2000 Nigerian youths have been empowered by Master Card Foundation and Ogun State-based Soilless Farm Lab on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to promote the prospect of the value chain of vegetables in Nigeria. Under a jointed initiative titled “Enterprise for Youth in Agriculture (EYIA)”, the project aims to build better resilience for climate risks, promote long-term sustainability, strengthen food production systems in Nigeria and other issues that cause food insecurity. Fakolade Michael, one of the beneficiaries from Ogun State, stated that his confidence in the program and its training has encouraged him to channel his intentional effort to make a career in agriculture.
Ezeh Pascal, an agricultural engineering graduate of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State and beneficiary, asserted that the programme empowered the youths’ efficient farming skills, stimulating their thinking on the method of promoting environmental agriculture. In addition, the graduates have learned enough to become competent greenhouse farm managers. The youths under Enterprise for Youth in Agriculture (EYIA) are enthusiastic to develop their skills and livelihood which give them the opportunities to generate income. Samson Ogbole, The founder of Soilless Farm lab, said that EYIA which is the partnership between Farm lab and Master Card Foundation is a programme to train 12,000 youths, between the age range of 18 to 29, within three years.
Students are trained to be experts in the technical field also.
Ogbole declared that there is usually an intake of 1000 students quarterly for the programme. He said that the project is to train youths to generate stable income for themselves and also contribute to their communities sustainable development. He stated that the students are trained on greenhouse set, hydroponics, learning the skills to develop their farm within their premises of three plots of land. It also provides networking to the market after completion of the programme.
In the training, the students are grouped into 50s. Some students are trained for technical works such as bricklayer, electricians, plumber, fabricators and welders. And at the end of the project, each team is competent enough to establish a screen house by themselves. He affirmed that the objectives of the programme is to promote their abilities on modern technology for agriculture and to empower the students to effectively expand production. With this the students are trained to operate, repair construct and maintain greenhouses.
EYIA helps students set up their company and covers registration.
He added another significant benefit of EYIA is the training on farm management which enlightens them on agronomic practices, farm logistics, proper planting and healthy food handling. Importantly, EYIA provides benefits to the students like setting-up a company for the students with registration, connecting them to a lawyer. EYIA pays the lawyer the first year, giving opportunity for proper establishment. Statistically, Ogbole stated that the project has successfully empowered 2000 out of the 12,000 project target. He restated the key requirement for the project which is that students must stay on campus within the 12 weeks training programme. Many of the students that participated in this programme for the first batch were residents of Oyo, Lagos and Ogun States.
The second batch, majority of the students were from Lagos and Ogun, including Anambra, Imo, Borno and Nassarawa. Reportedly, the intakes for the second batch cut across almost all the states. Peace Okwara, the Project Manager, declared that the collaboration with Master Card has developed the lives of the youths, promoting agricultural businesses with the use of technology and modern equipment to improve competitiveness. Hon Sikiru Adeshina, the Chairman of Ewekoro Local Government Council who was represented by the Vice Chairman of Ewekoro Local Government Council, Hon. Olabode Sunkanmi, praised Soilless Farm Lab for their professionalism and their contribution to developing his community, promising to give them his support to create more opportunities for the youths and women.
This initiative will help reduce unemployment and eradicate poverty.
Oba Abdul-Gafar Olasunkanmi Tijani Gbadewolu1, the Alawowo of Awowo Land, Ewekoro, said that the training will reduce unemployment, tackle hunger, develop local industries and also promote the community’s gross domestic product( GDP). Ebenezer Boluwade, the Special Adviser to Ekiti State Governor on Agriculture and Food Security, also applauded Soilless Farm Lab for their professionalism on training the young youths as agents of agricultural transformation. He highlighted that the agricultural landscape is transitioning from traditional practices to embracing technology-driven agriculture which aims to combat climate change and the rising issue of food insecurity.