Lagos — Last week, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, presided over the graduation of Course Two, Three, and Four trainees of the state's AGRIC Youth Empowerment Scheme ( AGRIC-YES) at the Training Institute in Epe, about 50 kilometres away from metropolitan Lagos.
The graduation ceremony had a total of 286 agricultural trainees who are mostly university and polytechnic graduates that have gone through a 14-month intensive practical agricultural training on the farm and specialised in various agricultural activities like piggery, fish farming, bee Keeping and poultry among others.
The event also witnessed official handover of 32 tonnes capacity per day Cassava Flour Mill , 50, 000 capacity automated five-unit broiler houses, 200 units of two bedroom apartment as farm settlement for the young farmers; Ram Ranch, Feed Mill of 64 tonnes capacity per day and 234 kilometres road network within the institute.
Speaking after going round the facilities, the governor described the training programme as a very simple idea conceived in 2009. He expressed his joy that it has been rigorously developed and dutifully implemented, adding: "When we graduated the first set of trainees in 2010 at this same spot, it was our first tentative step towards how to pursue a policy that, we were clear in our minds, was a way forward for food security in our state. It is a huge and quantum leap from an idea that has become a reality. "
He stressed that the achievements recorded by the AGRIC-YES programme in such a short time showed that what is needed to boost food production in the country is a clear idea, a clear plan and unflinching commitment to implement those plans.
According to him: "We know it was a policy to take young people, young graduates away from the allure and the clamour and desperation of seeking and looking for white-collar jobs that do not exist and to bring them back to the foundations of the earth, to bring them back to the land."
The governor pointed out that without production of food, the factories and other industrial production would collapse. In his words, "If we do not produce food, the factories will shutdown, if we do not produce food and go back to the land, there will be no rubber to make tyres to even drive those luxury cars. That was the simple idea behind the AGRC-YES, to go back to the land, to create dignity and honour with the land so that young people will have a new focus and a new beginning".
Feeling elated about the development of the Agric Training Institute, Governor Fashola said, "Today, I am happy to hear that most of our beverage manufacturing companies are collecting their cassava starch from here. It is going into our ingredients that end up as beverage, chocolate drink and all of that in our state".
Continuing, the governor listed other achievements of the state government through the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry saying, "Today, we have added a 64-tonne Feed Mill so that all the feedstock required for our livestock is now locally sourced and locally produced. We have also added about 50,000 layers and by January next year, the stock of egg production here will rise to about 150,000 eggs in one day".
Other facilities added to make life comfortable for the trainees, the governor said, include 200 units of two-bedrooms, improved road network and laid out streets. He promised that his administration would continue to tackle the problem of electricity in the institute until it is solved. "You have my commitment; we will do something, no matter how difficult it is", he said.
He charged the graduating trainees to always determine not to let themselves down. "You are the most important person that you owe, not me. I have provided the opportunity; you must not let yourselves down", he said.
Responding to the governor's remarks, one of the best graduating students, Miss. Oloko Olanrewaju, who spoke on behalf of the others, expressed gratitude to the governor for the privilege given them, pointing out that they have been well trained during the course, promising they will all put in their best to achieve food security not only for Lagos state but the country as a whole.
Responding to Olanrewaju's promise before the large crowd comprising parents, guardians, relatives and friends of the trainees, Governor Fashola said, "I accept your commitment and your promise on behalf of your colleagues that you will not disappoint yourselves. As you have told us, you now have new skills because you have been properly trained and I thank all your resource persons".
"Today, the only thing that limits how big you can become is yourself and your ambition. We will continue providing steady hands, but you can only go as far as you can dream. I hope that you will achieve your dreams", he said.
Looking back, Governor Fashola recalled that when the state started in 2010, the flagship was development of agric farms, to improve the production of vegetables, carrots and so on, adding that in addition to what have been done so far, the state now attempts to experiment on cattle fattening, goat and ram fattening so as to feed the demand of Lagos during festive seasons.
"It does not in any way suggest that we are going into full scale animal husbandry, but it suggests that we are ready to take responsibility for our own food security", he said.
On the farm settlement, the governor declared, "So for me, the idea has come to stay. We have built on a very simple idea of farm settlements. Now, our young farmers will live close to their own lands, producing and creating their own markets there." He said the future really is in the graduates hands, praying to God to make it prosperous for all of them.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, had charged the graduating trainees to use the skills which they have acquired to be the change they want to see in the world.