By our correspindent in Abuja.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, weekend said agriculture was capable of producing Africa’s future billionaires by the time the governments begin to marshal out plans to expose the wealth from the soil.
He made the prediction at the launching of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase 1 (ATASP-1)
The programme was launched by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in conjunction with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Abuja.
According to the minuster, the ATASP-1 will be financed by AfDB with N33.15 billion ($170 million) and aims at creating additional incomes to an increased number of producers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
”It is expected to provide 120,000 jobs along the value chain of priority commodities.
”An additional 20 million tons of key commodity food crops including cassava, rice, and sorghum will be added to the domestic food supply each year
”A significant part of the project is to develop outreach models with young entrepreneurs in agriculture, “IITA youth agripreneurs”.
”The component would be implemented by IITA which has established a Youth Agripreneurs scheme at its Headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo State, and in DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia.
”The Agripreneurs are promoting agriculture among other young people in their regions through peer education, training and demonstration of agricultural best practices, and business skills in value chain development,” Adesina said.
He estimated that the bulk of the new wealthy population would be made up of young people committed to creating jobs for millions in each African country and bringing business opportunities to rural communities.
The minister advised the youths to stop seeing agriculture as a tool for development but as a business.
He remarked that agriculture has become an exciting sector.
”Today, major local and international investors are investing in this sector.
”The number of seed companies alone has risen dramatically and the banks are lending to the sector more than ever before,” the minister said.
Adesina is one of the five candidates shortlisted to contest the presidency of the African Development Bank in May.
In his remarks, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the IITA’s Director General, said that all over Africa, many young people were migrating to cities in search of business opportunities, leaving behind an increasingly ageing population in rural areas.
”The challenge is to create business opportunities for productive activity in agriculture and non-farm enterprises.
”This project aims to build on the youth model developed in IITA to change mindsets of young men and women and gainfully engage them in agriculture,” he said.