By Adeyemi Bamidele Ezekiel
KADUNA- The Federal government recently re-echoed its commitment towards transforming university graduates into agribusiness entrepreneurs through its Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP).
Reading the opening speech of the Minister for Agriculture, at the just concluded Ecowas Agriculture, Agro-Allied & Technology Exhibition in Kaduna State, Mr Aderemi O. Abioye, stated how the federal government of Nigeria is committed to using agriculture to create the needed jobs for our youth.
“In this direction, the government has designed and is implementing the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP). YEAP is aimed at developing a new cadre of 740,000 market oriented agricultural producers in the rural areas. This will benefit 20, 000 school leavers and rural youth leaders in each state of the federation and the federal capital territory. YEAP will additionally transform 18, 500 University graduates into young agribusiness entrepreneurs also called nagropreneurs. This will develop businesses along the entire agricultural value chain from production on the farm, to storage, processing and value addition to providing financial services and logistic services.”
Abioye went futher to say that the federal government of Nigeria in conjunction with the states, will support the youth with access to technical, entrepreneurer, finance, business and marketing skills. “They will also be supported with access to financing, link to market and mentorship. Align to this is the programme to reduction of duggery in agriculture with the establishment of a private sector mechanization programme to establish 1,200 agricultural equipment hiring centre across the country.
A total of 80 centres have been deployed across the nation in the first phase, the remaining would be deployed in second and third phases coming up very soon. The programme will inject a total of 6,000 tractors and implements, 15,000 power tillers, 20, 000 planting and post harvest equipment to mechanize agriculture in the estimated 4 million hectares of arable land across the nation. Our new goal is to attain self sufficiency in food production and to export 10million metric tones of grains and processed food annually to the Ecowas sub-region and beyond by the year 2019.
We shall promote climate smart and nutrition sensitive agriculture with emphasis on interfacing agriculture and health, promotion of micronutrient rich foods and bio-fortified products will receive prominence with increased crop variety for food and export.”
“Aggressive and aflatoxin control will be pursued, as well as the production of high energy foods. Our target through the home grown school feeding programme is to reduce malnutrition in 10 million households, especially in the Northwest, Northeast geopolitical zones of the country, as well as Bayelsa and Ebonyi States. We are strongly committed to diversifying the Nigerian economy using agriculture as a launching pad. Notably, Nigeria recorded a decline in food import bills from 1.1 trillion Naira in 2009 to 684 billion Naira in the year 2013 and furthermore, more decline is being recorded.
The ongoing efforts are expected to largely reduce importation of wheat, rice, fish, sugar and other food items. The success of the Anchour borrower program being facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), bringing together farmers, processors and commercial banks is expected to add impetus to the achievement of zero food import in the next few years. Indeed, beyond crude oil, Nigeria has a great hope and the hope is in agriculture. We must therefore consciously and collectively keep the hope alive”, he added.