FG/AfDB partnership to provide $300m for youths in agric

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Abuja  –   The Federal Government says it will partner the African Development Bank (AfDB) to provide an investment of about 300 million dollars as funding for youths in agriculture.

Sen. Heineken Lokpobori, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, stated this on Thursday in Abuja at a workshop with the theme: “ENABLE Youth Programme Design’’ organised by the bank in collaboration with IITA.

Lokpobori said that the programme would help develop the country and encourage young graduates to embrace agriculture and approach it as a business.

“Part of what we are saying is to provide access to funding to youth and that is why we welcomed the proposal from the ADB to provide an investment of about 300 million dollars.

“Since we came on board this is the first project we are about to look at, but some of these things cannot be funded from the budget and that is why we welcomed initiatives like this one

“Besides this one, I also spoke about the 2.5 billion dollars in collaboration with the Islamic bank investment that they are proposing with us

“ When that comes, chunk of this money will also be channelled to youths, women and then also other interested people.’’

The minister assured that the present administration had decided not to allow policy summersault in the ministry, saying that the policies initiated by the past minister would be sustained.

He said,“ what we are doing is that we will keep reforming them as the need arises.

“In the next few weeks we will be able to provide our own new road map for agriculture towards Nigeria attaining self sufficiency in different stable crops between 2018 and 2019.

Lokpobori explained that because of the policies implemented on cassava plantation in country Nigeria now ranked the highest producer of cassava in the world.

He said the Federal Government was in the process of procuring between 18 and 20 cassava processing plants from China to further boost the production of the commodity in the country.

“We are encouraging more people to go into cassava production in the country and I believe all these government initiatives will continue to encourage the youth in agribusiness,’’ he said.

The minister explained that the youth programme would be implemented in the 36 states of the federation.

He said that the ministry would develop a guideline on how it would be run.

Also, Dr Chiji Ojukwu, the Director, Agriculture and Agro Industry Department, AfDB, said the aim of the programme was to contribute to job creation, food security, and nutrition as well as improve the livelihood of young people.

Ojukwu said that the programme would be strictly for young graduates in the country since a lot of them were unemployed graduates.

“Resources are limited and you need to be selective, in the ADB as we presented earlier we have Job for youth programme which covers both graduates and non graduates.

“ This covers the area of ICT, Agriculture and Manufacturing that cuts across all youths because fund is been established for that.

“But for the ENABLE Youth Programme, we are a bit specific because there are so many young unemployed graduates

“This is what we call capturing the low hanging fruit; these people can be trained quickly and they can apply the training in the business,’’ he said.

According to the director, when the graduates are trained and they set up businesses, they will also bring in others that they can train as part of a continuing process.

He said that going by the trend in the world today, ICT would be deployed in the implementation of the programme. (NAN)