The Federal Government’s plan to utilise the last tranche of its US$175 million loan supported by the African development Bank (AfDB) to create 40,000 jobs for Nigerian youths in the agricultural sector is commendable. The project, according to the National Programme Coordinator of Agriculture Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase I (ATASP-I), Ibrahim Arabi, is funded by the AfDB in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
This plan cannot be faulted. Agriculture and its entire value chain is one good sector which governments at all levels can use to not only wean the economy from its overdependence on crude oil, but also solve the youth unemployment problem, reduce poverty and create wealth. For agriculture to continue to be the mainstay of the nation’s economy, there is urgent need for huge investments in the sector. The 40,000 youths who are earmarked to benefit from this phase of the programme is significant enough, if properly harnessed. It will also reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
As the programme envisages, investments in agriculture would also include updating rural roads and infrastructure that would aid the eventual evacuation of the foods produced. There is need to build post-harvest and storage infrastructure as well as packaging for exports. Government should provide extension services to the farmers. It will be recalled that Nigeria is reportedly losing N9 billion annually to post-harvest losses. We commend the government for this intervention and plead that the programme should be closely monitored to achieve its objectives. In future, government should expand the programme to cover the rest of the country.
Taking only 33 local governments in seven states out of the 774 local governments in the country is not far-reaching enough. Nevertheless, it is a good starting point. The nation’s unemployment figure was put at 23.1 per cent as at May this year. The nation’s youth unemployment rate was put at 40 per cent as at 2018. The unemployment rate has been projected to reach 33.5 per cent by 2020.
The United Nations Environmental Eco-system Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly has enjoined Nigeria and other African countries to substantially reduce the rising youth unemployment. To solve this problem, the agency recommends that the government should create 11 million new jobs every year. Good enough, the Federal Government has revealed that an estimated 600 million jobs would be needed by the year 2030. Government has indicated that about 40 million jobs would be needed every year to solve the problem. Therefore, the government should do more to ensure that it meets this target.
To ensure transparency in the new agric intervention project, we advise that the selection of the 40, 000 youths for the programme should be based on merit. The project should never be allowed to be hijacked by politicians. Those in charge of the project must set achievable goals with realistic deadlines.
There is no doubt that agriculture should be the live wire of the economy. It remains the best sector that government can use to create massive jobs. Nigeria is endowed with enough land for agriculture.
Available statistics show that Nigeria has not less than 98.3 million hectares of arable land. Out of this, 72.2 million hectares are cultivable. However, it is regrettable that only 34.2 million hectares were cultivated. Therefore, the government should do more to create jobs through agriculture. It will also help to diversify the economy. Let government be steadfast in the creation of the 40,000 jobs.