As FG says youth remain powerhouse for food production

IFAD assures more empowerment, capacity building of youth in agribusiness

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Nigeria joins rest of the world to mark 2022 International Youth Day, young people, Tuesday, hailed the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, over providing opportunity for self-employment and wealth creation in agribusiness.

These youths are beneficiaries of IFAD/VCDP capacity building on agric value chains, who spoke on the sidelines of a special youth recognition forum christened ‘VCDP National Youth Forum 2022 Edition’ with theme ‘Promoting Sustainable Youth Empowerment In Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship’ organised by IFAD.

They testified about the huge impact IFAD has made to transform their lives from grass to glory, who are from the various States including Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Enugu, Osun, Niger and Taraba.

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A cassava farmer, Oguche Ojodale, from Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State, said he had the passion for agribusiness but lacked the platform to actualize his passion until he came in contact with the VCDP, which he ceased the opportunity of the training on the cassava value chain.

The Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, is a project of the Federal Government of Nigeria funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD.

The programme aims to improve incomes and food security of poor households engaged in production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava on sustainable basis.

VCDP was originally implemented in six States of Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Ogun, Niger, and Taraba, and as a result of the programme’s success, VCDP received additional finance for expansion into the States of Kogi, Nasarawa and Enugu making a total of nine participating States.

VCDP is well anchored in Nigeria’s Government’s vision for Agricultural transformation through commodity value chain approach, with emphasis on enhancing productivity and access to markets for rice and cassava Smallholder farmers. For seven years, VCDP has been addressing constraints along the rice and cassava value chain through a demand-driven service delivery strategy.

The programme has reached out to 94,000 smallholder farmers. For the last seven years , VCDP has contributed to 495,720 metric tonnes of rice which is to the tune of $243.9 million, and 653,843 metric tonnes of cassava, which is to the tune of $290.1 million to the Nigerian food security and N94.28 billion ($290.2 million) to the national economy, and some levels of import substitution, and over 31,021 youth have been reached and gainfully employed in seed production business, leasing of mechanised equipment, extension services provision, agri – input distribution, marketing of finished farm produce, and others, and also with over 2,500 hectares of land developed, and the programme has created decent jobs through agribusiness supports; about 5,373 permanent jobs comprising 1,648 women, 1,601 men, and 2,124 youth in ownership of various agribusiness ventures.

One of the youth who passed through the capacity building, Egagya Rosemary, a rice entrepreneur from Benue State, said, “With the help of IFAD, I can maintain my one hectare of rice farm, and today, I understand rice cultivation better based on the knowledge acquired through training under VCDP.

“IFAD gave me a six kilogram of rice seed called Farrow 44, and by November 2022 I will harvest it.”

However, she said government should provide farm inputs sustainability, and also called youth to join the business in agriculture.

A cassava entrepreneur, Oguche Ojodale, from Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State, said, “I am a trained cassava entrepreneur. I joined this VCDP in 2022, and we taken to Umudike, Abia State, where were were trained as cassava entrepreneur.

“My father is a farmer up to date, and I was born into farming but was a farming that was on hand-to-mouth until VCDP came into my life last year, and we trained on multiplying cassava seeds, to apply fertilizer, clear weeds, chemical application; pre and post emergency chemicals to reduce stress of manual labour, and now  I was wanting to this family. We found from hand to mouth and everything has changed.

“The first challenge I faced was capital because there was no money to embark on this journey, I sold my car at the rate of N1.5 million because I foresee the success and I don’t want to miss, and I invested the whole money in cassava cultivation.

“And to the glory of God as God may have it everything turned for good. I cultivated five hectares of cassava farm in 2022, while early this year I cut all the stems and sold them, and left others which sprouted and later harvested last two months.

“And as just we were advised and informed that it is a money making business, which we made a lot of money. With the recent harvest I did l was able to buy a car worth N2.6 million. The success in not measurable.”

He also appreciated VCDP for the opportunity and value added to his live and family.

He urged youth out there to see agriculture as business, and should venture into it.

However, he called on government bat all levels to address insecurity affecting agribusiness.

Another youth, a rice seed producer, Fabian Chjioke, from Ebonyi State said, “I joined VCDP 2021 when I was training on rice seed production at Bida, Badeggi in Niger State, where I discovered that farming is a pure business but we have been overlooking that because of the orientation we had earlier on.

