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New opportunity for unemployed youths



New opportunity for unemployed youths

The recent inauguration of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme (ATASP-1) Youth Training Centre in Abuja, has opened a new window of opportunity for youths who may want to abandon the wild goose chase white collar’ jobs in the country. CALEB ONWE reports



The establishment of the training centre, was part of the government’s strategic plans to return agriculture to a place of pride in the country. It was designed to woo the youths to mechanised farming. Before now, youths, especially the educated ones, did not see the possibility of realising their dreams through agriculture and therefore never considered it as an option in their search for a means of livelihood.

The modern day youth’s perception of agriculture as an express highway to poverty or a death sentence, may not be far from the fact that most peasant farmers lived in the rural areas and died in penury, without achieving the true happiness they desired in their lives.

Many still wallow in unprecedented poverty despite their hard work on the farm. Having realised the need to diversify the economy to agriculture, government is leveraging on the strength and resourcefulness of the younger generation. It is making frantic efforts to change the negative mindset of the youths which has been a major threat to the development of agriculture in Nigeria.

ATAS P-1 at a glance

Inside Abuja gathered that Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program(ATASP-1) is an African Development Bank (AFDB) supported agriculture program, designed to aid full achievement of the present administration’s Green Alternative.

The program was said to have been created as a sure vehicle for food and nutrition security, employment generation and wealth creation along rice, sorghum and cassava value chains. Inside Abuja also gathered that the program has inbuilt capacity to create 120,000 jobs, train and empower about 200,000 youths and women as well as produce 20,000 metric tonnes of the key commodity food crops per annum for a period of five years.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who commissioned the project, expressed confidence on government policies already reeled out for agricultural transformation. Ogbeh also advised youths to take full advantage of the centre to become self reliant and gainfully employed.

“Do not depend on anybody, even politicians. Only trust yourself” Ogbeh said. The Minister, who showed some sign of fulfilment on hearing that many youths were already showing interest in the program, said that more incentives were on the way for youths who will show serious commitment to agribusiness and any activity that would compliment the efforts of government towards the development of the sector. Inside Abuja’s also gathered that the commissioning of the centre heralds a new session of National Agribusiness Youths Training on Seed Production and Processing Technology.

With the training, participants are expected to acquire requisite skills that would make them key players in agribusiness value chain development. According to the National Programme Coordinator, Mr. Haruna Akwashiki, the program is focusing on expanding economic opportunities in the agricultural sector by increasing agricultural productivity, enhancing value-added processing, and increasing commercialisation through private-sector led and market-driven process.

“The objective of this training is to train Youths farmers in the seven participating states as seed entrepreneurs on rice, cassava and sorghum. The training will run concurrently in three centres as mentioned earlier. “A total of 200 youths farmers will be trained and empowered.

This is one of the sustainability measures being put in place. This intervention therefore will provide employment; enhance productivity and income and wealth creation along the commodity value chains for our beneficiaries and teaming youths” Akwashiki said.

A new lease of life for the sector

One of the attributes of the training that appears to have provided the missing link in the development of agriculture sector in Nigeria, was the revelation that the program has the capacity to create a platform for local seed development in Nigeria.

National Program Coordinator of ATASP-1, who noted that seeds are the basic input for all crop production and they play a major role in determining the level of crop yields and farmers’ investment, also stated that a collaborative relationship has been established between his office and 15 Nigeria seeds companies, for seeds multiplication.

“A total of 7.5 metric tons of rice breeders’ seeds and 20 metric tons of rice foundation seeds were distributed to rice out growers through the seeds companies in 2016 for production and multiplication in different locations” he added.

Inter-agency collaboration

The Head of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Abuja Office, Dr. Gbassey Tarawali, stated that IITA as a research-for- development organisation, is providing solution to hunger, poverty and the degradation of natural resources in Africa. He noted that IITA will continue to partner with government and other stakeholders in enhancing food and nutrition security, while increasing employment. Inside Abuja learnt that IITA, with agriculture focused mandate since 1967, is a major partner in implementing the ATASP-1 blueprint.

IITA, in whose premises the Youth Training Centre was built, was also said to have initiated several youth empowerment programs, including, Youth Agripreneurs program, a platform for creating jobs and making agriculture appealing to the youths.

Tarawali further said that IITA Abuja office in partnering with ATASP-1, would continue to serve as a strategic hub in Africa for showcasing agricultural technologies to donors, embassies, development partners, and government agencies.

Tarawali, who also doubles as the Outreach Coordinator of ATASP-1, said the program would remain committed to supporting capacity development activities in the seed sector to increase the availability of improved agricultural seed. “Wearing the hat of Outreach Coordinator, let me comment on ATASP-1.

The aim of the program is to transform Nigeria’s cassava, rice, and sorghum sectors through a novel outreach program being pioneered by three CGIAR Centres(IITA, AfricaRice, and ICRISAT)and their national research partners (NRCRI, NCRI, and IAR, respectively” he said.

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