By Jimoh Babatunde
More states government and private sectors organisation are designing projects to advance agribusiness opportunities to over 40,000 Nigerian young women and men with a special focus on skills development.
This is coming on the heels of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) authorising commercial banks to give up to N2 billion maximum loan to youths interested in going into agriculture.
The loan, which comes under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS) at five per cent interest rate per annum, was created by the apex bank in collaboration with state governments to engage youth in agricultural production.
Lagos State Government recently began the recruitment of eligible and interested candidates for the Batches 4, 5 and 6 of its Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP) under its Agriculture-based Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES).
The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya noted that the programme was in furtherance of the State Government’s objective of training no fewer than 15,000 youths and women in the various agricultural value chains by the year 2023.
She pointed out that the programme which is a one-month training exercise is aimed at improving capacity, creating wealth and employment in the agricultural value chains such as poultry, piggery, aquaculture and vegetables.
According to her, the strategic inclusion of the LAP Programme would efficiently reduce unemployment, create jobs and alleviate poverty in the State as well as attract and pay more attention to the creation of jobs for women in agribusiness.
“The current reality and exigencies of job creation for the teeming youth population and attainment of food security require that a more aggressive, strategic and efficient approach be employed in the training and empowerment of women and youth if Lagos State is to achieve a significant reduction of unemployment, create more jobs and wealth and also significantly enhance food security in the State by the year 2023,” Olusanya said.
Also, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to start the Young Africa Works-IITA Project, an innovative approach to agribusiness training and start-up for Nigeria’s young people.
The project was developed in consultation with young people, policymakers, educators, and entrepreneurs as part of the Mastercard Foundation’s strategy to enable 30 million young people in Africa to access dignified and fulfilling work over the next 10 years.
In Nigeria, Young Africa Works aims to see 10 million young people, most of them women, in dignified work opportunities by 2030.
Chidinma Lawanson, Country Head for Nigeria, Mastercard Foundation, said “Agriculture is among the most viable potential source of employment for young people in Africa.
“We are excited to see how our Young Africa Works partnership with IITA will make the agricultural sector more attractive to young people, particularly women by providing skills training in the agriculture value chain for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) noting that the country’s population pyramid is bulging around the youth segment, with an estimated 75 per cent of the population identified to be aged below 35 years, has given a directive to commercial banks to give up to N2 billion maximum loan to youths interested in going into agriculture.
The loan, which comes under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS) at five per cent interest rate per annum was created by the apex bank in collaboration with state governments to engage 370,000 youth in agricultural production.
According to the loan guideline released recently and signed by CBN Director Development Finance Department, Yusuf Yila Philip, the maximum loan accessible under the scheme shall be N2 billion per obligor.
Speaking on the CBN’s intervention, some stakeholders commended the apex bank but noted that certain things need to be put in place for the youths to make a success of their agribusinesses.
Dr Lanre Bello, Chairman Ibukun feeds, said agriculture is not a viable business in the country now with the borders thrown open for all manners of food to be smuggled into the country.
“you don’t borrow money to finance a venture that is not realistic. Those who borrowed money to invest in poultry without feed for the birds will end up in debts. If their birds die, how will they be able to repay their loans?.”
He said patronage of poultry products have dropped drastically by 94 per cent as millers that usually sold 80,000 tonnes of feed in a week struggled to sell 5,000 tonnes.
Dr Folarin Afelumo, a feed miller, said while the CBN intervention is commendable, he said it is coming at the wrong time.
He said a youth who borrows to invest in livestock in the country today will get his hand burnt as the cost of input is more than the expected gain
While noting that the cost of feeds would have eroded all the expected gains, Afelumo advised that the basic things should be put in place before youths are encouraged to take loans for agriculture purpose.
Engr. Idowu Asenuga, Managing Director, Agri Supplies, also added that things needed to be planned properly before throwing fund around.
He said most youths coming into agriculture need to have the necessary capacity in areas they want to invest in, like piggery, fishery, poultry and livestock.
Asenuga, who is the Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Poultry Association of Nigeria, said for the fund to be useful, the CBN needs to work more with agricultural associations, state and local governments to train the youth and after the training, they can then access the fund.
“For me, the number one problem is not financing, but capacity building. Things need to be properly planned before funding.”
He added, “ No youth can be in agriculture without productivity, for example in poultry, if you are not operating at about 75% efficiency level, you can’t succeed in the sector.”
But, an agriculture economist, Sam Edos, said the apex bank asking the participating financial institutions to act as its agents in disbursing the financing to the beneficiaries is commendable.
He said the PFIs would purchasing the inputs and then sell to the beneficiaries, using CBN-approved non-interest financing contract at an all-inclusive rate of return of nine per cent per annum will be of great benefit to the young Nigerians interested in agriculture.
Edos also commended the repayment plan of the facility through the participating banks, which in turn remit payments to the CBN on a quarterly or annual basis depending on the commodity.
A young farmer in Ikorodu, Adewale Seyi, while commending the CBN directive, he urged the apex bank to monitor the commercial banks on disbursement, “that is the only way the genuine youths interested in agriculture can benefit.”
He added “youth face many hurdles in trying to earn a livelihood from agriculture. Pressure on arable land is high in many parts of the country, making it difficult to start a farm. Youth often also lack access to credit, and many other productive resources necessary for agriculture. But with the assurance that you can access loan at a cheaper rate will make life much cooler.”