Lagos State Government says it has trained no fewer than 12,574 and empowered 19,207 youths and women in key agricultural value chains, such as fisheries, poultry, rice and horticulture in two years.
Commissioner for Agriculture Ms. Abisola Olusanya, who released the figures at a press briefing commemorating the second year in office of the Sanwo-Olu administration, explained that the training was informed by the need to encourage more youth and women participation in agriculture as well as to curb women and youth unemployment.
According to her, for the State to attain food security and self-sufficiency status of 40% by year 2023, the need to train more youths, who would readily take over from the ageing farming population, cannot be overemphasised.
“The administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu is overtly committed to growing the State’s agricultural sector and ensuring that the State is less dependent on others for the production of food. As a result of this, the State has continued with the empowerment, training and capacity development of the youth and women, especially in selected key value chains, such as fisheries, poultry, rice and horticulture.
“Several initiatives have been implemented where no fewer than 12,574 women and youths have been trained in the various agricultural value chains, especially in fisheries, poultry, rice and horticulture. These are the areas where the State is considered to have some advantage.
“One of such initiatives is the introduction of the Eko Schools’ Agric Comic and Agric App. It is believed that this will stir up the interest of youths and teenagers in the agriculture sector,” the Commissioner averred.
She stressed that 19,207 youths and women were also empowered across all the agricultural value chains with inputs and productive assets through one of the many empowerment programmes, such as the annual Agricultural Value Chains Empowerment Programme.
She noted that an additional 1,577 residents similarly benefited indirectly from the Agricultural Value Chain Empowerment Programme, which has also helped to increase agricultural production for wealth creation, job opportunities and livelihood sustenance towards the attainment of goals 1,2, 3, 8 and 14 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Olusanya said: “The Programme is implemented annually to empower Agricultural Value Chain Actors through the distribution of agricultural inputs and productive assets to smallholder farmers, fishermen, butchers, egg marketers and fish processors in livestock/crop and fisheries value chains.
“Some of the inputs distributed include livestock and fish feeds, fertilisers, agrochemicals, coconut seedlings, outboard engines, collapsible tanks etc.”
Olusanya disclosed that the State also partnered with Mastercard and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to train additional 192 youths in various agricultural value chains in order to build skills and secure fulfilling work opportunities within the agriculture sector.
She described the collaboration as a strategic approach to agribusiness training to arouse the interest of youths and teenagers in the agricultural space and enable them make a decent living out of it.
The Commissioner noted that no fewer than 90 youths had been trained and empowered in the cage fishing culture systems in Badagry, adding that the system is one of the ways being championed by the government to maximise the benefits of the abundance of water resources, which account for about 22 percent of the State’s landmass.
“The cage fishing system is also an environmental-friendly way of increasing fish supply, reducing foreign exchange spent on fish importation as well as creating employment opportunities both directly and indirectly,” she said.
Olusanya explained that the 32-metric-tonne per hour capacity integrated Rice Mill being constructed by the State Government at Imota in Ikorodu is the biggest in Nigeria and West Africa and, at full capacity, is capable of producing approximately 2.4 million (50kg) bags of rice.
According to her, the mill will create approximately 267,580 jobs at different stages of the value chain, reduce the cost of rice, enhance food self-sufficiency and revenue generation in the State and the country at large, as well as ensure a sustainable supply of wholesome rice at an affordable price.
She said in anticipation of the completion of the mill and to boost rice farming, the Government trained and empowered 800 farmers with preferred high yielding Farrow 44 seeds, brand new, high quality knapsack sprayers, rain boots and farm coats as a strategic intervention.
Olusanya went on: “We also have the World-Bank-assisted Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) Project, which is aimed at enhancing the productivity of small-scale farmers in the three identified value chains of poultry, aquaculture and rice through capacity building, provision of infrastructure and empowerment.
“Under the project, 8,156 farmers and SMEs have received at least one form of training in relevant areas of agribusiness with a view to enhancing their agricultural productivity and improving value addition.”
“Also, 462 beneficiaries under the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) have been trained in agribusiness management, soft skills, among others; they have been empowered to start off production. Others will equally be supported before the end of the year.”
Olusanya noted that another 8,988 farmers were trained through the Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority, an extension arm of the Ministry that is saddled with the generation and dissemination of improved agricultural technologies to value chain actors.