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Youth farm boot camp for the vulnerable

Agriculture in Nigeria is the most important sector of the economy from the standpoint of rural employment, sufficiency in food and fibre, and export earning prior to the discovery of oil.

he above assertion is based on the fact that as at independence in 1960, little was known of petroleum as a source of revenue for the Nigerian economy. There was sustained emphasis on agriculture such that Nigeria was a major exporter of agricultural products like palm produce, cocoa, groundnut, cotton and rubber. In addition to these cash crops, the national agricultural system produced enough food crops such as yam, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum and soya beans so that there was practically no need for food importation. Hitherto, agriculture accounted for over 60% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Francis and David, 2012). The contribution of agriculture to GDP decreased as more interest in crude oil products increased.

The compounding issue is further complicated by the activities of the Boko Haram sect and herdsmen ravaging villages comprising of 95% farmers and displacing farmers. Benue, popularly referred to as the country’s ‘Food Basket’, has not known peace till date because of herdsmen attacks. Farmers in the agrarian communities of the state have abandoned their farmlands and fled to safer climes because of herdsmen’s attacks. They are today living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at various IDP camps in the state. The situation is not different in neighboring Kogi, Kanduna, Taraba and Plateau.

Currently, farmers in most of the affected states who have been displaced from their farms and homes by the herdsmen are recounting their ordeal. Their lamentations are not only pathetic but also tragic and inhumane. Due to increased tension is these regions peasant farmers experience a decrease in their productivity and as such a decline in the income of local farmers in the affected areas. Majority of the farmers in the affected areas are women and could no longer access credit facilities.

It is against these challenges, therefore, that the YFarm Project was organized at the Alexijan Farms in Mpape at 10:00am on Thursday August 9th, 2018. The YFarm Project targeted vulnerable groups in rural areas comprising of orphans, persons with disability, victims of Boko Haram attacks and herdsmen crisis from four (4) states in Nigeria for her four (4) days intensive boot camp that focused on climate resilient agriculture; personal and agribusiness development; climate justice, gender; peace and conflict resolution.

Youth Farm (YFarm) project is the brainchild of Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative which adopts a two-pronged approach, to promote youth-led climate-smart farms and agribusiness, as well as highlight the benefits of farming for sustainable youth development and livelihood. The goal of the project is to promote youth-led agribusiness society, reduce poverty and increase active youth participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020. YFarm Project aims to promote smart agriculture as a culture, career, business and fun activity during the boot camp the participants were taught business and personal development strategies, networking skills and social awareness.

The technical section engaged the participants on field activities such as composting, production of organic fertilizer, fish farming, poultry and organic farming for healthy living. The participants were also allowed to take their products to the local markets to enable them to test their marketing skills, teamwork and collaboration.

Groups from each participating state formed cooperatives which will enable them access credit facilities as well as engage in policy development at various levels. These youth will further serve as mentors to other youth groups as they transfer new skills and technology acquired during the boot camp.

YPARD Nigeria a technical partner of the YFarm Project encouraged the youth to be ambassadors for peace and to build on the skill acquired during the boot camp. The youth were given an opportunity to ask challenging questions and also share their experiences during the program. More opportunity was also created to integrate them into the network.

Youth is the powerhouse and the future of the country and should be given a safe space for effective participation in policy development.

Reference: Appraising the Effect of Boko Haram