FG Must Bring Youths Into Farming – Akpabio | Independent Newspapers Limited
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FG Must Bring Youths Into Farming – Akpabio

Posted: Jul 6, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sylvester Enoghase, Lagos

More than 16 years into the nation’s democratic governance, difficult social and economic pressures continue to have serious effects on the food security and livelihood of Nigeria’s population. Unemployment is a key challenge in rural and urban areas, especially with youth experiencing growing strains on jobs and financial resources to survive three meals per day.



The Managing Director of Visionage Agro-tech Farm Limited, Mrs. Edobong Akpabio, in an interview with Daily Independent argued that in the minds of many youths, a farmer is someone like their parents, doing backbreaking labour in the fields and getting little to show for it, nonetheless, the experts sees “agriculture as the engine driving many African economies”.

“If it were to get the same political support and financial investment as the oil and gas sector in Nigeria, agriculture would be capable of providing more decent jobs and filling millions of stomachs with nutritious meals,” she said.

Akpabio, however called on the three tiers of Government, the Federal, states and Local Governments to encourage them to find their place in effective farming to improve their long-term security.

According to the farming expert, who is the current Publicity Secretary, NECA, Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NEW), making progress towards job creation for young people is crucial, as nearly 40 percent of the population in Nigeria is under the age of 35.

“Yet, the unemployment rate for those aged between 18 and 35 is high at 30 percent. This lack of opportunities has pushed many young people away from rural areas and small towns, in favour of larger urban areas in the country”, she said.

She explained that lack of investments by successive Government to improve decent work prospects for young people in rural areas through agriculture, often results in lower living standards and de-population of rural areas, adding that “the scarce availability of decent work and decent living opportunities and the little hope of a better future are the main factors pushing youth to migrate from rural to urban areas or abroad”.

“Youth involvement in agribusiness working alongside government could link farmers with consumers to create many jobs that can cut poverty and create meaningful jobs, particularly for youths. This requires political will from leaders and huge injections of investment in agriculture”, she added.

She noted that the inauguration of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP), and Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) launched by the Federal Government on December 6, 2014 would, “if implemented encourage more Nigerian youths to go into agriculture and reduce unemployment”.

“We are happy that the FAFIN is private-sector driven, while the government just serves as guarantors to the loans, and so it is expected to be implemented better without much interference from Government,” she said.

“The implementation of the twin agricultural policy the YEAP and FAFIN would also encourage massive harvest and prevent wastage of farm produce If the government would ensure the proper implementation of these programme before political activities sweep them over, because they are laudable programmes,” she added.

Apkabio, who argued that agricultural transformation through the promotion of farming sectoral approaches could help youths in rural areas move from under-employment and low-income jobs in the informal economy to employment in the formal economy. She said that the scourge of unemployment could be reduced if such programmes had been in place to support youths in agribusiness.

She said, according to the Africa Economic Outlook Report 2013, published jointly by the African Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UN Development Programme, despite the negative perceptions youths in the country have for farming, the agricultural sector, for instance, employs as much as 60 per cent of Africa’s labour force. “Yet because of low productivity, the sector accounts for only 25 per cent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Akpabio urged the government to ensure the speedy implementation the YEAP and FAFIN and other Agriculture policies in order to record significant growth in the agricultural sector in the country.

She noted that Government encouraging youths into farming will continue to play a central role in providing jobs and earnings to young and adult workers, especially those living in low-income states.

“Government integrated approaches that promote interventions to increase productivity in agriculture through youth involvement in farming, for instance via investments in land cultivation, economic and social infrastructure, agricultural value chains, human resources development and technology transfer must be encouraged. Akpaboi continued:  “Combined with gender-sensitive employment opportunities in non-farm activities, improved occupational safety and health, social security and working conditions in general, and the active involvement and support of employers’ and workers’ organisations, could render rural activities more attractive to young women and men”.

She emphasised that Nigeria’s lack of youth competitiveness in farming is a drag on efforts to boost employment in the Agriculture sector.

Apkabio also described competitiveness as involving “what the government is prepared to do to support its producers to gain access to their markets.”

Her solutions include; boosting rural development through a chain of activities that add value to agricultural products, providing necessary infrastructure to stem urban migration and empowering women and youths to run small businesses.

She said, in 2013 World Bank reports, Agriculture is a sector of opportunity for young people in Africa.  The Bank added its voice to data by other organisations showing that agriculture is Africa’s largest employer and has the potential to absorb millions of new job seekers.

According to the report, increased focus on agriculture could enhance productivity, reduce food prices, increase incomes and create employment. Young people’s involvement in this process is crucial. “Although farming is now often done by the elderly, the profession’s requirements for energy, innovation, and physical strength make it ideally suited for those in the 15 to 34 year-old age bracket, that is, ‘the mature young”, notes the World Bank.

She however said, Government encouraging youths into farming, would in the long run transform the nation’s economy adding that “ a robust agricultural sector is necessary for sustained economic growth and high-paying jobs in Nigeria and making it a reality is a major task for the next 10 to 20 years”.