Penultimate Friday, the first batch of 300 beneficiaries in the Youth Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Project (YEAP), an initiative of the Oyo State Governor, ‘Seyi Makinde-led administration, graduated at the CSS Integrated Farms, Gora, Nasarawa State, amid pomp and ceremony.
YEAP’s main objective is to empower youths through agriculture and agriculture value chain, as the governor once stated that addressing youth unemployment and channeling them towards productive ventures, is a top priority of his government.
This is unlike the usual practice of politicians who specialize in priming youths ti become commercial Okada riders and layabouts.
The event, which was held at the International Skills Acquisition Centre (ISAC) inside the farms, saw the trainees learning the nitty-gritty of agribusiness within two weeks and were also exposed to ground-breaking innovations in cassava value chain, poultry farming, chicken processing, livestock farming, fish farming and management, irrigation system, hydroponics farming, ICT application in agribusiness and farm management, among others.
Like the proverbial saying about teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish, the state government’s partnership with CSS Farms culminated in the making of the first set of agripreneurs, who graduated after the two-week intensive training.
Speaking at the event, Governor Makinde expressed his excitement with the outcome of the training programme and the potential of the initiative to make multiple young millionaires in the state and the eventual impact they would have on the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.
“You are important to us…we will support you to succeed,” the governor said.
Makinde had, while addressing the enthusiastic graduating youths, maintained that the initiative came to be as a result of his administration’s commitment to empower youths in the real sense of the word, so that they can empower others and thereby lift Oyo State from poverty to prosperity.
The governor noted that he recognises the importance of empowering the youths, as someone who began to make money and pay salaries since he was 29.
Makinde, who appreciated the youths for first having faith in him by supporting him to govern the state, said that it was clear that the idea of politicians using youths as political thugs and/or procuring commercial motorcycles for them in the name of empowerment could no longer be allowed to hold sway.
As he clearly adumbrated while addressing the youths, who appeared to have been fired up by the lessons they received and the pep talk from the chairman of the CSS Farms, Prof. Johnkennedy Opara, who talked about vision and what it takes to make a difference, Governor Makinde said it was time to partner with the youths and work with them to achieve their dreams.
In order to do this, he said, his government would not leave anything to chance, as according to him, “gone are the days when all that politicians want to do with our youths is use them as political thugs during electioneering and once the election is over, they forget them.
“But now, we want to partner with you. We want to empower you in the real sense of empowerment so that you can also empower others and you can lead our state from poverty to prosperity.
“The governor had equally made it clear that the state government would not just train the youths and abandon them; but that it would support the beneficiaries in a number of ways. Apart from already securing a partnership with a new generation bank to assist the beneficiaries with start-up capital, the state government made a commitment to look for markets for whatever the beneficiaries will produce.
For those who know Makinde and his penchant for always looking at the bigger picture and seeking value for money, it would be clear that what the state is striking at in empowering the youths for exploits in agribusiness is the transformation of its economy into a multi-billion Naira economy through agriculture and agriculture value chain.This sits well with key pillar of the administration’s four service point agenda, which has to do with the expansion of Oyo State’s economy through agriculture and agriculture value chain.
The determination to use agribusiness to launch the state’s economy to greater heights, again, brought to bear the governor’s fecundity in innovative leadership in Gora, when he announced that instead of 3,300 youths scheduled to be trained in the scheme, 10,000 youths from the state will now benefit from the agribusiness empowerment.
“I saw the energy you displayed and I saw the commitment from the CSS team. This programme was going to run for six months and we would have trained 600 people every month for almost six months back to back. But with the simple arithmetic I did, we will increase the number to 10,000,” the governor said.
The governor explained the rationale behind increasing the number of beneficiaries thus: “The training will go on till the end of next year. If we finish training the 10,000 and we are able to successfully empower you. If each of you are turning in over N10 Million annually in terms of business, that is a 100billion Naira economy for Oyo State and I know it is possible.
“If you are raising a thousand chickens, it’s about N230,000, which is about the cost of one okada. How much can one okada give to one individual in one year? But in three to four months, you can turn that N230,000 to N2.5 Million and if you do that four times in a year, that is N10 Million Naira.”
Why CSS Farms?
With the number of beneficiaries increased to 10,000 and with the multiplier effects that such empowerment would have in the state where youth unemployment is a major challenge, the imperative of the youths learning from the best then became clearer.
“Thus, the choice of CSS Farms, an integrated farm with a farm to fork approach and several groundbreaking records including a record yield of 5.2 tons of maize per hectare at a time the IITA reckoned a 1.9 tons per hectare as the highest yield in Nigeria, and an unmatched expertise in several fields of agriculture and agriculture value chain, cannot but be described as strategic and important.”
The Director-General of the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) and Coordinator of the YEAP initiative, Dr. Debo Akande, while explaining the rationale behind the state’s decision to choose CSS Farms for the well-timed initiative, said that though the state is already building an agribusiness incubation and training centre in Awe, its choice of CSS Farms was due to the integrated farming approach employed by the outfit.
