Nasarawa State Gov. Abdullahi Sule says Nigerian leaders have the responsibility to set the pace and create enabling environment for the youth to get involved in agriculture.
The governor said this at the Seminar and Exhibition of the 2019 National Agriculture Show and Exhibition, organised by the National Agricultural Foundation in Tudunwada, Nasarawa, on Thursday.
He said in view of youths’ attraction to other sectors such as entertainment and sports it was important to make agriculture attractive to them adding that the future of agriculture in Nigeria was dependent on the youth.
He said: “the best and easiest way to get our people out of poverty is through agriculture.
“Many countries of the world that have come out of poverty went through agriculture.
“It is therefore not strange that President (Muhammadu) Buhari is emphasising on diversification but where else can we go to if not agriculture.
“We have all that it takes: the human resources, fertile soil and other resources.
“There is no doubt, therefore, that at workshops like this taking place at this time in Nasarawa State, although an annual event, is something we should take full advantage of.
“This is because there is nowhere else for us to go than to grow agriculture.’’
Sule said it was the responsibility of all stakeholders to get the youth interested in agriculture, adding that agriculture must be made enterprising to be attractive, particularly to the youth.
The Country Representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Mr Suffyan Koroma, emphasised the need for Nigeria to key into the new technologies driving agriculture in modern times.
Koroma said Nigeria also needed to get the youth involved in farming for sustainability purpose.
He said with predictions that Nigeria’s population would increase by 2050 and with most farmers in Nigeria being above 50 years old, it was pertinent to encourage the youth to embrace agriculture.
“Agricultural market is becoming quite competitive and the key drivers of this competitive market.
“It calls for corresponding change in labour composition of the agricultural sector to sustain the paradigm, which includes changing technologies and demands for quality and standards.
“Involvement of younger and more entrepreneurial farmers in Nigerian agriculture has become necessary in order to inject new skills required for the agricultural sector to compete at a global scale.
“The youth has propensity to be well versed in business, be able to run sound agribusiness that will make Nigeria’s agriculture modern, commercial and profitable,’’ he said.
He assured that FAO would continue to work to encourage youth participation in agriculture to reduce poverty.
“Rural youth employment is as the heart of FAO’s efforts to reduce rural poverty worldwide; young women and men in rural economies are powerful catalysts for inclusive growth and sustainable development.
“Approximately 88 per cent of the world’s 1.2 billion youth, aged 15 to 24, live in developing countries, many of which despite rapid urbanisation, remain largely rural.
“For Nigeria, the average age of a farmer is close to 60 and is rising by the year.
“Replacing the ageing farming population through mainstreaming of the youth into agriculture is a sure way of ensuring sustainable food and nutrition security.
“The youth represent an important and dynamic force in the supply of labour, production and productivity and in Nigeria.
“They account for up to 64 per cent of the population and as the youth population grows, so is the unemployment rate.
“In 2018, unemployment rate in Nigeria stood at 23.1 per cent with 70 per cent them representing the youth,” he said.
The country representative said no sector of the economy had greater capacity to create jobs as quickly and sustainably as the agricultural sector due to the diverse avenues of economic activities within its value chains.
According to him, the federal government and other governments in Africa are required to reengage in the formulation and systematic implementation of sound rural development.