Obiora Anthonia, a director at Indexpro Solution Limited and Executive Director, Young Africans Empowerment an NGO that specialised on youth empowerment, spoke with COLLINS NNABUIFE on how to engage youths in agriculture.
What are the activities of your organisation?
Young Africans Empowerment and Development Initiative (YAEDI) as the name implies is an organisation that engages in entrepreneurship training and youth development projects that promote development and sustainability of Africa as a whole. Our slogan is “Africa Must Survive.” We focus mainly on the informal sector of the economy as we all know that for any nation to attain high level of development and sustainability, the informal sector would have been seriously looked into and taken very paramount.
Basically we provide weekly, monthly or more part time jobs for our trained marketers, sales representatives, brand promoters/exhibitors, run way models, ICT trained members and many other fields.
We recently unveiled our project in Agriculture called “Food Tank Nigeria” which hopes to exist in all states of Nigeria and engage youth in ending food scarcity, creating job and promoting food storage using recent technology and different methodology.
What is Food Tank Nigeria all about?
African economic history has often focused on explanations of poverty and obscures other aspects such as the achievements of African farmers, traders and states, including improvements in food security, and episodes of economic growth
In Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2012 national youth survey report; youths of working age, in the age bracket of 15 to 35 years are nearly 70 million persons in a population of 166 million Nigerians and of these youths 54 per cent are unemployed
That is why our project is apt. We have five clusters in the Food Tank Nigeria which are basically farm products that are also raw materials for many other companies and also finished produces, ready for consumption. These clusters include, tomato farmers cluster, cassava farmers cluster, livestock farmers cluster, fish farmers cluster and vegetable farmers cluster
Our aims and objective are basically solving the inherent problems in our communities and country at large. And we are engaging 2000 youths in each state in agriculture and food production which combats the unemployment problems and widens the informal sector which on the long run boost the generated revenue of the state.
What are the categories of people are you engaging?
The level of unemployment in Nigeria is very high and alarming, our organisation has therefore created an umbrella to cover 1million Africans that are unemployed , low income earners in categories of vulnerable youths, young men and women, children. They are automatic members and at the end of the day, they will be productively active, gainfully employed as the case may be towards the achievement of financial freedom, mentors to many, community builders, well nurtured future leaders, and many more proficient outputs in the society.
How many youths have benefited from your programmes?
Here in the FCT, about 200 out of 250 members have benefited while we have 1000 youths that is the Tech farmers already on standby to commence the programme in our 40 hectares land located in Benue State and the FCT.
What do you mean by tech farmers?
Ok, this is hydroponics farming. Hydroponic is the act of growing plants without the use of soil, but just water as medium and liquid nutrients. The term Hydroponics was coined from Greek words-HYDRO, which means water, and PONIC, which means work. It is an age-long technology which dates back to the hanging gardens of Babylon. The commercial purpose of which is feeding livestock. This wonderful technology started in the1960s in Australia and has spread to the rest of the world. Our farming system is quite new, technology and modern day driven. Not just the mechanised farming that we know but the SOIL LESS farming that has been in existence since 1960 and yet to have less or no people engage in them here in Nigeria. Our tomato, Cabbage, lettuce, betruse, and many imported fruits will be Greenhouse grown with soil less farming system.
How do you generate funds and intend to empower those that undergone the programme financially?
For now we are being supported financially by well-meaning Nigerians within and in the diaspora who believe in our visions and objectives. We don’t assist our members financially, we believe in teaching them how to fish than giving them fish. Financial assistance only goes to members that are already entrepreneurs and face challenges along the line, we intervene and such members can access our loan facility.
We implore relevant agencies and more individuals who believe in Africa to support us in achieving our goals.
Since all attention is turning toward Agriculture now do you think you will fit in with your mission?
The new African food system should be built around the idea that agriculture is about more than producing calories; it is about changing society. Its five components should be valuing the smallholder farmer, empowering women, focusing on the quality as well as the quantity of food, creating a thriving rural economy, and protecting the environment,” writer Kofi Annan and Sam Dryden in the preface. We must dare to think big and change our mind set. Soon it will be AFRICA’s turn to help feed the world!
We intent to campaign tirelessly to our youth to embrace agriculture as a means of livelihood and also availability of food to immediate family and society.
Many graduates in Nigeria consider farming as a layman’s business or uneducated people’s business, which is a wrong intuition.
As a graduate with formal knowledge you can actually make a difference in both outcome of produce and final product packaging to international standard and that will make a big difference in our exportation history.