As the participants of the Youth Empowered in Agribusiness Programme (YEAP) make progress in their various fields of operations, the vice chancellor, Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), has urged them to raise their businesses to the level of being employers of labour to reduce poverty and crimes in the state.
Professor Nse Essien stated this when he addressed participants of the Akwa Ibom State Government Youth Empowerment in Agribusiness Programme (YEAP), Pilot-50, during a reflection and experience exchange meeting, which took place in Uyo.
At the event organised by the Akwa Ibom State Department of Agriculture Investment (DAI) and the Centre for Ethical/Moral Leadership (CEMoL), Akwa Ibom State University, Professor Essien, stated that the target of government in the training of youths under YEAP was to provide employment opportunities to select beneficiaries who in turn could employ others to reduce the unemployment circle.
The vice chancellor who expressed satisfaction on the level of commitment of the participants on the fact that most of them had started recruiting additional hands to assist in the various agricbusinesses they were involved in, also stressed that such was the reason government had in seeing up the programme.
“If all of you take one or two people who have no jobs, it willreduce the unemployment market and that is the real target by government for setting up this project”. Essien said.
He told the supervisors that they must ensure that the project succeeds on the basis that it is a pilot scheme which if the objectives were not realized, there would be no need for continuity for others to benefit from it.
Professor Essien explained that by February 2023, the programme would be scaled to ascertain wether the objectivescould be achieved so that more participants could be brought in to reduce the rate of unemployment, crime and more especially stimulate the economy through increased production of food.
The VC told the participants that food shortage had become a major problem and there was need for them to take the scheme as a challenge in the fact that there would be food scarcity next year due to certain parameters including insecurity in the North which has resulted in the disruption of farming activities and the effect of the war in Ukraine which had shot down grains market.
He said the essence of the programme was to ensure that they produce food to make Akwa Ibom food sufficient, so that what they produce could meet the need of the people. He charged the participants to see themselves as big time farmers to drive the vision of government forward and gain from it through profit maximization.
The commissioner for agriculture, Dr Offiong Offor, appreciated God for enabling the provision of the YEAP platform for young people to be involved in agriculture business and commended the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, for coming up with the project to solve the challenges of unemployment and crimes.
Offor explained that whatever the government was doing to get young people and graduates off the streets and be gainfully employed, was something that should be applauded in view of the fact that the economy is faced with serious challenges, where people graduated, from schools and have nothing to do.
The agriculture commissioner stated that the programme, being a pilot scheme, meant that there would be several other batches that would follow and there was need for the beginning participants to make good use of the opportunity offered them.
Dr Offor charged the participants to take the experiences met in the course of the project as lessons learnt to step higher to the next level. She said there are so much to be achieved in agricvalue chain, whether in crop or livestock and urged them to take advantage of the prevailing opportunities provided by government through the YEAP programme.
The executive director of CEMoL, Professor Vincent Anigbogu, said 49 participants were selected and trained in six areas of agricultural production, namely, poultry, cassava cultivation, fishery, piggery, crop and plantain processing.
He stated that the programme started in March 2022, when the participants undergo training on the various agricbusinessprojects and were entitled to a revolving loan facility of N1miiion through the Fadama Bank.
Professor Anigbogu said the money was released in tranches depending on the level of work done by participants, stressing that while those who ventured into poultry production had disposed of their first stock and were at the second phase of the project, others were still on their first stages of production due to time expected for their products to mature.
He told the participants that they have met the expectations of the sponsors of the programme and advised them to put God first in the project. He urged them to persevere hard times so that they would surmount all challenges in the course of the scheme.
Anigbogu urged them to develop their social capacity to be able to deal with people to help them in the area of marketing and assured that the issue of proper funding would be addressed.
The acting executive director, DAI, Mr Ofonbuk Nelson, who moderated the programme, said the event was to enable the Department of Agriculture Investment, review to what have been done by the participants to see the progress made so far on the project.
Nelson stated that the total amount for each person in all aspects of involvement was one million naira that was disbursed in tranches based on the extent of work done and assured that participants would get their money in full as the programmeprogressed.
One of the project supervisors, Professor Isongesit Solomon,from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Uyo, said the objective of the programme was to provide employment to unemployed youths in the state.
Professor Solomon noted that even though the objective of the scheme was achievable, the greatest challenge faced by the participants was the issue of renting facilities to carry out the project and reasoned that if the funds would be scaled up, they could get permanent facilities to execute the project.
The participants appreciated the state government for the opportunity given them on the project but however lamented high cost of feeds, marketing, insufficient funding and delay in the release of funds by the bank.