Boosting food production, jobs for youths

Okeke was empowered through the Graduate Unemployment Youths Support Scheme (GUYSS) and now he is a proud employer of labour with monthly net income of N250, 000. Okeke, from Anambra State, is one of the over 200 youths from various parts of the country empowered through GUYSS. GUYSS is a new initiative of the World Bank-assisted FADAMA III Additional Financing (AF) programme. The Federal Government, in collaboration with the World Bank’s FADAMA III AF Project, launched GUYSS in May.

Emeka Okeke, a young, vibrant and innovative graduate, from a reputable South Eastern University, has wandered the streets of Lagos for three years after graduation, was tired and frustrated of job-hunting. He thought outside the box, amid the national call for diversification of the economy, revenue generation, unemployment reduction and food security.

Okeke saw agriculture as the next big thing and the way forward, he made the bold step, returned to Anambra, his home state and enrolled in their interventional programmes organised by the government, through Fadama project. Okeke was empowered through the Graduate Unemployment Youths Support Scheme (GUYSS) and now he is a proud employer of labour with monthly net income of N250, 000.

Okeke, from Anambra State, is one of the over 200 youths from various parts of the country empowered through GUYSS. GUYSS is a new initiative of the World Bank-assisted FADAMA III Additional Financing (AF) programme.

The Federal Government, in collaboration with the World Bank’s FADAMA III AF Project, launched GUYSS in May. The first phase of the scheme would cover 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The states are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto and Taraba.

World Bank Task Team Leader, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, ‎told journalists that GUYSS would enhance food production and create job opportunities in Nigeria.

At the launch of the scheme, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said that GUYSS would facilitate the attainment of the goals of the Green Alternative Roadmap for the Federal Government’s Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP).

The minister said that the Green Alternative Roadmap recognised the key roles of smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers in maximising agricultural output and increasing efficiency in agricultural operations.

The Fadama III AF, a follow-up to the Fadama II project, which impacted the lives of rural farmers, raising their incomes by 63 percent, is a World Bank funded project aimed at Capacity Building, Small scale community-owned infrastructure, Advisory services and input support development, Support to the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) sponsored research and on-farm demonstrations, Asset acquisition for individual Fadama Users Groups (FUGs), Economic Interest Groups (EIGs), Project management, monitoring and evaluation.

The objective of the project is to sustainably increase the incomes of Fadama land and water resource users to reduce rural poverty, increase food security as well as contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The project takes the Community Driven Development (CDD) approach, which places beneficiaries in the driver’s seat. Local community members, under the umbrella of Fadama Community Associations (FCAs) and FUGs, oversee the design and implementation of the project and are empowered through skills and capacity-building to improve their livelihoods by increasing income-generating activities.

Anambra State Project Coordinator (SPC), Mr. Chuks Egbue, said that Fadama Graduate Unemployed Youth Scheme GUYSS, which is popularly referred to as Fadama GUYS was conceived because of the challenges of dreading youth participation in agriculture.

He said the project has been brainstormed on the issues of aging population in agriculture and came to conclusion that for a nation to make any head way in agriculture the ageing population must be replaced with people who are literate, creative and innovative.

Egbue explained: “It is drawn that yields of primary agricultural products of participating households with 20 per cent increase in yield of cassava, rice, sorghum and horticulture of the households. Additional Funding (AF) focuses on four value chains of cassava, rice, sorghum and horticulture. Surveys at Project shows that at least 75 percent of beneficiaries are satisfied with operations, maintenance and utilization of community-owned infrastructure and capital assets acquired through the project.

“As the direct beneficiaries households will be the producers’ group within the production clusters or sites in the catchment areas and other key players such as, investors, public and private service providers, agro dealers, agro-processors. On average, the project is expected to reach about 317,000 direct in clusters and 1.4 million indirect beneficiaries.”

Egbue, added that Anambra state happens to be one of the six core state of FADAMA III AF as it met both the financial requirement and agreement with the state and federal government.

Egbue continued: “Fadama as a project is youth and gender sensitive. It involves anything that has to do with youth empowerment, taking the youth off the roads. We are training about 300 youths across the state. Anambra happens to be one of the states that agriculture is cherished so much by the Governor. The Willie Obiano administration has supported the Fadama project so much. In fact, in national Fadama ranking Anambra state is ranked as number one when it comes to support from the state government and payment of counterparts support to the project and is only natural that Anambra state participated in the pilot.”

