Leventis Foundation Nigeria Limited is transforming the lives of Nigerian youths by providing a one year agricultural training programme for free across its six schools scattered across the country – Kano, Gombe, Kaduna, Osun, Ondo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
So far, about 25, 000 Nigerian youths and farmers have benefitted from training in different agricultural fields since its inception in 1988.
The executive director of the Foundation, Dr Hope U. Ovie, told Daily Trust on Sunday that in 2017 alone, the Leventis Foundation Agricultural Training School trained 83 participants in short courses. They were able to train a total of 570 youths in sustainable agriculture across Nigeria in one year.
“I am always overwhelmed when these ex-trainees come out to speak. They tell you how they came from nothing to becoming an established agri-preneurs with the capacity to employ other people. That alone shows the impact our operation has had in Nigeria,” he noted.
He noted that the first schools were in Ilesha, Osun State, Ondo State and Dogon-dawa in Kaduna State. They were opened in 1988 for training youths and farmers on sustainable agriculture on a 50/50 funding model between the state governments and the foundation. He, however, added that they now operate at a 70/30 funding model.
Dr Ovie maintained that initially, funding of the training was done only by Leventis Foundation, but it now has a new model where each partnering state contributes certain percentage of the annual cost of funding the schools.
He said the training schools in Ondo, Kano and Kaduna had the highest capacity with 150 trainees per year but currently taking 120 trainees in Ilesha because of lack of constant funding coming from the state government.
“The Kano State Government, for example, wants to see that the school is taking more trainees and preparing its curricular in such a way that we have both male and female trainees. It goes to show that we are thinking of expansion,” he said.
He said the capacity in Dogon-dawa was 100 to 120, with the smallest in Abaji, FCT with the capacity of 100 trainees.
On how to get Leventis to start in a state, he explained that first, “The state will show interest and we send them the basic requirements for a school to be established in their state, which include the provision of a site that can accommodate a certain number of students, a minimum of 150 trainees; for staff, administrative block and a farmland for training activities.
And that would come with basic infrastructure like water, access road and implements like tractors, a poultry and fish farming unit for the school. When all of these are in place, we can then come and talk about a memorandum of understanding.”
Additionally, the secretary of Leventis Training School, Abaji, Mr James Owoicho, explained that the curriculum was 80per cent practical and 20per cent theory. And trainees, both male and female enrol for a whole year before graduating.
He noted that the trainees were given free food, accommodation, uniform and farm implements, and a monthly stipend of N1, 000, which was increased to N3, 000 in 2017.
Owoicho revealed that when the school started, they took at least 70 trainees, but only between 30 and 60 graduated. He was, however, delighted that there is considerable increase in the number of graduates.
The head of the Department of Crop and Agroforestry, Mr Bigun Ponman Ishaku, confirmed that the crop production department had 30 hectares of land where the trainees grow cassava, melon, maize, soya beans and benniseed. He added that the agroforestry component dealt with budded plants, citrus, mangoes, pawpaw.
He noted that the trainees also got training on ornamental propagation and bee keeping for honey production.
Similarly, the head of the Department of Livestock, Mr Igwemadu Anthony, noted that good management practices, including feeding and housing, formed the basis of what they teach trainees.
Additionally, Anthony said the students were also trained on feed formulation, disease prevention, diagnosis and management in poultry birds, fish, cattle and sheep, among others.
On the other hand, the head of Farm Mechanisation Unit ensures proper working conditions of all equipment and machineries at the training school. This is in addition to the maintenance of electrical facilities and general plumbing work.
The head of the unit, who is also in charge of crop production, was responsible for assembling the different farm machineries, including tractors, planters, ridgers, plough, among others.
Meanwhile, the Department of Enterprise, headed by Mr Olusegun Seoto, trains students on value addition, such as shea- butter processing, tie and die, detergent making. It also engages in community service.
“The impact is increasing because the rate at which people are demanding for the training is handsome. If Nigeria needs anything that would make us sufficient, it is this training,” he said.
The Leventis Foundation Nigeria was established to take over and expand the work of the “Nigeria Advisory Panel” of the A. G. Leventis Foundation, which has been active since 1979.
Its main focus is to sustain the Federal Government’s drive to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, with renew focus on traning the country’s young population in modern farming techniques with agribusiness approach for income generation.