Remarks by His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR At the Launch of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme and the Fund For Agricultural Finance in Nigeria. Tuesday, 16thDecember, 2014.
1. Our gathering today is in continuation of the implementation of processes that will transform the face of agriculture in our nation. I am here to launch two landmark initiatives – the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) and the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN)
2. When I launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) in 2011, our goal was to add an extra 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply, by 2015. Today, we have already surpassed our target. Over the past three years, our farmers have produced an additional 21 million metric tons of food.
3. Within the same period, we have created 3 million farm jobs. I am confident that we will soon surpass our target of 3.5 million farm jobs. Today, the gap between the farmer and the Government has been substantially bridged – Farmers, all over the country, are being touched by the new drive for food production.
4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, since I assumed office, I have worked with great determination to reverse the scourge of youth unemployment in our country. That is why the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme – YEAP – is very dear to my heart. Its overall goal is to contribute to food security and nutrition, rural income generation, and improved livelihood for Youths in our country.
5. The agriculture sector is vital for the economy of Nigeria. The recent decline in the price of crude oil further underscores the necessity to rapidly diversify our economy away from dependency on crude oil. By producing our own food, we will save scarce foreign exchange, reduce dependence on food imports, while reviving our rural areas and creating wealth for our farmers.
6. The decline in the price of crude oil did not take us by surprise. For the past three years we had been engaged on a carefully designed and implemented agricultural transformation agenda. Our massive food production efforts, which led to the production of 21 million metric tons of food in the past three years, has created a buffer and mitigated the impact of the devaluation on food prices.
7. Our food import bill declined from 1.1 trillion naira in 2009 to 624 billion naira by December of 2013, and continues to decline. Our electronic wallet system, which allows us to reach farmers with subsidized seeds and fertilizers via mobile phones, has become the backbone of a more modern agricultural sector. Over 14 million farmers have received their subsidized farm inputs through the e-wallet system.
8. Over 5.6 billion dollars of new private sector investments have also come into the agricultural sector, which clearly shows that local and foreign businesses see Nigeria’s agricultural sector as very viable for investments. Agriculture has become the new wealth sector for Nigeria.
9. To further boost the performance of the agriculture sector, Nigeria needs younger and more entrepreneurial commercial farmers. The rapidly ageing population of farmers poses a significant challenge and unless younger farmers are quickly developed, our future food security and competitiveness in agriculture will be compromised.
10. That is why we are focusing on programs that will engage our teeming youths in profitable and viable economic activities along the agricultural value chains, including commercial farming, processing, value addition, logistics, transport and marketing of value added agricultural products. They will not just take agriculture as a way of life, they will run agriculture as a business.
11. I am confident that several young millionaires and even billionaires of Nigeria will come out of the agriculture sector. But before we can successfully attract a lot of the youth into the agriculture sector, we must replace the hoes and cutlasses with modern farm machinery. Agriculture should not be synonymous with hard labour or rural life.
12. To drive the modernization of the agriculture sector, I launched the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises (AEHEs), a private sector driven program that will provide mechanized services for farmers across the country. By the end of December 2014, a total of 80 Agricultural Equipment Hiring Centers would have become fully established across the country. Over the next two years, a total of 1,200 of the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Centers would be established across the nation.
13. I am pleased to see that some of the young commercial farmers are already benefiting from the Federal Government mechanization support on their farms. We must take the hoes and cutlasses away from the farms and replace them with tractors and mechanized equipment.
14. The Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP), which I am flagging off today, will further change the face of Nigeria’s agriculture. YEAP has been designed to create a new generation of 750,000 young commercial farmers and agribusiness leaders (Nagropreneurs) that will make Nigeria’s agriculture more efficient, profitable and competitive. They will become the CEOs of their own farms and agribusinesses, create jobs in the rural areas and reverse the trend of high rural to urban migration. They will help to change the mindset of the younger generation on agriculture.
15. These Nagropreneurs will become models and champions for our newly launched National Agriculture Schools Initiative, as they project to younger school children, the image of agriculture as an attractive and wealth creating sector.
16. To consolidate and ensure that our future green economy endures, government introduced the National Schools Agriculture Programme. This is aimed at encouraging our children in post-primary schools to recognize, and leverage on the huge potentials that exist in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
17. To further enhance this initiative, I urge the Nigerian movie and entertainment industry to change the narrative and imagery around agriculture, and start showcasing younger commercial farmers and agribusinesses. We must make agriculture cool! I am happy that among us here today are some of our bright film makers.
18. As many more young people move into agriculture – as you all can see today – the number of small and medium scaled agribusiness enterprises is rising.
19. I was very pleased to see the many products from these Nagropreneurs featured in the exhibition. There is no doubt that our young people are very hard working, talented and entrepreneurial. We must therefore encourage them, especially with access to affordable financing. Under the YEAP program, they will be provided with access to grants and subsidized loans to help further grow their businesses.
20. It is also for this reason that my government has worked closely with the German government to catalyse the development of the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN).
21. FAFIN will deploy $100 million towards providing affordable long term financing to support the development of small and medium scale agribusinesses.
22. I wish to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, and their ministries and agencies, for their hard work in making the establishment of FAFIN a reality. I also thank the German Development Bank (KfW) and the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund for their partnership and investments in FAFIN.
23. Let me also thank the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for its support towards the development of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program.
24. Today, looking at all these young Nagropreneurs, I see a great future. A future of a greener economy that is powered by young people.
25. A future of a more dynamic commercial agriculture sector. A future where agriculture becomes Nigeria’s new oil.
26. Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to formally launch the roll out of the Presidential Youth Employment in Agriculture Program and the Fund for Agricultural Financing in Nigeria.
27. Thank you and God bless you all.