Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, has reiterated that under his watch, Nigeria will achieve food security in producing most of what the citizens eat, projecting that in good harvest years the country may export surpluses and earn foreign exchange.
He spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at the launch of National Young Farmers Scheme, designed by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to spur more youth interest in farming.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari urged agencies involved in agriculture to further streamline their priorities in the inclusion of youth in driving modern methods of farming while assuring all those interested that an enabling environment will be created for full participation.
According to him, agriculture remains the backbone of the Nigerian economy, being the largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We will do more to expand, modernize 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 mechanization 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.
“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 said 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.’’
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.
He said the launch of the scheme was an answer to the #ENDSARS protesters demand.
He said there was a need to encourage agricultural agencies, like NALDA, to work closely with the research institutions in Nigerian universities.
“I want to congratulate Mr. President for the flagging off the National Young Farmers Scheme, which is to be operated by National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA). It is one Programme that is aimed at providing agricultural opportunities for our young people, especially those that live in rural areas and even those in urban centers, who because of better environment of farming would now take to farming.
NALDA will be preparing the land and giving other necessary agricultural inputs to our young farmers. For me, this is one of the good ways of responding to the #ENDSARS protests by our young people. Because, agriculture is one sub-sector in our economy that would provide more employment opportunities than any other. So I believe that Mr. President has taken the right decision by engaging in this national enterprise and initiative. I believe that we need to provide food for ourselves like Mr. President said, we need to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, this is one way of responding to it.
Agriculture has for a long time in this country been encumbered by land clearance because it is expensive, so we need government to come in and give some kind of support. So NALDA is now primed to provide the opportunity there. And from land clearing to the agricultural value-chain, that is producing, processing, marketing agriculture products, our economy will breath in fresh air and will create employment opportunities. In the process we will create wealth, revamp our economy, we will sustained the kind of attention that our young people will now have if they are engage in the rural area, instead of the drift from the rural areas to the urban centers looking for jobs that are not there and people can be settled.
But this is not only about agriculture, it’s about our economy, security and political stability. So, once we are able to get our agricultural sector functioning optimally, the Nigerian economy will be better, our environment will be safer and stable and of course on the security issues, all these banditry and herdsmen issues will begin to come down because our youths will have where to channel their energy rather than engage in destructive enterprises.”
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, Amb. 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.