Making Agriculture More Attractive To Rural Youths

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The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) was established vide Decree No.92 of 1992 to address chronic and nagging issues such as low level of utilisation of abundant farmland and rural labour resources as well as the high cost of land development. CHIBUZOR EMEJOR writes on the current activities of the authority and its project to make agriculture attractive to young people

It was designed to address issues such as land development, extension and input distribution, farmers’ mobilisation and empowerment as well as rural industrialisation and skills development across the states of the federation and Abuja.

According to the National Agricultural Land Development Authority blueprint, “Its goal is for the optimal use of the nation’s land and human resources to uplift the quality of rural life.”  Just like some of the government’s intervention programmes, NALDA in 2000, went into extinction following the merging or fusion of agencies by then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

However, it is on record that during the period between 1992 and 2000 when NALDA intervened in the agricultural development of Nigeria, remarkable progress was made in the performance of the agricultural sector, as more lands were opened up and cultivated within a short time.

Perhaps, it was for this reason in 2016 that prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to amend the Act establishing it and resuscitated the authority to optimally deliver on its mandate of developing the rural communities through agriculture. Subsequently, President Buhari appointed Prince Paul Ikonne, as the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of NALDA. Until his appointment, Ikonne has been a founding father of the All Progressives Congress in Abia State and a Commissioner for Lands between 2007 and 2008 as well as Commissioner for Works and Transport between 2008 to 2009, among other positions he held in Abia State.

At a media parley in Abuja shortly after his appointment in June 2020, he vowed to turn the fortunes of the agricultural sector around through NALDA. Ikonne, who outlined three thematic areas for short-term gains, said a total of 774,000 youths would be engaged across the 774 local government areas for various agricultural programmes. According to him, under its National Young Farmers Scheme (NYFS), the authority’s focus is on encouraging the Nigerian youth to participate in agriculture.

“Our goal would be to attract, encourage and empower 1,000 farmers from each of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria annually, cutting across the entire agricultural value chain.

This is part of the agency’s mandate towards the implementation of the Federal Government’s agenda to ensure food sufficiency and diversify the nation’s economy

Explaining the breakdown, he said, “The Pilot Phase of the NYFS programme will be empowering 100 young farmers in animal husbandry (rabbit and goat rearing) from three LGAs in 18 States for a total of 5,400 new young farmers, including the FCT.  This Pilot Programme will be executed in cycles, following a Revolving Model, such as “Farmers are to be identified and sorted into goat farmers and rabbit farmers, and trained accordingly.

“Three goats (one male, two females) are given to the goat farmers and five rabbits (one male, four females) are given to the rabbit farmers to nurture to maturity.  After a period of three months, 10 rabbits will be collected from each rabbit farmer, and one goat will be collected from each goat farmer.

“The collected animals will be pooled, and a new batch of farmers will be identified, trained and given animals to nurture to maturity, and hence a new cycle commences. A farmer who participates in the cycle above for 30 months, owns his animals and whatever proceeds they may give him, the farmer can also sell his animals and proceeds back to NALDA. Using this system, our projected farmer growth will be exponential after three cycles.

“The financial benefit of this programme to the farmers is immense, taking the rabbit, for instance, a farmer has at least three major avenues for income from a rabbit colony namely from meat, skin and fur, as well as waste products.

Explaining further, Ikonne said “A farmer can make up to N50,000, from the meat as it is highly nutritious and rich in protein. He can also make up to 30,000 to N40,000 from the hide and skin of rabbits, as they are used in making clothes and sandals.

“On the waste products of rabbits,” he said, “a farmer could make between N30,000 to 40,000 from the rabbits, as the waste products are excellent alternatives to chemical fertilisers, being rich in nitrogen and phosphorous.”

To get the buy-in of the wider spectrum of the society, the Executive Secretary said the authority was already in discussions with the military and paramilitary organisations, National Assembly members, civil and public servants, journalists, corporate bodies, religious organisations and individuals on how to utilise Nigeria’s vast arable land to boost food productivity and attain food security.