“When I joined VCDP I realized that farming is the best business youths can embark on. After the training we were given starter-packs which was Farrow 44. I have invested on two hectares of land, and now it is doing well.

“I am advising my fellow youth to join farm business because it is a lucrative business. VCDP also off-takes harvested rice. I am also working hard to become a certified seed producer. I am an employer of 26 persons working my on my farm.

“I believe with farm business youth unemployment will be drastically reduced because there are no white-collar jobs in Nigeria.”

However, appealed to Government on adequate provision of farm inputs and also security.

Also speaking was a IFAD/VCDP trained rice seed producer, Edu Uzodinma, from Ebonyi State, said, “I came encounter with VCDP in 2015, and trained me as a seed producer at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, Oyo State.

“Their capacity building has added value to my agribusiness knowledge and skills to enlarge. When we were trained, we were given 50 kg of rice pack of breeder seed, and I went multiplying.

“From there we established Ebonyi Youth Rice Seed Production Company through which bwe supply rice seeds to all local government areas of Ebonyi State including neighbouring States.

“Previously we used to get over a tonne to get only half a tonne of rice, but today, we get more than 4.5  tonnes per hectare. That is very very enormous, and also earn our living.

” Rice production is done in a bush, it is not a home affair because of that many people are lying in the village doing nothing but we engaged them as our casual workers at least you cannot finish your rice season from pre- planting, land preparation till post harvest without engaging over 100 casual workers.

“Presently, I have 10 outstanding workers I pay but the rest are casual workers, thereby engaging them.

“So we enjoy if we enjoy VCDP in our State with their capacity building all ramifications, and are coordinating every of our farm activity.

“Notwithstanding it has not been a bed of roses, even though we are living, we don’t lack because food is on our table. We expand, we get a source of livelihood, built a house, bought the car we are using and training of our children, and all courtesy of VCDP assistance.”

However, called on government at all levels to subsidize farm inputs, and address insecurity affecting rice production.

Another rice seed producer trained by IFAD/VCDP, Ngozi Oboh, from Anambra State, said, “I was trained by VCDP at IITA, Ibadan, Oyo State, for 52 days, after graduation they gave us seeds of rice for own cultivation which I did on two hectares of land, and I harvested eight metric tonnes of rice, but before this I cultivated 0.2 hectare which I harvested 2.5 metric tonnes of rice.

VCDP has really impacted my life, and I have been able to train others when I graduated. I have trained at least 50 farmers including youth, women and men on rice seed  production, and they’re doing well because I gave them 25 kilograms each, and they cultivated, which all are smiling now. More people want to join in the training. I have women groups who do transplanting in rolls. So, we are thanking IFAD/VCDP, we are proud of them for this great job done to impact and improve our lives.”

However, she appealed and asked for transplanting machines for women farmers to use for transplanting in order to reduce manual labour and days for production.

A rice producer, Ike Chukwuemeka, from Enugu State, said, “After years of searching for white-collar job and not forthcoming I decided to delve into agriculture and I am doing well now along with my family courtesy VCDP.”

However, he called on government to provide mechanized system of agriculture, as it has been expensive to hire a tractor which everybody can afford as a day hire goes for N150,000.

Also testifying was a cassava stem multiplication, processing, packaging of cassava and rice products expert, Musa Anastasia, from Niger State, said, “My contact with IFAD/VCDP has improved my production and understanding, most especially, the aspect of nutrition, and from what I have been taught by VCDP I can balance the protein and vitamin in rice and cassava despite they are generally known for their starch.

“My research on these has also produced positive results instead of using sugar you can use dates locally called debinu as alternative to sugar which is friendly with everybody.

“Also VCDP has increased my knowledge about agriculture as a business, build me as a business person, increased my income and livelihood in general, and I am versatile now.

In a keynote address, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, represented by Dr Ubandoma Ularamu, expressed joy over emergence of young entrepreneurs who have turned to be millionaires along the cassava and rice value chains under IFAD assisted VCDP.

According to Abubakar, the Ministry is currently implementing a robust national youth and gender policy aimed at empowering youth and women.

