Over the years, there have been calls from different quarters advocating the need for developing countries like Nigeria to engage in Women and Youth empowerment programmes in agriculture as a measure for creating employment opportunities and self- sufficiency in food production. This is so because, women especially, form a major part of the productive population and make up a substantial majority of the workforce in Agriculture and produce most of the food that is consumed locally.
According to 2008, World Development Report, agriculture is a critical source of livelihoods for women in many developing countries, and a key pathway out of poverty. It, however, portrayed women in many rural societies as especially constrained by lack of access to inputs, productive resources, and services.
In research on empowering youths in rural areas through agricultural development programmes, Ajani and other researchers observed that youth participation in agricultural sector in Nigeria has been highly made unattractive due to risks, costs, lack of funding and incentives, inadequate information, technology, policy inconsistency, ineffective marketing, and its labour-intensive nature. However, part of the recommendation was that youths access to resources such as land, capital, technology and information, access to training and capacity development be improved upon, and enterprise training, particularly in value like food processing and packaging, should be highly considered. Therefore, the productivity and economic empowerment of Women and youth is a logical priority of Agricultural programs and policies that seek to transform the sector with a strategic approach.
Women and Youth empowerment is a process were women and youths are encouraged to take charge of their lives. This is done by addressing a critical aspect of their livelihood and interest, providing the needed resources, training and mentorship and encouraging them to take the needed action to access the resources and transform their beliefs, values and attitudes. Good enough, the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support projects’ Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) have been designed with the specific motive of raising a new generation of women and youth Agro-entrepreneurs for agricultural succession towards a sustained livelihood and food security.
The WYEP is divided into three (3) stages and is equally referred to as its pillars which are Training, Grant and Mentorship. Trainees will be categorized into two (2) training groups such as WYEP PLUS and WYEP CLASSIC. For WYEP-plus: under this, there will be two (2) weeks training extension for beneficiaries for socio-emotional capacity building in soft skills like negotiation skills, refusal skills, empathy, while the WYEP-Classic: this is the general training group in hard skills of basic Agric- enterprise orientation with key insight in agricultural livelihood and agribusiness management.
To be specific, beneficiaries will be involved along the core segment of the value chain of production, processing and marketing with targeted crops of Rice, Cashew, Cassava, Poultry, Dairy, Tomatoes, Ginger, Aquaculture, Millet, Cocoa and Maize. Aside from giving the beneficiaries grants to start up their farming and agribusinesses, the project will offer them training, mentorship and networking opportunities which will equip them with the necessary skills and create the enabling atmosphere for a sustained livelihood.
Of equal importance, is the deep inclusion of People with Disabilities (PWDs) in the women and Youth Empowerment Programme of APPEALS project. A reasonable percentage of them have been competitively selected to be empowered by the project.
The achievement of the WYEP target began with the diligent identification of right beneficiaries with genuine interest and enduring commitment for enrolment into the programme. Therefore, having completed the screening and interview process for recruitment, the State Coordination Office organised an interactive session between the WYEP beneficiaries and the Kogi State Government held at the Glasshouse, government house.
During the event, the State Project Coordinator for Kogi Appeals, Dr Sanni Abdullahi Ozomata stated that the state coordination office ensured that the enrolment process was strictly based on the criteria as spelt out by the Project and thanked the beneficiaries for the cooperation giving to ensure a hitch-free enrolment process, noting that the 1700 beneficiaries will be properly trained in line with the value chain they have selected before the grant can be administered to them.
The State Project Coordinator told the state government that the APPEALS project in the state is in alignment with the Agricultural Transformation Blueprint of the state and therefore called on all relevant stakeholders to support the successful implementation of the project in the state.
In his Keynote Address, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello commended the APPEALS project in the state for the empowerment programme and advised the beneficiaries to take the opportunity provided by the empowerment scheme serious and ensure they make out a decent living from it. This he said is because agriculture as the mainstay of the economy of the state is a sector that is strategically being used to reduce the unemployment rate in the country and to improve the livelihood of the vast majority of the populace.
He said the state government has facilitated the establishment of two Cashew processing factories in the state and a soon to be established company that will produce seedlings for rice farmers in the state.
The governor assured the beneficiaries of the government continued support in ensuring the scheme is expanded to accommodate other unemployed youths in the state with a genuine interest in farming and other agribusinesses.
The governor further presented the beneficiaries with their letters of engagement.