Agriculture As Panacea For Youth Unemployment

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    Tilling the ground and rearing of cattle were the chief employments in ancient times. The Egyptians excelled in agriculture and after the Israelites entered into the possession of the Promised Land, their circumstances favoured in the highest degree a remarkable development of this art. Agriculture became indeed the basis of the Mosaic common wealth.
    Before the advent of crude oil in commercial quantity in Nigeria, agriculture was also the main stay of economy as products like Cocoa, Timber, Cotton, Groundnut, Hides and Skin, Palm oil among others were exported in large quantities which resulted availability of foreign exchange for development and employment not only for the youth but all unemployed persons of various ages.
    However, when oil was discovered in commercial quantities about 60 years ago, these agricultural products and their relevance to the development of the country were relegated to the background which eventually led to the unemployment burden Nigerians are facing in recent time.
    Recently, analysts who discussed the issue of unemployment in Nigeria at different forum opine that unemployment in Nigeria is one of the most critical problems the country is facing in spite of its diverse and infinite resources.
    They observe that while schools turn out millions of graduates every year, the labour market absorbs only a small fraction of them.
    For instance, the International Labour Organisation says in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria inclusive, unemployment affects between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the workforce.
    It notes that young people comprise more than 40 per cent of the total number of the employed in most cases.
    In the light of this, the Federal Government inaugurated Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) in December 2014 to address the rate of unemployment in the country.
    The programme is intended to create a new generation of 750,000 young commercial farmers and agribusiness leaders (Nagropreneurs) that will make Nigeria’s agriculture more efficient, profitable and competitive.
    The Federal Government says Nagropreneurs will become the chief executive officers of their farms and agribusinesses, creating jobs in the rural areas and reversing the trend of high rural to urban migration.
    Similarly, the Federal Government is to empower 740,000 market-oriented young agricultural producers in rural areas by the programme.
    Dr Shehu Ahmed, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the programme had begun in Bauchi State, Imo, Katsina State, Lagos State, Niger and Rivers.
    He said that the beneficiaries of the project would include 20,000 school leavers and rural youth leaders from each state.
    He also said the programme would develop additional 18,500 university graduates, who would be formed into young agribusiness entrepreneurs. Ahmed explained that the beneficiaries of YEAP would enjoy support from the federal and state governments in areas of access to land, technical, entrepreneurial, financial business and marketing assistance. However, he commended the efforts of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for providing assistance for the ministry by strengthening the capacities to implement the programme in the pilot states and solicited expansion of the programmes to more states.
    Stressing the importance of agriculture to creation of jobs, Ms Louise Setshwaelo, FAO Representative in Nigeria, said the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the organisation designed YEAP to provide necessary skills and opportunities for the youth.
    According to her, the youth segment forms one of the greatest assets Nigeria can take advantage of to eradicate poverty.
    She said that the organisation would continue to collaborate with the federal and state governments in the implementation of the programme. Similarly, Mr Bill Reese, the President, International Youth Foundation, said that agriculture was a potential solution to millions of unem¬ployed African youths.
    He observed that although Africa boasts of seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, majority of its young people lived in poverty and struggle to find employment.
    “With a combination of investments, innovation and ingenuity, agri¬culture could become a driving force across Africa,’’ he observed.
    Therefore, Mr Ezekiel Ogbianko, the Chairman Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Bayelsa chapter, urged young farmers to register with the association to accelerate more development in agriculture, reduce unemployment and boost the nation’s economy.
    “I must say that this year’s programme would create more jobs for the people; presently, we have about 40 youths working with us on the 40, 000 hectares of land,’’ he said.
    He urged the Federal Government to deepen youth empowerment through agriculture, saying that such move would boost job creation. Ogbianko added that enhancing youth empowerment through agriculture would not only reduce unemployment, but boost the nation’s economy and improve food supply to the citizenry.
    “No nation does it well without farming; there is need to improve our food production, we cannot depend on importation of rice for us to survive.
    “We need young hands in agriculture; the nation is facing dwindling revenue today because we have solely relied on oil and gas.
    “The Federal Government should create a platform that can enable the youth to have easy access to agricultural loan for cassava, rice, beans, vegetable and fruits,’’ he said.
    In the same vein, Mr Rotimi Oloye, the National Secretary, Catfish Association of Nigeria, Oyo State chapter, called on the youth to embrace aquaculture as a source of employment.
    “To curb prevailing unemployment in the country the youth should engage in catfish and tilapia farming.
    “We are imploring our youths, especially the unemployed, to cultivate interest in fish farming; they should change from looking for employment to being employers of labour,’’ Oloye advised.
    He also urged them to practise aquaculture and seek employment in agricultural research institutes which has the potential to develop their interests in agriculture.
    Oloye said that the result of the youth involvement in the research process would contribute to the growth of the agriculture sector.
    Dr Olutayo Adenekan, the Vocational Training Coordinator, Federal College of Agriculture, Ibadan, in his view appealed to the Federal Government to train more youths in various fields of agriculture.
    He noted that training and empowering youths and women, especially in agriculture, would reduce poverty and ensure food security in the country.
    He said that the college had been training unemployed people, retirees and farmers, among others, on various skills acquisitions over the years through the sponsorship of the Federal Government.
    Adenekan said the training included use and maintenance of agricultural machinery, cassava processing, fish, poultry and honey production.
    The coordinator said that the training was aimed at imparting knowledge of modern techniques and cost effective methods of agricultural production to the trainees.
    All in all, observers note that policy makers should always focus on engaging and empowering young people in agriculture as a way of diversifying the economy