President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered that all abandoned farm estates be reactivated to allow for youth participation in farming.
He told agencies overseeing the agricultural sector to further streamline their priorities with the inclusion of youths in driving modern methods of farming.
Speaking at the launch of the National Young Farmers Scheme designed by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to spur more youth interest in farming, the president assured all those interested that an enabling environment will be created for their full participation.
He noted that agriculture remained the backbone of Nigeria’s economy, being the largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
A statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying, “We will do more to expand, modernise and revolutionize our agriculture, which is our most important asset.
“I have directed that all NALDA’s abandoned farm estates be retrieved to enable thousands of our young men and women to be engaged in farming. This Administration will be achieving agricultural mechanisation through this scheme and I am confident that Nigeria under my watch, we will achieve food security in producing most of what we eat. In good harvest years we may even export our surpluses and earn foreign exchange”.
President Buhari noted that the resuscitation of NALDA will make Nigeria food sufficient and in a few years begin to earn more revenue from export of agricultural commodities.
He stated: “By virtue of my passion and desire for agriculture and also as a farmer myself, I am directly supervising NALDA as an authority under the Presidency.
“I am asking the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and State Governments to give full cooperation to NALDA in its activities. With the success of Anchor Borrowers programme spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria and new programmes to revive cotton, palm products and cocoa,
the next few years will see a vast difference in our agricultural performance”.
The president added that all the necessary approvals that NALDA requires for effective take-off, beginning with areas of adequate land preparation for crop farming and livestock rearing, had been given, charging the Executive Secretary/CEO of NALDA and his team to continue to live up to expectations and increase their activities in local communities.
“I am told that so far, 4,333 families have benefited from this scheme and it is expected that many more individuals and families will benefit as the programme is rolled out.
“I now flag off the National Young Farmers’ Scheme. It is my expectation that the Scheme will take in young Nigerians, graduates and non-graduates alike, and be part of this government’s effort to reduce unemployment and contribute to the regeneration of agriculture and our economy.”
For his part, Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, told State House correspondents that the scheme has been in the works for nine months, a development that shows President Buhari always has the youth in mind.
He said, “This young farmers scheme has been in the works for the past 9 months. So it is further evidence that the president has always had the youths of Nigeria at heart, he is busy thinking what programmes can solve their access to lands as indeed he has solved their access to capital.
“Today there are so many financing schemes that anyone who is willing and able can access credit. Yet again, we are taking steps to solve access to lands which is a major issues, particularly for young people in agriculture weather farmers, those in livestock or aquaculture.”
Also speaking, the Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, commended the President for his steadfastness in repositioning the agricultural sector since coming to office, opining that the country had already felt the impact of the policies of the administration.
The Senate president said there was need to encourage agricultural agencies, like NALDA, to work closely with the research institutions in Nigerian universities.
The executive secretary/CEO of NALDA, Mr Paul Ikonne, said the discovery of oil in the country hampered the growth of agriculture and increased poverty in rural communities, assuring the President that the concerted effort to revive interest in farming will tackle poverty and create wealth.
Ikonne said the resuscitation of NALDA after close to 20 years of abandonment will go a long way in reducing unemployment in the country, especially among the youth.
“Our focus is to engage 1,000 farmers from each of the 774 local government areas, thereby creating 774,000, direct employment annually,’’ he added.
Goodwill messages were given by a representative of the Young Farmers, Fatima Usman Musa and Denmark Ambassador to Nigeria, Jesper Kamp.
Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, also participated in the event.