Ikonne

“Our short-term programmes are providing farm inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers; machinery, environmentally friendly crop protection agents, growth enhancers and training which will be given to already existing farmers and this will assist them during this farming season in order to improve their yield.

Another programme, Back to Farm Initiative, he explained, has been designed to create awareness and drum support from the populace on the need for all Nigerians to go back to the farm, assuring that agriculture would be made attractive particularly to the youth, through innovative methods of farming.

Ikonne, while emphasising the need for mechanised agriculture, stated that the core mandate of NALDA was to create wealth for the country through farming. He said the authority would partner with other sister agencies to make Nigeria an agro produce exporting country. Ikonne, therefore, called for volunteers and other interested persons to register through a dedicated website.

“NALDA will partner with other government agencies and international organisations in order to attain food sufficiency and make agriculture the main source of revenue for Nigeria from export. We have work to do, we are conscious of that and have assembled a team of professionals and we will keep co-opting more committed, knowledgeable and dedicated people to work with.

“I call on patriotic Nigerians who are interested in working with NALDA as volunteers to go to our website www.nalda.ng to register. I use this opportunity to call on all Nigerians and stakeholders, to see agriculture as a business,” he said.

Already, many critical stakeholders and public office holders have commended various initiatives introduced by NALDA to make Nigeria the powerhouse of food production. For instance, during the Executive Secretary’s visit to Katsina State, the Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, applauded him.

I“I believe this approach is a major departure from what NALDA used to do, this is a more practical approach and it will impact directly on the rural and national economy. About 80 per cent of our people are farmers and we have projected that our engagement with NALDA will create more jobs for our people, while also boosting the rural economy. To this end, Masari promised that Katsina State government would provide agricultural land for NALDA for the purpose of training and engaging youths under the programme

Also, the NALDA delegation visited the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji AbdulMumini Kabir Usman, where the Emir also pledged support for the programme and said his people will lease uncultivated lands to NALDA  to engage young people and boost the local economy as well.

At a recent virtual meeting with the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, and management, Ikonne expressed the readiness of NALDA to partner with NYSC to train corps members on new farming techniques with value chain benefits that would make them self-employed, produce food for the country and create wealth for themselves and also become employers of labour.

He described the Corps as a veritable platform to harness skills of young Nigerians and graduates towards achieving self-employment and national development. He said: “This is part of the agency’s mandate towards the implementation of the Federal Government’s agenda to ensure food sufficiency and diversify the nation’s economy.

Responding, the NYSC DG, General Ibrahim, commended NALDA for the partnership move with NYSC, saying that the partnership will be of enormous benefit to corps members who most at times end up in the labour market waiting for white-collar jobs. But with the Back-To-Farm Initiative, basically designed for Nigerian youth, it would add value to their lives and secure their future as entrepreneurs along various value chains in the agricultural sector and contribute to the growth and development of the economy.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, also hailed NALDA’s Back-to-Farm initiative towards boosting food production and job creation for young Nigerians. Lawan, at a courtesy visit of the Executive Secretary to his office at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, said members of NASS will sensitise, engage, and make their constituents understand and key into the NALDA’s Back-to-Farm initiative.

Lawan, however, urged the NALDA boss to see how to strategise and ensure farmers have access to the market to sell their produce, which will serve as a catalyst to boost productivity and performance of farmers and investors. He also assured that his colleagues will be part of it and identify with the initiative as it will tackle hunger, unemployment, and wealth creation being a national programme cutting across the 774 local government areas of the 36 states and Abuja.

In all, stakeholders also called on the government to ensure the sustainability of the programme through adequate funding for better performance. Apart from funding, there is the need for inputs sourcing and purchase, machinery acquisition and repairs, training of programme staff and programme publicity.

Other areas recommended include the reactivation of Nigeria produce marketing board as a way of standardising the agricultural produce for better foreign exchange earnings of the country and improving the standard of living of the farmers.

 

 

 

 

 

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