The Coordinator added: “The project is very massive; it will positively affect the economy of the state and of the country because, it is going to have what we call a multiplier effect. Its number one indices are to remove these youths from unemployed market. You can now imagine where by 200 or 300 youths are trained, because when you train a person you have already equipped the person.

“Secondly, by the time the 200 are now empowered they are going to employ minimum of two people through their enterprises. “Thirdly, the production they are going to introduce in the economy. If you now check, these youths that are taking stipends from their parents or people are now going to be producing, now going to be paying, now going to be employers of labor and income earners on their own.

“Our expectation in the project is that the per capital income of the country will be positively affected and beyond that is the multiplier effect, thousands of youth across the states up to four to five thousand youth being employed only by this one singular slip then they employ three or four more people as their own income is growing, the income of the service providers, their suppliers, their off takers and everything, you see the multiplying effect is going to stimulate the economy in a very aggressive way.”

Egbue revealed that the state government is keen in creating employment as 200 youths were earlier trained and are waiting for disbursement also. “For us in Anambra state this is not going to be end of it. The success of this project will now determine the focus and the buy in of the government and other stakeholders in to this project.

“Definitely it is not going to be the last of it; we expect to see more of it. From FADAMA, we are already doing a lot of other youth empowerment project. If you were here the day that we launched the farming season you will notice that youths across the state we empowered came for the commissioning of the rice mill for youth, so these things are ongoing.”

The coordinator admitted that the response of the youth to FADAMA GUYS is heart-warming; that on visiting the training centers you will see the huge acceptance to this project.

Egbue said: “Yes, the youth are resounding, they are also responding positively to the youth programme we have in the project, we have youths and women project, so the youths are responding massively and it is a gradual thing so we expect in the next two-years to five of continuous intervention you will see a tremendous participation of youths. The target is for 40 years and below to participate in agriculture. Only 30percent of youths in Anambra state are into agriculture, but in the next five years we need to push it up to minimum of 60percent participation so that the agricultural sector will become vibrant.”

He added: “Agriculture is the next big thing now, it is not even the big thing, it is the main big thing. It is now fashionable unlike before, a lot of mechanised structures that the youths can use to involve their selves in agriculture and it pays more than any White Collar job you can get. It is the fastest route they can use to become millionaire and live out their dream and also be close to nature so. My message to the youth is that now is the time to participate in agriculture because everybody is focusing on the youths in agriculture. So they should cease the momentum and make career for themselves. I encourage the youth to come over to agriculture and find where their passion is and invest in it.”

Meanwhile a beneficiary, Comrade Nnanna Udoji who is delighted being part of the training, urged his fellow participants to put more effort and use the experience and knowledge acquired to better their lives and create more avenues for others.

“This project is a welcomed development and the opportunities that come with it. The programme is meant for graduate unemployed youths to educate the youth on the need to focus into agriculture, to see that agriculture is the next big thing. The government believed in the youths thereby making available this program. I encourage the state government to keep up his good works because without their support we will not be here,” he said.

Oredipe had told journalists in June that the programme was conceptualised to engage the youths productively in different agricultural endeavours that would enhance their livelihoods.

He further stated: “We are collaborating with the Federal Government to ensure the success of the programme. The programme is targeting job creation, building the capacity of the youth and facilitating efforts to keep the foreign exchange rate of the nation’s currency low. We want to eliminate the importation of rice and tomatoes in order to reduce the pressure on the naira and make the national economy strong‎.’’

Oredipe said that the programme would support all aspects of agricultural production as business ventures; right from crops to livestock production, inputs support and supply as well as advisory services.

He also said there would be extension services for the beneficiaries on post-harvest measures, including warehousing, marketing and products distribution.

The World Bank official said that the target beneficiaries of GUYSS would be secondary school certificate holders, undergraduates and graduates between the ages 18 and 35 years.

He pledged that the scheme would ensure transparency in the selection of beneficiaries. Oredipe had said that that the programme would start before July with a starter pack for the successful candidates.

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