Monday, October 20, 2014 7:39 pm
President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday in Abuja, launched the National Schools Agricultural Programme (NSAP), aimed at developing a new generation of young agricultural entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
The event, which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, attracted selected secondary school students, agriculture experts, state governors, diplomats, senior government officials and other stakeholders.
Jonathan said that his administration was committed to making agriculture a profitable venture not only for the nation’s food sufficiency but to also tackle the challenges of youth unemployment.
He cited Nigeria’s business and industrial giants like Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu, who were expanding their investment base into the agricultural sector.
The NSAP, according to him, is expected to build a crop of adequately motivated and trained under-20 Nigerians to link up with and continents on the path of such great entrepreneurs.
“We need the Under-20s to link up with the Dangotes, Elumelus and other big Nigerian entrepreneurs. This is part of our strategy to tackle youth unemployment.
“We are developing agriculture ‘Super Eagles’ like the nation’s football team, the Super Eagles, that have often made the country proud,’’ Jonathan said.
The president promised to meet once a year at an agriculture stakeholders’ conference with participants of the programme who would be drawn from schools across the country.
He noted with joy the proposed incorporation of some former heads of state as ambassadors and role models of the NSAP to further encourage and inspire the students.
Jonathan predicted that they would eventually drop their hoes and cutlasses and go for tractors and harvesters in the expected mechanised farming revolution.
In her speech, Mrs Baraka Sani, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on NSAP, described the programme as Nigeria’s first non-curriculum agricultural initiative.
Sani said its objectives, included changing the negative perception of agriculture to young Nigerians and equipping them for life to address youth unemployment.
She added that NSAP would also help to build technical and entrepreneurship skills in students to run agriculture as business.
She listed incentives for students under the programme to include scholarships and exposure to global best practices and input to agricultural entrepreneurship.
On the pilot phase of the programme, Sani explained that the NSAP would establish school agribusiness clubs in selected schools in 12 states across the geo-political zones.
“Each club will have 120 students while the multiplier effects of the programme are expected to benefit about 372,960 Nigerian households,’’ Sani said.
Gov. Martins Elechi, of Ebonyi in a message, assured the president that the good example laid by him with the NSAP would be supported by the governors.
Addressing the audience, one of the students, Miss Hamzat Bukola, Government Model Secondary School, Maitama, Abuja, said her impression before the launch was that agriculture was for the old and illiterate