By Abdallah el-Kurebe
The Federal government, through the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has revealed that in its efforts to bridge funding challenges in the sector, it is set to invest $300 million to fund youths in agriculture.
He also assured that 20% of an initial grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the Islamic Bank, was to be channeled to support the development of women and youth in Agriculture at a total cost of N100 million annually, for a five year period.
Senator Lokpobiri made the disclosure while fielding questions from Journalists at a media briefing to declare Open the Empowering Novel Agri-Business Led Employment (ENABLE) Conference, which began in Abuja Yesterday
The ENABLE Conference, which envisages to host 30 African countries is championed by the African Development Bank (ADB) in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
According to the Minister, as a way to support the Youth, the government was set to invest $300 million to fund youths in agriculture as a means to cutting down the nations food import bill, which stands at over N20 billion Naira.
Senator Lokpobiri, who said the programme would be duplicated across the nations’ 309 Senatorial Zones with the ultimate aim of empowering the Nigerian Youth and bringing down the nations food import bill, lamented that Nigeria had become a dumping ground for all manner of poisonous foods including poultry pumped and preserved with formaldehyde.
“We cannot continue to import food at this time. With Nigeria being the highest producer of cassava and the high demand for ethanol, the federal government is in the process of acquiring 18-20 cassava processing plants from China.
“N6 million worth of rice was daily imported and over 20 million eggs respectively as Nigeria suffered a 100 million tonnes deficit in egg production,” he said.
The Minister also revealed that the federal government was set to unfold the sectors roadmap in a few weeks for the development of agriculture.
Meanwhile, the ENABLE programme is a mechanism for empowering graduate youths and directing them to careers in agri businesses base on the agripreneurs (Agricultural entrepreneurs).
It is a five year programme organised on four platforms, which include creating an enabling environment for youth employment, supporting agribusiness incubation, financing agribusinesses as well as coordinating, monitoring and evaluation.
The program aims to create jobs, food security and rural income generation. It is supported with $12.5 billion and targets 1.25 agribusinesses jobs in 25 countries, including Nigeria.