. When ripe, each bunch of fruit weighs between 5-30kg (11-66ib) depending on the age of the palm tree.

In palm business, one can make money from its production, processing and marketing. One aspect of the oil palm business is setting up oil palm plantation. This is a long-term investment. Starting an oil palm plantation is capital-intensive, but in the long run the returns are massive. Another aspect of oil palm production enterprise is setting up a palm oil processing plant. Setting up a processing plant is fairly expensive, but equally profitable. There are a lot of equipment/machines that are used to extract the oil from the palm fruits. To reduce cost of setting up the plant, it is advisable to approach local fabricators who construct these machines at a relatively low price. Palm oil is usually produced between March and May. During this period the product is surplus and cheap. One can buy palm oil in any quantity from the millers at this time and store them up till the time when palm oil becomes scarce and the price goes up. Selling the palm oil around September-December usually yields over a hundred percent interest. One could also buy in large quantities and store for export. Alternatively, one could buy palm oil from the eastern part of the country where it is cheap and sell in the northern part (Samuel, 2017).

In oil palm production, certain skills are required starting from selection of site to processing and marketing of the product. Skills according to Edinburgh (2012) is the ability to do something well, especially because one have learned and practiced it. Skills in planning, establishing, managing and marketing activities are needed by agricultural education students for a successful oil palm production enterprise. Agricultural education students are those attending an educational institution and are ambitious and actively seeking for knowledge through research to solve problems relating to their field of study. These problems in agricultural production may include in areas of animal rearing and in crop production such as in oil palm production enterprise. The oil is extracted from both pulp of the fruit (palm oil, an edible oil) and the kernel (palm kernel oil, used in foods and for soap manufacture). For every 100kg of fruit bunches, typically 22kg of palm oil and 1.6kg of palm oil can be extracted (Mathaus, 2007).

Ibitoye and Akinsorotan, (2011) reported that oil palm has fed millions, employed over a million and generate billions in dollar income for private sectors including producers, trading companies, financial institutions and retailers. Although the expansion of oil palm plantation has led to the destruction of ecosystems and wildlife in Ebonyi state. In terms of yield Ibitoye, and Akinsorotan, (2011) said that oil palm has a higher yield of both palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Oil palm production is characterized by low productivity at production level (wild grove) and processor level (traditional processing). The lack of storage and marketing facilities and the numerous intermediaries involved in the value chain could have also strongly depressed producer prices (Gourichon, 2013). The major constraints of oil palm production according to Olagunju (2008) are the supply of inputs, the inefficiency of processing methods, the low quality of the output, the lack of infrastructure and inefficient distribution. With regards to production, the traditional method is dominant, so yields remain low. Moreso, this method is very tedious and laborious compared to mechanical methods and requires a substantial proportion of labour force. Milling cost of production is high, which results in high prices. The lack of infrastructure such as storage facilities, transportation systems, access roads, communication channels are also sources of inefficiencies in the value chain (Edem, 2012).

However, it has been observed that production, processing and marketing activities are dominated by smallholders located in the rural communities of Ebonyi State. These smallholders account for the greater percentage of oil palm output in the state but their output cannot even satisfy local demands both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is against this backdrop that this study was carried out to examine entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for entry into oil palm production enterprise in Ebonyi State.

Statement of the Problem

Ebonyi state is blessed with natural resources and manpower for effective agricultural activities. One of the major agricultural activities is crop production which oil palm production ought to be one. But the oil palm production is not fruitful in the state because people lack entrepreneurial skills to engage in its production, processing and marketing. Most farmers avoid oil palm production because they lack entrepreneurial traits and skills to bring innovation and bear the risk involved.

The production of oil palm involves taking of risk because most agricultural production, oil palm especially is full of uncertainties. Many farmers do not want to take risk. As an entrepreneur, one should be ready to take risk in order to establish an enterprise. Many students are running away from oil palm production enterprise because it is a perennial crop, i.e. it takes 8-12 years to mature depending on the varieties and some of these students lack patience which is a trait of an entrepreneur. The reduction in production streaming from lack of entrepreneurial skills and traits has led to low oil palm produce in use. This in turn keeps in increasing the price of the produce in the market. It is therefore a challenge for agricultural education students to change this trend by acquiring entrepreneurial skills for enhanced production, processing and marketing of oil palm produce. This called for this study to identify the entrepreneurial skills to be acquired by agricultural education students to enter oil palm production enterprises.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to determine the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for entry into oil palm production enterprises in Ebonyi state.

Specifically, the study set out to determine:

1.     Entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for planning oil palm production enterprise.

2.     Entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for establishing oil palm production enterprise.

3.     Entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for managing oil palm production enterprise.

4.     Entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students in marketing oil palm produce.

Significance of the Study

The study will be beneficial to agricultural education students, the society, the government/stakeholders, and the researchers.

Agricultural education students will be able to learn the entrepreneurial skills required for entry into oil palm production enterprise, they will get to understand the personal characteristics skills, interpersonal skill, critical and creative skills as well as the scientific knowledge and the technical knowhow. There will be availability of oil palm products such as palm oil which is commonly used for household domestic cooking amongst others, palm kernel oil when mixed with kerosene can be used as lubricant on timbers to avoid termites or ant attacks, palm wine which serves as a common drink for many social gathering in Ebonyi State, brooms for sweeping, timber for building, the leaves, rachises and petioles which can be made into thatches for roofing buildings in abundant in the society.

Oil palm production enterprise can provide foreign exchange and revenue to the government. It will pave way for diversification of the national economy; thereby creating job opportunities for the citizen in areas like harvesting, processing and marketing of the produce amongst others.

Finally, the result of this study will be used as data for future research related to oil palm production enterprise.

Scope of the Study

The study is centered on the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for entry into oil palm production enterprise in Ebonyi state. The study is focused on the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students in planning, establishing, managing and marketing activities in oil palm production enterprise.

Research Question

In line with the objectives, the following research questions will guide the study

1.     What are the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for planning oil palm production enterprise.

2.     What are the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for establishing oil palm production enterprise.

3.     What are the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for managing in oil palm production enterprise.

4.     What are the entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education students for marketing oil palm produce.

Research hypothesis

One null hypothesis tested at 0.05 alpha level of significance was formulated to guide the study.

1.     Entrepreneurial skills required by agricultural education stuents for entry into oil palm production enterprise does not significantly depend on gender.

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