By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
More than two years since the Youth Empowerment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) was launched by former President Goodluck Jonathan with N36 billion pumped into it, not much has been heard of the programme and the money.
The programme was intended to reduce the level of youth unemployment and empower 740,000 young agricultural producers in rural areas under the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP).
LEADERSHIP gathered that since the inception of YEAP/FAFIN in 2014, only 28 beneficiaries/nagropreneurs received grants of between N2 – N5 million to further develop their agribusinesses in January 2015.
The former president had also simultaneously launched the $100 million Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN). FAFIN is an innovative agriculture-focused investment fund that provides tailored capital and technical assistance solutions to commercially-viable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and intermediaries across the agricultural sector in Nigeria using quasi-equity, equity and debt instruments to structure investments.Since the programme was launched, two permanent secretaries, Arc. Sonny Echono and Dr. Shehu Ahmed have come and gone in the ministry with the current one being Dr Bukar Hassan. Many potential nagropreneurs who had looked forward to the grants to kick-start their agricultural business projects have been expressing disappointment.
According to findings, the Federal Government through the gender and youth desk of the ministry had organised vocational training programmes for youth and women under a special intervention programme entitled “Youth and Women in Agribusiness Investment Programme.”
In October 2015, then permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Arc Echono, said the federal government had commenced the process of empowering 30,000 youths through the YEAP along area-based priority value chains.
At a meeting with stakeholders in the poultry industry at the ministry’s headquarters, he announced that the ministry received about 34,000 applications from intending nagropreneurs and market-oriented producers from 12 participating states, including FCT, pointing out that a total of 250 nagropreneurs would be selected from participating states which included Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Lagos, Niger, Ogun and FCT.
According to Echono, the validation and final selection of the young nagropreneurs and market- oriented producers would be done at state levels with the state directors of his ministry supervising the process.
In an interview with journalists, the minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh said about N7 billion was left of the grant raised by the previous administration. “What they have left in one account is about N4 billion and another N3 billion in another account, which is what we found,” he stated.
LEADERSHIP Sunday’s efforts to get information on the programme met brick wall as many claimed ignorance of the state of the programme. Ogbeh, however, said the programme was delayed because they were waiting for the Enable Youth Programme of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
In his words “We had a slight delay because we were waiting for the Enable Youth Programme of the ADB, we are almost done with that.” Ogbeh assured, adding “we have acquired a lot of machinery for land clearing extension, because we really want to work in clusters so that we can trace and support those who need help in one group, otherwise if people scatter here and there, it is difficult for us to deliver water, fertilizer and security.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday’s findings also revealed that beneficiaries of the YEAP programme would enjoy support from the federal and state governments in areas of access to land, technical, entrepreneurial, financial, business and marketing skills as well as links to major agribusinesses that would provide market and mentorship.
The minister said, “We will work with all the states across the federation to unleash the passion, drive and entrepreneurship of our youth for agriculture.”