By Benjamin Omoike
No less that 1,786 start-ups in the Agriculture value chain in Lagos has benefited from an over N3.6billion disbursement to boost investments in Agriculture sector in the State.
The empowerment, it was gathered, was structured on the basis of the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP), under the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS), Project.
The programme, which is a tripartite agreement scheme supported by the World Bank and the Federal Government with Lagos State contributory provisions, was targeted at boosting investment in the agricultural value chain.
Daily Times gathered that with over 8,000 applications received, no less than 1,786 beneficiaries were selected for the empowerment, with at least N2million average worth of financial assets with access to mentorship link for professional guidance.
In his remarks at the Official Symbolic Handing-Over of Cheques to the beneficiaries at the State Capital, Ikeja, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said his Administration has remained steadfast in the State’s counterpart contribution to the tripartite formation for smooth and effective implementation of the project.
“As you are aware, the APPEALS is a tripartite agreement between the Lagos State Government, supported by the Federal Government and of course the World Bank.
“Since the commencement of the programme in the State, we have been steadfast in our own commitment through regular payment of our counterpart contribution to ensure we have a smooth and effective implementation of the project in the State.
“We are strongly committed to enhancing the agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers in Lagos State and improving value addition along our agricultural value chain, which is our core objective under the Lagos APPEALS project,” he said.
As a strategic focus to drive the economy, Sanwo-Olu said agriculture offers women and youths the opportunities to make difference in their immediate communities, the State and the Nation at large.
Mentioning that recent focus on Agriculture has been turning around employment narratives for youths in the State, Sanwo-Olu said youth engagement with technological mechanisms have been enhancing productivity in the sector with access to finance provided by the State.
“I believe that an effective deployment of technology in this sector would improve productivity, attainment of food sufficiency and food security, as well as, create what we see as job creation on one hand, and also livelihood and sustainability on the other hand,” Sanwo-Olu said.
He mentioned that with new technologically-driven initiatives, the State Government is committed to creating enabling environment by strategic measures to ensure policy implementation to encourage more stakeholders in the sector.
“Agriculture is turning around the narratives for our youths and it will help meet all of the various challenges that we face as a nation.
“The ideas and innovations of our young people and their affinity to technology would no doubt make a significant difference in everything; from operations to market efficiency, to being able to harvest higher produce and access to finance, among other areas, where we believe you are the real innovators.
“As an Administration, we are fully cognisant of our responsibility to create an enabling environment for all of these very raw and new ideas. This explains the seriousness with which we have embraced the APPEALS project in Lagos and our determination is that we will implement it fully to the highest level,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed that road projects spanning about 14km to facilitate market access for farms across the State would be completed before June 2022.
Sanwo-Olu said though land limitation for the State are real, yet the State can be an agricultural food print for the nation, mentioning that with about 30 per cent water resource capacity of the State’s territorial space, Lagos can be positioned at the hub of aquaculture for a blue economy.
Stressing that there are opportunities for agro-processing capacities in the State, he mentioned that with the teeming Lagos population “the market is right” as an added advantage for the stakeholders with high turn-over.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed that efforts were being mustered to develop agricultural zones in Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry as food baskets in the State.
Other ongoing intervention he mentioned would lighten up the State’s agriculture sector include: the ongoing 32 metric tonnes Imota Rice Mill (largest in Africa on completion); a large Market Hub in Ketu on about 80 hectares expanse of land; 750 hectares feedlot system in Epe processing about 150,000 herds of cattle annually; and the LASTMILE Meat Safety Ideal Programme, touching about 3,000-3,500 butchers to clean up the red meet value chain with hygiene.
Sanwo-Olu however called on the beneficiaries to optimise the knowledge and skills from various agricultural training institutes, “to hit the ground running to justify the huge investments,” to improve plan to become employers of labour.
According to him, the sustainability of the project is based on ability to scale up the number of beneficiaries to give room for more youths, women and people living with disabilities towards eradicating poverty from the State.
He mentioned that for inclusiveness, the State was ensuring that at least 10 percent of the benefits are disbursed to people living with disabilities.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. The moment you encourage us with what we are doing here today, what you would do for us is that we can replicate, double and tripple these to a lot of other teeming youths who are waiting also to come in. The sustainability of the APPEALS project is based on our ability to scale it,” Sanwo-Olu said.
In her remarks, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, mentioned that the programme was designed and targeted at increasing productivity, and marketing of aquaculture, poultry and rice, among other produce in the value chain.
She added that in a bid to increase youth participation to take over the ageing population, the State Government has continued to introduce strategic measures of modern provisions to make agriculture appealing to youths.
According to her, the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led Administration is determined to continue the process of producing successful entrepreneurs in the agriculture value chain, while critically investing to create competitive environment for more engagement in correspondence to the United Nation’s goals and the THEMES agenda – the Administration’s policy thrust.
Mentioning that Lagosians would feel the impact of the empowerment economically, she implored the beneficiaries to be open-minded and make use of the opportunities at their disposal, while applauding Governor Sanwo-Olu and all supporting organisation for the programme.
In his goodwill message, the National Project Coordinator, APPEALS project, Mr. Mohammed Sanni, said as a key component of the APPEALS Project, WYEP is directed to project gender equality and youth engagement towards achieving the sustainable development goals, and among others, develop structures for economic diversification.
He applauded Governor Sanwo-Olu for what he described as “his great commitment demonstrated to the implementation of the programme”, among other arms of the APPEALS projects.