He said: “Practically, we are already building a training centre in Oyo State at Awe but it is still under construction. We cannot wait until the construction gets finalised before we start doing what we need to do or else the planting season is going to be over.
“But we discovered this particular training centre owned by a private sector within Nasarawa that is integrated, meaning that it has all you can talk about from farm to fork.
“You rarely find that anywhere. What you will probably find in different places is either one is for research, another is for crop production or one is for processing and another is for marketing, but not in a place where you have all concentrated together in the same location.
“So, this is an opportunity for us to bring all the young ones within the same location. And it is cheaper to do that. Beyond that, they have some crop of comparative advantages that probably some other places do not have. They combine many crops.
“I can tell you that I know what the mandate crop of IITA is and that of NIHORT but this particular institution combined many of these crops. They are dealing in vegetables, rice, tuber and many others.
“The interesting thing is that the areas where they don’t even have a comparative advantage, we had the IITA trainers that came here, partnered with them to train. We have trainers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that came to train the young ones here in Nasarawa.
“So, it is a partnership. But the only thing that has made us come here is because the facility, which is currently available here, caters for our needs but this is for the short term. In the long term, we will be using the primary facility we are using in Oyo State.
“We will make immediate impact”
Speaking on their experiences and hopes after the graduation ceremony, beneficiaries of the programme lauded the governor for, again, daring to be different, by introducing an initiative that would empower the youths and liberate thousands from poverty instead of handing out peanuts or even ‘empowering’ youths with commercial motorcycles.
They also commended the state government for opening the opportunity of the initiative to all and sundry, noting that the Makinde government has proven itself as an administration that believes in fairness and merit, as all beneficiaries got the training opportunity without any sort of influence or ‘connection.’
Ogundiran Omosalewa, a beneficiary, commended Governor Makinde for the opportunity provided to the youths and promised that he and his colleagues would return to Oyo State to make immediate impact.
“I appreciate Governor Seyi Makinde for the opportunity given to us. He has been doing amazing things in Oyo State, which we have never experienced before.
“Our Internally Generated Revenue used to be N1.2 billion but the governor has increased it to about N3.6 billion.
“Our politicians used to empower youths with okada, but Governor Makinde brought us here where we were exposed to world-class training in different areas of agriculture and agribusiness.
“We are assuring His Excellency that when we return to Oyo State, we are going to make an impact and will begin to contribute to the growing IGR of the state.
“Another beneficiary, Rabiu Rahman, from Oorelope Local Government Area, Igboho, said: “I am a postgraduate student of Bayero University, Kano. After I finished my programme, I started a little livestock business. So, I am an entrepreneur. A friend sent me the link to apply for this programme on WhatsApp, I applied and got it after the interview.
“This is a beautiful programme. We were exposed to best practices of farming. This place is just awesome, because we have learnt different things, ranging from poultry to maize and cassava production and processing. This is an integrated farm and we have been able to learn everything you may want to talk about agriculture.
“We have been trained on goat fattening, livestock, their diseases and control. So, it is an awesome experience for me, learning about best practices in farming.
“So, we are going back to our communities to impart the little knowledge we have gathered here and to also train some farmers. We can even sell ideas through the internet,” he added.
Similarly, OgundeleToluwalase, a private school teacher and agriculture enthusiast, while speaking shortly after his graduation, said the knowledge gained from the training would help the beneficiaries to contribute to fixing the society.
He said: “My experience so far has been great and the training really served as an eye-opener and I have seen many things I thought were not feasible. We were trained on ‘hydroponics farming’ which means you can raise catfish in the pond and also farm on that same water. We were exposed to the irrigation system, planting of tomatoes in greenhouses and other things and all these will be beneficial to the youths.”
AjibolaAdeolaBadru, a young female beneficiary from Ido Local Government, stated that though she is a graduate of Animal Nutrition and Biotechnology, she was never taught the business side of agriculture, which the training opportunity availed her.
She said: “Somebody posted a link on this programme as a broadcast on a WhatsApp group and I tried to put in for it. Luckily for me, I received a call that I have been selected for the OYSADA’s YEAP training. “I have been here for two weeks and have learnt a lot. Being a graduate of Animal Nutrition and Biotechnology, we were exposed to science agriculture and how to go about them in school. But we were not really taught the business side of agriculture.
“So, coming here, we got exposed to how to combine agriculture and business to make it profitable for us. It has been an eye-opener. The state of the art nature of the facilities here, the technology they use to run things, precision agriculture have been very encouraging. It is beyond what we have been seeing here in Nigeria and I am actually glad that I came here.
“I want to say a very big thank you to the governor who God used to come up with this initiative.
“Before now, we have been seeing empowerments that are not progressive and not really targeted at helping the youths, but this is just one of a kind. This empowerment is very progressive; it is forward-looking. So, I will say a big thank you to our governor.”