FG 'll engage youth in food production- Ogbeh

FG 'll engage youth in food production- Ogbeh
…as AfDB, IITA moves to support youth with $12.5bn
By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has maintained that the Federal Government will engage youth in the country for massive food production as it partners with African development Bank, AfDB, and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, to kick start the programme.
Ogbeh, who was represented by the Minister of State, Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, made the statement at a two-day Youth Programme Design Workshop on ‘Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment’ ENABLE, organised by the AfDB in collaboration with IITA, frecently  in Abuja.
Ogbeh said the government has resolved to ensure that the youth become major drivers of the agriculture sector as a way of economic empowerment to them and stakeholders in food production and security in the country.
The minister also said the ENABLE programme will cut across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, in order to give all youth the opportunity to participate, but based on certain criteria for selection.
He said: “The African Development Bank Group is our reliable and trusted partner. We are appreciative of the support of the support and cooperation that we have enjoyed from our partnership over years, with a view to jointly and meaningfully repositioning the agricultural sector in Nigeria as a virile engine of growth.
“Probably, the most topical issue in the world today is the need to harness the potential of the youth for rapid and sustainable development. Increasingly, we are seeing evidence around the world that we can no longer take our youth for granted.
“For Nigeria and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture remains essentially the most veritable and enduring platform for empowering our youths to effectively position them at t5he driving seat for implementation of policy initiatives and actions aimed at resolving the endemic challenges of poverty and underdevelopment in our different spheres.
“Indeed, unless we begin to take urgent steps to empower our youth to take the baton of transforming our society and nations from us, we cannot confidently state that the future security and prosperity of our beautiful world can be guaranteed.”
The minister acknowledged that without funds nothing can be achieved through the youth in the agriculture sector, saying access and affordable finance remains challenge in the sector, and also decried the ministry’s borrowing plan approved by the National Assembly was $200 million, which is just a drop considering the population 180 million Nigerians.
“$10 billion is not enough to invest in the sector. We want the AfDB to look into what they can do directly for the sector. Farmers should be considered by commercial banks in giving them loans, because when the crop are just growing and not yet ready for harvest the banks begin to ask for payment of the loan”, Ogbeh stated.
Also speaking was the Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department, AfDB, Dr. Chiji Ojukwu, disclosed that the bank has concluded plans to provide $12.5 billion to support enterprise and job creation for youth and women in 25 African countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote d’ivoire, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Also, the bank projects 1.2 million agribusiness jobs in the next five years with 250, 000 agribusiness to be created in Africa, where 6, 400 unemployed university and polytechnic graduates will be trained per year in each country. 
There were goodwill messages from the African Union, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Dangote Group.  

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