The British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) recently empowered three young women with N7.5m through its Wealth is Here campaign.
The company said the empowerment was done to help tackle youth unemployment, encourage young agric-entrepreneurs and help them have access to finance to establish and build viable businesses,
Speaking during the launch of the Campaign in Lagos recently, Executive Director, BATNF, Ms Abimbola Okoya, explained that N700 million has been set aside to tackle youth unemployment through agriculture under a five-year plan that will last till 2022.
She said the programme aims to increase employment opportunities for youths, adding that it provides them guidance and training in value adding and food processing practices.
“Nigeria has the potential to become the food basket but to achieve this, efforts must be channelled towards harnessing knowledge and skills to realise the potential.
“The foundation is committed to turning the massive natural endowment of the sector into competitive advantages that create wealth and sustainable agribusiness jobs for youth,” she said.
She further stated that the foundation is determined to work with the government to radically transform agriculture into a business-oriented and commercially viable sector that guarantees food self-sufficiency and puts an end to food insecurity, malnutrition and other related challenges.
Managing Director, BAT Nigeria, Yorub Al-Bahrani said the foundation was established in 2002 to support the socioeconomic development of the country.
He said with an investment of over N1.6 billion in sustainable agriculture, the foundation has reached over 36,000 farmers. The impact was threatened by the mass migration of youths to other countries that promise economic liberation, he noted.
Al-Bahrani noted that the country is rich in agriculture, informing that in the second quarter of this year, the sector contributed 21.9 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) and was ranked third highest in the non-oil sector.
Chairman, board of directors, BATNF, Kola Jamodu, stated that human and natural resources are pillars of any strong economy and building a strong economy has been the focus of so many successive administrations.
“On one hand, there are predominantly elderly and uniformed smallholder farmers in the field, many of whom live in rural communities, their level of education inhabits their ability to accept and adapt good agricultural practices for high yields, climate resilience and optimum profits.
“On the other hand, many of the educated Nigerian youth are not interested in agriculture but seem pre-occupied with migrating to Canada, Europe or any other place that looks more promising.
“The objective of the campaign is to change the mindset of Nigerians to believe they can excel in Nigeria by exposing them to entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture and providing access to finance and markets to enable young people establish viable business enterprises.”
He added that the campaign was a reminder of the opportunities in agriculture awaiting those willing and diligent to seek it.
The organisers urged the winners to use their winning funds wisely and encourage other youths to develop ideas.
First prize winner, Iyiola Taiwo, a graduate of Forestry and Wood Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure who is currently serving at the State Ministry, Abeokuta, Ogun State won N5m. She said she already has her business but lacks funds to expand it.
She expressed happiness over the support she got from BATNF. “I am excited because I have a lot of ideas that won’t work without funds. With this fund, it is a stepping stool to make this project come to light. With this, we will do more than they expected from us and not disappoint them.
“I am into bee-keeping and honey production,; with this, we will be expanding greatly in terms of number of hives and getting modern equipment that will facilitate our work.
“With increase in hives, we will be able to increase our output. In fact, we have more demands than what we can actually produce. So, we will have more pure honey out there than the adulterated ones with this.”
She appreciated the foundation and promised to work harder to encourage other youths.