Empowering Corps members with agro-allied enterprise

The agricultural posture of President Mohammadu Buhari since assumption of office shows that, encouraging youth  of all categories to imbibe to take agro-allied business practices is one of the best long time plans any nation could pursue,  That places the Corps members squarely in this picture, especially with the War Against Poverty (WAP) programme of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), JOHN OBA, writes.

The War Against Poverty (WAP) programme is an initiative of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) designed to address the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) one targeted at the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger with special focus on seven agro-allied trainings in poultry, banana sucker multiplication, fishery, animal husbandry, snailry, grass-cutter rearing and bee-keeping.

According to report, since inception of the programme in 2009, 4,273 corps members have been trained while 3,706 have been given loans as seed capital to start their agro-enterprises. As an economic empowerment programme developed to prepare corps members for self-reliance in agriculture business, it fits perfectly into the Federal Government plans to engage youth in agriculture.

With the present administration plan to diversity the economy from oil domination to other areas such as agriculture, tt is certain that the empowerment of corps members through training in agro-allied skills will indeed ultimately lead to an enhance economic life of both the corps members and the society at large since the programme does not only empower the trainees with agro-enterprise skills, but also provide them with interest free loans for the purpose of generating employment, eradicating poverty and hunger as well as creating wealth and boosting agricultural productivity for food security in the country, which is in line with the vision of the present administration to use agriculture and agro-allied enterprises as formidable tools in addressing the twin evil of unemployment and insecurity.

Recently at the formal opening ceremony of the NYSC/Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) War Against Poverty (WAP) training programme for Corps Members at the permanent orientation camp of the scheme in Kubwa, Abuja, the Director, Community Development Service and Special Projects of the scheme, Mrs Bosede Okakwu, said  the programme is an economic empowerment programme developed to prepare corps members for self-reliance in agriculture business.

She said the training was to equip the corps members with requisite knowledge and skills for them to make success out of the enterprise of their choice.
The director general of the scheme, Brigadier General, Johnson Bamidele Olawumi, said the training demonstrated the scheme’s renewed efforts and commitment towards addressing the twin problems of poverty and youth unemployment which have become the bane of the nation’s national development.

He said the intervention covers entrepreneurship and agro-enterprise training in poverty, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, agriculture, snailry, grass-cutter rearing and plantain sucker multiplication.
“The programme which was kick-started in 2009 has so far trained 4,273 corps  members in agric ventures and has empowered 3,706 of them with interest-free loans of between N200,000 and N300,000 to establish.

“I am pleased to inform you that report from the field indicate that many of our beneficiaries are not only creating wealth but also training and employing members of their host communities. This is in line with WAP concept plan which makes it mandatory for each corps entrepreneur to engage at lest five youths in their enterprise host communities with the view of equipping them with necessary skills aimed at reducing extreme poverty and hunger in such communities,” he emphasized.

He re-restated the commitment of the management to see to the realization of the objectives of WAP and other programmes of the scheme, adding that the scheme is  into collaboration with other governmental and non-governmental agencies, including Bank of industry, Central Bank of Nigeria to train corps members in various skills and grant soft loans towards empowering them for self-reliance.
He said the bank of Industry has launched a package known as NYSC/BOI Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund under which two billion naira has been set aside to finance 1000 corps members’ business proposals after building their capacities in business interest of their choice.

Also, the acting secretary SDGs Mr. Ogbenyi Ochapa, while giving his good will speech said the implementation of the programme has thrown up a lots of outstanding young entrepreneurs who have recently distinguished themselves in several areas.
He said two corps members trained on the programme were parts of the 40 young Africans who won the 2015 Mandela African Fellowship as a result of their outstanding contribution to social change in their host communities, while six of those trained under WAP also emerged as the Youth Entrepreneurs also  with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) awards winners in 2012 to 2014 which according to her showed quality of training and mentoring received by the corps members.

Commending the scheme for its vision in designing the programme for youth who constitute majority of the population with a large number of them remaining jobless years after graduation, adding that the programme is certainly a viable economic empowerment and skills acquisition instrument for alleviating extreme poverty, create employment and wealth, engender productivity and food security.

The national agricultural development Mr, Adetunji Olusegun, an assistant director, nation territory, who stood in for the director general, said having the fund to establish is not the only prerequisite for making it in the agro sector, but that the corps members must know the technical know-how as this is very important, that is why national agricultural development agency, sees the initiative of the NYSC as very important and his agency  is in support of this . He urged the corps members to see the training as an opportunity for Nigeria to have its Asia tiger.

The representative of the bank of agriculture, director general, Prof. Danbala Danju, Mrs. Adesua Kagho Said after the training, the next will be to source for fund, she promised that the bank have a very strong financial commitment to provide good agricultural financial services for agric-biz across the country.
She said further that the bank is Nigeria’s largest development finance institution operating through 6 zonal and 201 branch offices nationwide. Adding that it provides financial support for all agricultural activities and along all segments of the agricultural value chains in addition to rural micro enterprises. While having the commercial small holder segment or the pooled sector as its main focus.

She however said to access facilities from the bank is simply as there are different types of facilities depending on the type of loans the corps members wants.
“We have the micro-loan, we have the SME and the large loans. She urged the corps members to think big and start small. Citing examples of those who may want to start a poultry business but looking for N20 million loans facility, as that is more than the corps members can control.”
She said to get the loans, the corps members will only need two guarantors  for a micro loan and that they should go to the nearest BOA to where they intend to start the business and open an account to ensure that they can really transact business with the bank within three months for the bank to know them before submitting their application for loan.
Adding that those seeking to get the SME loans will need collaterals to access a loan that is above N250,000 to millions of naira. Also with such loan it is important to have a business plan so that the bank will know what you are doing and what aspect of the business you want us to finance.

“We are youth friendly and there are some youth that there projects are a bit more than the SME and they  don’t have the collateral. We have provision for them because we have a programme that is called Youth Agric Business Revolution of Nigeria (YARN) for youth within the age bracket of 18 and 35 years and they can access up to a million naira for this type of product without collateral but they  most have strong guarantors. The loans can be accessed as individuals or as cooperatives and those willing to go for the YARN project most have a bit of enterprise training.

“Because we know that the risk is high on this loan and there are not collateral, because it is not just giving out forms that matters or having ideal, there are lots of works involved in making the project succeed. Agriculture is the latest business in town. It is a very good alternative to the oil and gas industry, we only needed to be focus and putting our minds into the business. She however said the loans are not interest free as some are single digit and others starts from 12%,” she explained.

Evidently, all wisdom points to the fact that, President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to focus on agriculture should include his administration taking over the programme so as to get more graduate involved in it while ensuring that those trained are properly and adequately empowered while plans should be put in place to guarantee that the value chains are adequately structured so that products from these young entrepreneurs are sold at the right time and price.
This youth should be included in the proposed schools feeding programme of the government  as this will help address the  problem of post-harvest lost that may occur because of lack of adequate storage facilities while proper policies should be implemented to stop smuggling of farm products into the country.

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