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Netherlands partners IITA on food security, youth employment

Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Kingdom of Netherlands, Geoffrey Leeuwen, said on Monday that his country would partner with Nigeria to boost food security and tackle youth unemployment.

Mr Leeuwen said this at an event held in Abuja, organised by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), for its Youths in Agribusiness (YAS) project.

The project is being implemented with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Golden Finger Farms and Ranches, an agrihub for YAS, and Bopinc are partners in training and supporting the beneficiaries.

Under the project, youths would be trained in some agricultural commodities.

Mr Leeuwen, who noted that youths in Nigeria were the future of the country, said that they would be able to add their quota to tackling challenges of food security after the training.

“This is the future of Nigeria. It is a great example where people are being trained in high-tech agriculture.

“High-tech agriculture is something the Netherlands is very proud of. We are number two agriculture exporter in the world, and it is wonderful for us in the Netherlands to be able to participate in this project.

“We are not just reaching you, but through you, we are reaching companies, and companies grow, develop, and grow their content.

“That’s the whole goal of this farm. And I think with the education system behind it, Nigeria can be self-sufficient in agriculture, and I think in food, it can be a big exporter in the world as well in the future.

“We have only 80 million people. With high-tech farming, you can imagine what Nigeria can do for the world. With your population, your young people, your knowledge, this will be a wonderful example of the future of Nigeria.”

He further said that the government of the Netherlands was supporting Nigeria through education, company and scientific operations.

We are at a very crucial time where unemployment is on the rise and food security is a key challenge. You cannot have food security unless you have a good income for individuals.

Youths in agriculture

On her part, Aline Mugisho, team lead, YAS, IITA, expressed gratitude to the Dutch Government for taking a leap of faith in the agency.

“We are grateful for giving us a chance to prove that youth truly works. And that young people are the driving force for the private sector.”

She said that the Nigerian youths were the suppliers to move Nigeria into a food-secure country.

“It is with you that we intend to challenge the state of emergency on food security declared by the President of this country, and we believe you can do it. With you, zero hunger will be possible.”

Ms Mugisho noted that the event launched the second cohort of the training.

“We are at a very crucial time where unemployment is on the rise and food security is a key challenge. You cannot have food security unless you have a good income for individuals.

“So, this training is about accelerating businesses, incubating businesses and fast-tracking the progress of those businesses that have started but are struggling in sustainable agriculture.”

She added that under YAS, IITA was training 10,000 youths with expected indirect beneficiaries of 40,000.

Similarly, deputy spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Philip Agbese, highlighted the need to invest more in agriculture in the country to boost economic development.

“It is only when we invest in our country that we will be able to develop the youth and we will be able to develop our economy.”

Mr Agbese decried the level of food insecurity, saying that the situation was pathetic and unfortunate.

“We have been discussing it. It is quite unfortunate that at this point in time, in Nigeria, our farmers are unable to go to farm.

“I think our government, particularly those of us in the APC, can do better than this.

“If there is any reason for us to rejig the security architecture of the country, we are ready to do so.

“In fact, in the National Assembly, we are ready to review the constitution if that is what will guarantee the safety of lives and property in this country.

“We are ready to do that. We have commenced the Constitution Review Committee meetings. We have received like 40 proposals from Nigerians.

“These are all better ways to enhance the security of this country,” he said.

Confidence in Nigerians

Also, Chairman, Golden Fingers Farms and Ranches, Maj. Gen. Ezra Jakko (rtd), said that it was gratifying, the confidence the international community had in Nigerians.

“It is quite gratifying and we also believe that the confidence the international community has in the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be boasted.

“We are glad that this farm has been chosen as a hub for training and development.

“Without security, there can’t be development. Unless we are able to tackle that, then food security will linger on.

“The issue of food security is a big problem. It takes the government to intervene by making huge investments in infrastructure to provide security.”

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Emmanuel Meeme expressed appreciation to IITA for the improved knowledge gained from the training.

He urged the governments at all levels to support youths who are into agriculture with startup kits to boost their businesses.

“The youths are ready to go into agribusiness but the financial support is what is needed. The government can support them,” he said. (NAN)

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