Lagos State says it is refocusing the attention of its teeming youth on modern agriculture, a veritable part of the economy.
The Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, said this in Ikeja, during the final stage of the Start Them Early Programme (STEP) Schools Agri-Competition.
The agri-competition is in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Innovation Youth in Agriculture (I-Youth) Project.
Adefisayo, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr Abayomi Abolaji, said that government would harness the opportunities derived in modern forms of agriculture, as it educates the youth on its importance.
She said that over the years, government at different levels, particularly at the federal level, had always been touting the need to go back to agriculture.
The commissioner said that it was not just to have food sustainability, but to also see it as a means, or another path to diversification.
” We have always for years relied on petroleum and we have seen where that has taken us to.
” The government has realised that and so has over the years been calling for a visit to the past, not of regret, but of re-engineering, of recharging our course.
” So, for us to therefore, take a step back and refocus our energy in agriculture, we are of course not going to depend on the men and women who are 60, 65, 70, 75 years old. We are not going to look at them to salvage the situation.
”Who are we going to beckon on? The youth, and we have them in large number. So that is why this programme is aimed at refocusing the attention of our youth to that veritable part of the economy.
”That sector of economy that has the capacity to absorb as many entrants as possible and one of the ways is through this competition, where you awaken the understanding, the spirit of these young boys.
”So that they will not see agriculture as a profession of the old, a profession of the uneducated, of the illiterate, they should begin to get that feel of modern agriculture,” she said.
Adefisayo said that with modern agriculture, utilising minimal piece of land, one would still grow crops, grow vegetables, and grow fruits.
”So, the focus on the youth is not misplaced. It is the right step in the right direction, hence, the Ministry of Education is committed to using the instrument we have, and the instrument is of course, a large one, which is the youths,” she said.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, said that the state government, through the Ministry of Agriculture had been encouraging increased investments and the empowerment of women and youths in the agricultural sector.
Olusanya, who was represented by the Director, Agric Services, Mrs Abiola Ayoade, said this was aimed at increasing food production, creating employment opportunities, alleviating poverty and boosting income generation in the state.
Mr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnership for Delivery, IITA, said there had been a big challenge to have youths move into agriculture, as many had moved to the urban areas looking for job opportunities.
Dashiell said that the competition was meant to highlight more about the opportunities that abound in agric-business.
The Executive Manager, I-Youth Programme, Ms Aline Mugisho, said that the programme was meant to create dignified and fulfilling employment for the young people.
Mugisho said that it was to expose them to technology, research and innovations that would enable them to harness the opportunities in agriculture.
Meanwhile, Destiny Edoro from Gbagada Senior Grammar School was the overall winner of the agri-competition.
David Joshua of Comprehensive Senior High School Alapere came second, while Asokere Misimau of Ajara Comprehensive Senior High School, Badagry was third.