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Lagos Agripreneurship story: Between facts and fiction

Lagos State commissioner for agriculture Abisola Olusanya

The Lagos State Government is irrevocably committed to driving youth-inclusive policies, programmes and projects in agriculture. The philosophy behind this is to serve the dual purpose of ensuring food security, whilst combating the twin challenge of unemployment and climate change.

Agriculture is the backbone of many economies, averaging 25% or more of GDP in several developing countries and representing a prime opportunity to employ the youth.

Considering the ageing population of food producers in the country, with an average age of 60 plus, it behoves the government to drive inclusive strategies that engage the target group in agricultural food production.

Lagos is not left behind in this drive. It has, thus, initiated programmes targeted at youth participation in the sector through its Ministry of Agriculture to mitigate some of the challenges identified as preventing the youth from fully engaging in agriculture – most notably lack of financing, land, markets and training.

Some of the programmes initiated by the state government in this regard are the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (L.A.P), the Rice for Job programme and Cage and Pen Culture training and empowerment (under the Marine Aquaculture Development Programme) as well as the Lagos Agric Scholars Programme (L.A.S.P) and Apiculture training and empowerment (bee-keeping) among others.

As earlier stated, the aim is to create jobs and wealth, as well as ensure food security among the populace. These programmes have recorded significant success levels in achieving specific objectives.

The administration of Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu conceptualised the establishment of the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (L.A.P.) in year 2020 as a social intervention programme aimed at exposing the youth to agriculture via training utilising modern agricultural techniques and practices towards job and wealth creation. The programme aims to train 15,000 youth across four value chains namely poultry, aquaculture, vegetable and piggery within the next 5 years.

The L.A.P programme is modelled after Israel’s Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT) programme, with the fundamental principle of learning by doing. The winning combination of practical training on an advanced and modern farm, theoretical studies, and community life provides the participants with a unique and rich experience.

The Programme is a four-month training programme that involves one-month intensive on-site demonstration training at the Lagos State Agricultural Training Institute in Araga – Epe (where participants are trained, accommodated, fed, and provided with training materials and safety kits for free by the State government), and a three-month internship phase with select agro-allied companies/farms. Since the inception of this programme in 2020, a total number of 2,200 participants have been trained.

The participants go through the pre-qualification process, which involves, obtaining application forms, screening, and aptitude test/ oral interview before they are admitted into the programme.

The programme is implemented in three phases namely training, internship/mentorship and linkage to sources of finance, with the process flow as below:

The training phase involves practical and theory at a 70:30 ratio respectively and runs from Monday to Saturday for the one-month duration at Araga, Epe. The practical session takes place between 6.30 am – 8.00 am (morning session) and 4.30 pm – 6.00 pm (evening session). Classroom theoretical sessions take place from 10.00 am – 2.00 pm daily.

At the end of the training phase, examinations are conducted on all the value chains to determine the level of understanding of the participants. In order to encourage hard work, the Ministry introduced a reward system in 2021 for the top ten performers in each value chain and gave out agricultural inputs as start-up capital during the annual Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme of the Ministry.

To further encourage economies of scale, cross-learning, and extension programme support, the LAP beneficiaries bequeathed with inputs are advised to kick off their enterprise at the Food Production Centres in Epe & Badagry where the State Government has provided production facilities and infrastructure to support their agricultural activities at no cost for one year.

In the year 2021, 300 participants from Batches 1 – 7 as well as participants from the defunct Agric YES programme were given production inputs in the aquaculture value chain (240) and poultry value chain (60) by the ministry in fulfilment of State support promised to the top performers. Others in the same category across batches 8 – 14 would receive enterprise support during the year 2022 Enterprise Activation Programme, which is yet to take place.

The second phase, which is the L.A.P internship and mentorship phase is designed to expose trained participants to the real economics of agriculture and improve their knowledge of modern technologies for increased yields and profitability.

Participants are attached to private commercial farms and other agribusiness concerns that are very close to their places of abode to acquire hands-on experience. This phase runs for three months and is implemented in collaboration with a private sector consultant (SME Accelerator), who takes care of posting, monitoring and evaluation of the participants.

For batches 8 and 9, the Ministry of agriculture collaborated with the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment to train and link its Graduate Internship Placement Programme (GIPP) candidates with agro-allied companies for the L.A.P internship phase.

It is important to note that the GIPP structure differs from L.A.P. The former requires a 6-month internship period with a monthly stipend of N40,000, which is managed and disbursed by the Ministry of Wealth creation with a view to placing participants in jobs after the training programme, whilst the latter is strictly 3 months with no stipend and no job placement as managed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

At the end of the three-month internship, the Ministry of Agriculture issues participants that have successfully completed this phase certificates. This is required for linkage to financial institutions. The third phase is for participants that have successfully completed phases 1 and 2 of the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP) and are implemented in conjunction with NIRSAL Microfinance bank (CBN). Participants are expected to register with the CBN-approved Enterprise Development Institute (EDI) with the sum of N10,000 (Ten Thousand naira only) to attend a 3- day of training on finance/business development as part of the requirements for financial loan application.

In its bid to reduce the burden on participants and encourage follow-through of the programme, the Lagos State Government pays the mandated registration fees (N10,000) for the EDI training – the cost for all 2,200 participants that have gone through the L.A.P has been paid for.

Participants are only expected to upload the L.A.P certificate issued after the internship phase and make a mandatory payment of N5,000 for Business plan development which must be paid by individual participants with their ATM cards as recommended by the CBN to aid biodata capture.

The long-term goal of the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture is to develop the Agricultural training institute, Araga at Epe to become a leading regional scientific research and development centre. We envisage a future when the centre will enter into partnerships with the private sector, development partners and nations.

The goal, as usual, is to advance sustainable methods of crop cultivation and animal husbandry, providing critical knowledge to the regional farming community, raising product quality and opening new markets. This would boost the quality of training given to participants and open frontiers to student exchange programs, in furtherance of the objective of exposure to ground-breaking technologies that would be vital to food security in Nigeria.

Sodipo is Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Alausa, Ikeja.

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