Nigerian youth should embrace farming before seeking political offices — Minister

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The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has advised Nigerian youth to deepen their interest in farming before struggling for political positions.

Mr Ogbeh gave this advice in Abuja on Thursday at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between two company, Nigeria Agricultural Mechanisation and Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL) and MANTRAC Nigeria Limited.

Under the MOU, the two companies agreed to open up 500,000 hectares of unused land to boost food production in Nigeria.

Speaking at the ceremony through a director in his office, Victor Mayomi, the minister urged the Nigerian youth to cash in on the partnership to secure land, bearing in mind that the onus of feeding the nation is on them.

“I implore our youth to take advantage of this project. Youth should come into agriculture to take advantage of the project, bearing in mind the responsibility of feeding the nation will increasingly depend on them from now into the nearest future,” he said

“The youth should not only be interested in taking over from politicians, let them go to the field and take it over first. And when they can feed us, we will be encouraged to entrust our destiny to them,” the minister said.

Mr Ogbeh said through arrangements such as between the two companies, the burden of tractors’ procurement and management would be taken off the shoulders of government.

He said the move will improve mechanised farming to give room for food sufficiency and reduce poverty.

NAMEL is into a public-private partnership arrangement with the Nigerian government.

Last year, according to a report by the Daily Sun newspaper, the federal government signed a pact with NAMEL/John Deere for the supply of over 10,000 tractors to boost agriculture in the country.

Mr Ogbeh said the government paid 35 per cent of the cost of the tractors, while the private sector paid the balance.

In his remarks at the event, NAMEL’s Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Adekunle, said 13,000 hectares would be acquired in each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from the over 47 million hectares of unused land in the country.

“The project is to de-stump at least 1, 000,000 hectares of poorly cleared and non-tractable land; to help improve soil fertility for farmers; increase annual food production by at least 2,500, 000 metric tons annual for a period of five years,” he said

He said the project is structured to complement and optimise government efforts and resources in land development, using a cost split mechanism to support smallholder farmers and youth empowerment programmes.

Mr Mayomi said it will be creating a flexible investment window for medium and large scale primary production investor to open more land with a little initial cost.

He lamented that efforts to mechanise land are sometimes thwarted by stumps, roots and stones.

“It costs more than N15, 000 to N600, 000 to properly develop one hectare of land from the Savannah vegetation of the north down to the mangrove and rain forests of the couth,” he said.

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