The Federal Government says part of agricultural loans from international organisations will henceforth be invested in the training of youths in modern agricultural practices so as to improve production.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, told newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday 26th of April 2017, that the new policy would boost agricultural production, while facilitating efforts to improve exports of agricultural commodities.
Ogbeh was reacting to calls by stakeholders to commence the second phase of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP).
The minister said that the generation of foreign exchange through the exportation of agricultural produce would also help the country to reduce its debt burden.
“A portion of any loan we take now will be dedicated to encouraging agricultural production and exportation of products grown by young people and women.
“We just have to earn more foreign exchange because we must pay our debts.
“According to statistics, we are spending 66 per cent of all our tax revenues on servicing debts.
“If we are servicing debts and not paying the principal, in another 10 years, this country will be in such debts that will make us to be facing major embarrassment.
“So, we will take part of our loans and invest it in agricultural projects that young people pursue for exports, so that we can earn both foreign exchange and naira.
“The rest of the loans will go into training of youths and promotion of our produce,’’ he said.
Ogbeh expressed satisfaction with the first phase of WAAPP and noted that the World Bank was working toward the onset of its second phase.
“They (the World Bank) did quite well but there were duplication in our programmes; we intend to streamline them now.
“The World Bank is preparing for the next phase but this time around, the input from the ministry will be stronger,’’ he said.
WAAPP is a multi-year effort to transform West African agriculture by boosting agricultural productivity and its sustainability, reducing hunger and improving nutrition as well as creating jobs and supporting collaboration across borders.
The 13 participating countries of WAAPP are Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.