Some of the challenges that have persisted across Nigeria’s agricultural landscape,over the decades, include the lack of connection between the set of peasant, smallholder farmers and the policy makers as well as lack of requisite knowledge on the application of modern technology to farming. Also, there is little or no access to loans to upgrade their performance.Yet, more than 80 per cent of the total farming population are rural smallholder farmers. But for how long would they be neglected if indeed, they are the pillars of the agricultural sector and have the potential to influence its sustainable development?
Another significant issue of course, is how to encourage job-seeking youth, especially graduates to get interested and actively engaged in agriculture. This becomes even more difficult in urban settings where the drive and desire is for white-collar jobs. That is precisely where the Lagos state government comes in with its laudable initiatives to lure and empower the youth into modern and productive agricultural practices.
To bridge this inexcusable gap, BATN Foundation in partnership with the Lagos State Government recently organized an annual Farm Fair.The aim is to create market linkage for smallholder farmers. The Fair comes as a business platform to expose farmers to opportunities in urban areas without any financial burden or risks.
So good the initiative has become that the Lagos State government has an on- going partnership with Bank of Agriculture, Stanbic IBTC, Standard Chartered Bank and NYSC on annual basis to assist the farmers.The objectives of the fair include the promotion of small enterprises for business growth. It is to provide market access and linkage, create platform to network and explore business opportunities. It is also to enable them to provide fresh and healthy farm produce to the public and to promote Agri-business among urban youths
During the event held recently the activities included famers market, exhibition,Master Class,Pop- up restaurants, parade and it was rounded up with an award ceremony. This is a commendable way to bring in the youth back into farming.
It would be recalled that during the unveiling of a 32 tonnes-per-hour rice mill in the state the Commissioner of Agriculture who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Olayiwola Onasanya, explained that the mill will conveniently employ 250, 000 people, directly as rice millers. And indirectly as rice growers, marketers and transporters.Such actions would benefit not only farmers in Lagos state but across the South-West geo-political zone.
Similarly, the state is buoyed to employ 400 women and youths according to the State Project Coordinator of the World Ban-assisted Project, APPEALS, Mrs. Oluranti Oviebo. Through it, small and medium scale farmers will be actively employed in poultry farming, aquaculture and rice milling to improve on agriculture’s value chain. The aim is to use modern technology towards increased food production.
It would be recalled that back in November 2013 the Lagos State Agricultural Development Project held an Implementation Support Supervision/ Staple Crop Processing Zone (SCPZ) Mission in the state. The participants included small and medium scale rice, poultry and aquaculture farmers, processors and marketers. Others were financial institutions, community leaders and non-governmental organizations, state policy makers, representatives of the World Bank, and members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
The mission was to review and align with the federal and state government agricultural policies, especially the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) to aid the smooth project implementation. That was then-some six years ago. But this is now.
The piece of good news is that continuity in government has stabilized the activities of the Lagos State Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP) in helping to achieve the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting prosperity by creating new agric entrepreneurs. Its aim is to strengthen agricultural production systems and facilitate access to markets. that is, for participating small and medium scale commercial farmers. It also supports the commercialization of agriculture production, processing, marketing output amongst agric-based SMEs and agro-processors.
Interestingly, Lagos state government has also benefitted from its partnership with the Centre for Values in Leadership(CVL) initiated a youth entrepreneurship, agro-processing and vocational skills acquisition programme. It offers sustainable livelihood support and employment opportunities for youths in Nigeria over a 12 months period under the CVL Young Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP) – a national youth intervention programme. To be part of this youth empowerment scheme, the applicant must be a resident of the selected community and must be within the age brackets (18-to-40 inclusive). An applicant with a minimum of School Certificate or ability to read and write may be considered.
The main goal of this project is to combat violent extremism and youth unemployment through youth entrepreneurship, agriculture, and Information, Communication and Technological engagement with the youths in Nigeria.Its Specific Objectivespromise that within 12 months it enhances theentrepreneurship skills of young people through entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and business internship.
Within a year YETP empowers young entrepreneurs with start-up capitals to enable them establish, run and manage sustainable enterprises.It also increases access to financial support for young people, through linkages to investors, credit banks, and other micro-finance houses for start-up capital and business growth/expansion purpose. Eventually,within the same one-year period it reduces youth restiveness and unemployment by creating job opportunities for young people.
This is in tandem with the position of the #Wealthishere, youth empowerment scheme. According to the online platform: “with poor access to infrastructure, inputs and markets, the smallholder farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups in the value chain system.” Considering the low scale and archaic methods of farming they apply it is difficult for these farmers to have access to credit facilities to upscale their production.
It is therefore a commendable move on the part of Lagos state government to identify areas of youth development, especially agriculture; train, empower and assess the performance of beneficiaries to keep the unemployed ones of the violent street. Other states should take a cue, not only to enhance job and wealth creation but food security.