The need to finance youth and women in Agriculture has been reemphasized as stakeholders at the end of the first edition of the monthly hangout organised by Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN) tagged “innovative financing for youth and women in agriculture” advocated for innovative measures to finance youths and women Agriculture ventures.
The event which held on the 2 of May 2018 in Abuja was to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the youth farm (YFarm) project, and launching of the YFarm youth and women in Agriculture monthly hangout.
In keeping to the goal of the project, the monthly hangout was launched to serve as a platform to bring youth and women in Agriculture together with other stakeholders to foster knowledge sharing, promote Agriculture alliances and build a network of youth and women in sustainable Agriculture.
A brainchild of the fresh and young brains development initiative and Alexijan consult, the project promotes youth/women led climate smart farms, agribusinesses, and highlights the benefits of farming for sustainable youth development and livelihoods.
Launched, 2nd April 2014, the project was introduced to the African ministerial council in Ethiopia in May 2014 and is currently been implemented in eleven (11) states across the country. The project runs on three key principles; God, determination and passion.
In her opening remarks, founder/CEO Fresh and young brains development initiative, Barr. Nkiru Nnaemego-okonkwo said, owing to the outcry by many young people over lack of jobs and means to livelihood, in 2014, FBIN realised the agriculture sector held huge potentials; hence the reason for starting the YFarm project, with a target to reach 10,000 youth led farms.
The project has successfully established 5000 youth led farms, and still optimistic to achieve her set target by 2020.
The initiative conduct trainings/boot camps on agri-business, climate-smart agriculture, value chains and value addition, basic life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Last year, the initiative hosted the African and National Youth Agriculture festival and colloquim, where they decided to include women in the YFarm project because about forty percent of their participants were women.
Brainstorming on the possible solutions to the challenges youths face in Agriculture, despite the Federal Government signing the agreement to allow at least 10percent of its annual budget for Agriculture development, following the Malabo declaration and CAADP principles.
Mr. Tosin Ogundare, a representative of the federal ministry of agriculture said despite the inability of Government to meet the budgetary commitment to Agriculture, they are several programs available which youths can key into, he mentioned a few to include; young employment in Agriculture program (YEAP), growing girls and women in Nigeria (GGWIN), N-power, and FAO. He urged youths to source for available funding opportunities as this administration is keen on diversifying the economy and Agriculture is the focus sector.
Mr. Umar Sanda, a representative of the Nigerian Incentive Risk sharing system for Agricultural lending (NIRSAL), said his agency does not give money to farmers but facilitate Agricultural investment through various models, one of which is the Youth in Agribusiness.
NIRSAL stands as an interface between Agricultural cooperatives bound by land space and banks. Sanda, concluded that the agency has about NGN200billion and they are plans to establish NIRSAL microfinance banks across the 36 states of the federation to tackle these impending financial challenges.
The banks who are drivers of the financial sector were not left out of the conversation, Mr. Friday Ikhile of Fidfund microfinance bank alleged they have been giving loans to farmers, but many farmers find it difficult to pay back loans, making recovery difficult, he added that the new strategy of the bank is to give loans to farmers who have strong collateral base from CBN, NIRSAL, etc.
This is a strategy many participants frowned at, as it leaves start-ups and smallholder farmers out of its scope, whereas microfinance institutes were established to assist small businesses, like those of many of the participants.
A YFarm Coach Dr. philipa Momah stressed the need for an all-encompassing lending by banks stating that every year young people graduate from school into the workforce and have no form of collateral to leverage on.
In an advice, Mrs. Sugra Mahmood of the federal ministry of Agriculture called on the financial sector to look inward, re-strategize and develop financial models that will be accessible to smallholder women and youth farmers.
Stakeholders advised participants to form recognised cooperatives as the first step to tackle their financial challenges.
It is evident that youths are uniquely poised to be the game changers in this era of Agriculture due to their population, energy drive and skill sets, in Africa they have been relegated to the background in terms of policy decisions and financing, hence increasing the disillusion and disinterest in Agriculture.
The recent rankings on the global food crises report, placed Nigeria in a crises position, while the Government intensify efforts to bring insurgency to an end and mitigate climate change, which were major factors for the poor ranking, youths and youth led organisations in Agriculture, should be greatly encouraged.
The event which had participants from relevant government ministries, private sector, young professionals for agriculture development (YPARD), farmers, etc., came to a close after the discussion session, with participants from various value chains presenting their key messages, calling on relevant Government agencies and other stakeholders to innovatively support finance for youth and women in Agriculture.
This Article was written by Opuah Abeikwen.
Opuah is the YPARD, FCT representative, A Co-Initiator of Science Café Nigeria, and A Global fellow of the Cornell alliance for science.