LAGOS – It came as a cheering news to many, especially the youths when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), authorised each commercial bank to give up to N2 billion maximum loan to youths interested in going into agriculture, under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS), at five per cent interest rate yearly.
The scheme, in collaboration with state governments is to engage 370,000 youths in agricultural production in about one year.
As contained in a guideline recently signed by Yusuf Yila Philip, CBN Director of Development, Finance Department, the maximum loan accessible under the scheme shall be N2 billion per obligor.
He said the country’s population was bulging around the youth category, with an estimated 75 per cent of the population identified in the age bracket of 35 years and below.
Similarly, in a review of the 132nd communiqué of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting obtained from the CBN’s website, and signed by its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, he said interventions were largely in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, electricity and gas, solar power and housing constructions among others.
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector inclusive of youths in separate interviews with DAILY INDEPENDENT commended the initiative, stating that such is one that can help the nation reduce the spate of unemployment amongst the youths who form a larger part of the society.
They advised that the funds should be made available to serious minded youths who will really make judicious use of it.
Anibe Achimugu, National President National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), said the AADS is yet another bold and courageous initiative by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, with the full support of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Achimugu said he is an advocate of the direct intervention strategy in identified areas that will positively impact on the nation’s socio-economic situation.
“We need to engage Nigerians especially our teaming youths, and I believe agriculture is one sector that can absorb huge numbers of Nigerians.
“In times like this, we need to support and stimulate economic activities, and this is been done by making significant funding available to a critical and important demography of our population at reasonable cost.
He also stated that the intervention is in his view targeted at serious minded youths.
“I say this because if you are not ready to work, think on your feet, identify the opportunity that is staring you in the face, then you will not be empowered.
“Agriculture production and productivity will certainly be boosted as I can only imagine that more farmers will be developed, more farmlands will be opened up, mechanization will be utilized on a larger scale, IT will be introduced even more quality planting seeds and inputs will be sourced and agricultural activities will be boosted.
“I believe youths are and will become interested in agriculture particularly with these rather attractive offerings under the AADS. The constant drumming into the ears of the youth that agriculture is a business, introducing IT, modern farm machines and equipment, creating and supporting market access both locally and internationally, will make the youths that are not already interested in agriculture become interested in it,” he added.
Speaking further, he said agro-allied industries are key components for agricultural development in Nigeria, stating that all must continue to produce massively and equally process massively too.
“Value addition is key, which supports hugely job creation. The more agro-allied industries we develop, the more jobs we are able to create with the added benefit of generating foreign exchange because we not only potentially increase our exports but attract higher values for our exports,” he said.
Biodun Onalaja, Chairman of Hyst Global Business Limited, producer of Okun Rice said it is a good initiative and that it will encourage those that are interested in agriculture or either gone for training in agriculture to properly go into the business.
He also said it would reduce unemployment drastically if the youths are seriously interested and the commercial banks are ready to co-operate with CBN to give the Youths smooth transactions on draw down of the loan.
“There will be a surplus of food in the country and also boost the agro- allied industries to meet up with their raw cash and food crops to meet their end products.
Sejiro Oke-Tojinu, Vice Chairman, Lagos State Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (LASCAFFAN) said it is a good development but that there is always a challenge of accessing funds such as this because of the criteria in accessing the funds which many youths might not be able to get easily.
He said the requirements to assess the funds should be made easier so that youths would be able to access it.
“The fund should be made available to youth that are really interested in agriculture; there should be an underground check for verifications of the youths that applied for the fund,” he said.
Oke-Tojinu also stated that Nigerian youths are hardworking and that reality has dawned on everybody that agriculture is one of the aspects of the economy that everybody should look into.
“Agriculture has a long value chain that can embrace different professions and skills. A lot of youths are looking into that direction already and all they need is support and an enabling environment.
“It is a good initiative but I think there should be more publicity about it so that the youths can know that this is for them and it is easy. A lot of people have lost interest in accessing facilities from the government because of the cumbersome requirements,” he said.
Dr. Shakira Babatunde, Founder of ‘Iwe Kiko Pelu Oko’ Vocational School, said she can talk from experience that government facilities can boost employment if bankers maintain the government intended loan facility’s terms.
“To be candid youths don’t embrace rural entrepreneurship such as farming because they don’t like the harder life which farming portrays to them. But if the government’s agriculture programme includes youth re-orientation, persuasion and moral-suasion training it would encourage the youths.
She said the government can make youth’s participation in agriculture interesting to them by providing good roads, transportation and farming equipment.
“Youths will prefer mechanised farming to the common archaic farming that currently obtains. Agro-allied industries are difficult without cooperatives and thrifts support in addition to the enabling environment,” she said.
In his own view, Glory Imohimi, a youth and a graduate of Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), who studies Aquaculture said that the youths are interested in agriculture that there are so many youths that did not even study agriculture they are coming around to work in the farm where he works.
He commended the CBN for the initiative stating that such will further encourage some of them that are doing things along the agro value chain to boost their businesses and employ more people.
“Agriculture is capital intensive so youths need support, youth are the ones that have the power and energy to do agriculture, and initiative such as this will encourage us because we will have more equipment to work with.
“Government should make it accessible to the youths and not just any youth but those that need it and those that have interest in agriculture and are already doing something,” he said.
Mosunmola Ayeola-Tojinu, another youth who is a food processor, commended the apex bank for the initiative stating that it is a great idea because there are so many young minds that are willing to do something along the agro value chain but could not because of lack of fund.
She said the fund should be given to people that will make use of it, for the purpose which is meant for and not to be given to those that will divert it for another thing.
She added that if youths are giving the opportunity and at the same time empowered, it will go a long way in assisting them and also boost the nation’s food security.
Oyelekan Muftau, former State President Federated FADAMA Community Association in his contribution said it is a good move which will keep the youths busy and create more employment.
“Youths generally will be engaged, there are so many youths out there doing well in agriculture and in other sectors. We need to be sure that they are interested in agriculture because whatever things they are doing the interest must be there.
Oyelekan said that there have been series of programmes such as this rolled out for the youths before now which has gone down the drain because those that benefitted from such did not make judicious use of it.
Oyelekan advised the government to make the fund available to those that are interested and not just make funds available for everybody who does not need it.
“I don’t know the modalities the CBN wants to use for this initiative; to track them down to make sure that the funds made available to them is judiciously put into use,” he said.