The relegation of agriculture to the background by successive governments had taken a toll on Nigeria’s economy, thus making the dependence on oil revenue the mainstay of survival for Africa’s most populous nation.
This development had not only resulted in stunted economic growth and lately the current economic recession, but also contributed significantly to increasing unemployment and poverty in the country.
But stakeholders in the agricultural sector and concerned Nigerians have upped the ante in emphasising the need for Nigerians to return to agriculture as the only viable panacea to the biting hardship, precipitated by the economic recession.
This critical issue dominated the discourse at the launching of Ife Youth Agropreneurship Summit 2016 & Presentation of Ojaja 11 Agricultural Hub last Thursday in Ile-Ife.
The programme, which was the initiative of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, and supported by the Bank of Industry (BoI), Bank of Agriculture (BoA), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Hephzibah Network, was aimed at encouraging youths in Ile-Ife to embrace agriculture as a means of tackling unemployment and poverty.
From the content of the agroprenuership summit, youths, numbering over 150, would be trained in agricultural schemes, which would exposed them to modern cultivation of cocoa, cashew and other cash crops that can be exported to earn foreign exchange.
Addressing the beneficiaries during the summit, Oba Ogunwusi tasked Nigerian youths to explore the potentials inherent in agriculture, with a view to making them employers of labour, while contributing their quota towards tackling the economic recession facing the nation.
Oba Ogunwusi expressed optimism that once the youth are empowered, especially in the area of agro-processing development, the society would be free from poverty, hunger and unemployment would be drastically reduced.
The royal father, who enjoined Nigerian leaders to empower the youth on agropreneurship such as cassava processing, maize processing, aquaculture and fish processing, mushroom cultivation, plantain processing among others, chided individuals patronising imported goods such as wears, food and shoes, stressing that Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources that can sustain it, rather than depending on crude oil.
According to him, “our leaders need to live by example by starting to promote Nigerian-made products, since charity begins at home, and this approach would boost the national economy and the internally generated revenue (IGR).”
The Ooni also appealed to all and sundry to stop blaming the leaders on the economic recession, but to support them in contributing their quota to the development of the nation, saying that lawmakers should also make laws that would support Nigerian products.
The monarch contended that Ife is the largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, assuring that if youths could agree to go back to farming, within five to six years, the community would become biggest economic city in the country.
In her remark, the Group Head, Department of Agro-processing, Bank of Industry (BoI), Mrs Ruth Kadafa, said the bank would provide loan facilities to beneficiaries of the empowerment scheme, with a view to making it a success.”
While commending the monarch and other partnering agencies, Mrs Kadafa advised the youth to be committed and determined to change their mentality without relying on government for white collar jobs
Similarly, Professor Duro Oyedele from the Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, enjoined politicians to stop empowering youths by distributing tricycles and motorcycles.
Oyedele said that youths should take cognisance of their lives by investing in agro-processing that is sustainable rather than Okada business, which he said is not sustainable.
He added that Ile-Ife, Osun and Nigeria is richly endowed with cassava, plantain, vegetables, cashew, kolanut, among others, urging the youth to explore opprtunities in agriculture to achieve greatness in life.
Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer, Hephzibah Network, Mr Olamide Awosunle, said that the purpose of the programme was based on transforming the youth’s lives and to give hope to the hopeless.