He said: “I am therefore, particularly delighted this National Youth Forum is coming up at this time and I wish to commend VCDP for the valuable initiative.

“I am also excited to see that these VCDP youth have embraced agriculture as an economically sustainable and profitable business.

“The VCDP in collaboration with the Ministry has identified and developed sustainable and profitable economic enterprises along rice and cassava value chains to create jobs and sustainable livelihood among the youth.

“These youth are no longer interested in white collar as they are good earning good incomes and are also employers of labour now.

“Most of these youth entrepreneurs have created both permanent and temporary jobs for other youths and women in their communities. This is response to the Federal Government quest to combat youth unemployment and reduce rural-urban drift of youth.”

Meanwhile, the Country Director, IFAD Nigeria,  Dede Ekoue, in an opening remarks pointed that has been on the vanguard to transform lives of youth and women in Nigeria, and will not relent to change their narrative.

“The alignment of IFAD Country Strategy with the Federal Government of Nigeria priorities
provides IFAD a unique opportunity to play a central role in empowering the Nigerian youth, reducing poverty and contributing to achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

“Permit me to mention that youth is a key priority for the twelfth
Replenishment of IFAD Resources (IFAD12) as reflected in
IFAD’s Strategic Framework.

“In agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria, through our key partners- The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the Federal Ministry of Finance- IFAD
has co-financed and is co-financing projects that are youth
sensitive and promote sustainable empowerment of young men
and women in agribusiness and entrepreneurship in Nigeria”, she said.

She also made it known that in the north, the recently concluded Climate Change
Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme (CASP) empowered over 42,000 young men and women through
various agribusinesses and entrepreneurship activities that has resulted in increase in incomes, enhanced food security, and
reduced vulnerability in the participating states.

“In the Niger-Delta region, the Federal Government of Nigeria
and IFAD is co-financing a 100 per cent youth-sensitive project – the
Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprise in the Niger Delta
(LIFE-ND) programme.

“This programme is expected to
own agri-enterprises representing decent and gainful jobs.
Currently, over 7,000 direct beneficiaries – young men and
women – have benefited on various empowerment programs
empower over 38,000 young men and women to establish and
through the incubator and incubatees model”, she said.

According to her,  IFAD is financing youth-sensitive initiatives
the Agrihub project implemented by IITA through an IFAD
enterprise, received a non-sovereign loan to support small
through the civil society and the private sector, such as
grant, focuses on youth entrepreneurship and capacity
scale producers, which emphasis on youth
building in agriculture is laid.

“The Nigeria young women and men should remain a top priority
allowing them to prosper and also ensuring a sustainable
for all of us. They deserve our support to reach their full potential,
productive life.

“Permit me to also reiterate that IFAD is a premium partner and
stands ready to contribute as part of the United Nations Systems,
to a sustainable partnership and collaboration with the Federal
Government of Nigeria and stakeholders  in making greater
progress on the ground for young women and men for better
contribution of agriculture to inclusive growth and job creation
leaving no one behind.

“In addition, IFAD reaffirms its full
to boost food systems transformation and to enhance the
Government of Nigeria to improve the life of rural communities,
commitment to continue to partner closely with the Federal
production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life,
while ensuring sustainability and resilience to crisis and climate.”

The National Coordinator, VCDP, Dr Fatima Aliyu, earlier in her address  of welcome, explained essence of the VCDP National Youth Forum 2022 Edition, “Our expectations therefore, is that the Forum will provide another unique opportunity to discuss key issues affecting youth participation in agriculture and also deepen the efforts and contribution of the VCDP to the development and mainstreaming of the national gender and youth development policies and programmes of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The Forum will extensively discuss key contemporary youth related issues such as lack of access to knowledge, information and education for successful agribusiness, lack of land for agricultural production, lack of access to financial services for agricultural purposes, lack of access to jobs, lack of access to markets, non-engagement in policy dialogue on agricultural development, and dislike for involvement in agriculture by the youth.

“The IFAD assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development that the Youth Forum holds every other year to discuss contemporary issues relating to youth and entrepreneurship development in Nigeria with a view to showcasing the contribution of the VCDP to Government efforts at combating the youth unemployment in Nigeria.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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