The quality of performance of every government is measured by the improvement in the quality of life of its people through its policies and programmes. Like a flash, two years in office of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is being concluded. As part of the activities marking his second year in office, Town Hall Meetings with Deltans and Commissioning/Inspection of Projects among others were introduced to enable the Governor present his scorecard before Deltans. Thus, he was at Songhai Delta, Amukpe in Sapele Local Government Area to inspect the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) Irrigated Tomato Cluster.
In his determination to tackle youth unemployment, promote economic diversification and ensure food security, the Job Creation Scheme was initiated. YAGEP, one of the programmes of the Job Creation Scheme, is designed to make agriculture attractive to the youths. After screening, successful applicants are trained for three months and at the end of their internship in different training/internship centres across the state, given full-package starter packs/stocks and established in their choice enterprises such as Poultry, Fishery, Piggery or Crop Production. The 5 hectares YAGEP Irrigated Tomatoes Cluster in Songhai Delta, Amupke is therefore one of the 28 YAGEP cluster farms located in different senatorial districts of the state.
With 24 YAGEPreneurs cultivating tomato in this cluster together with 2 other tomato clusters sited at Ogwashi/Ewuru and Mbiri communities, the State Government is set to make Delta a tomato hub. The Governor’s visit to the cluster was quite commendable just as it was motivational to the young, but enthusiastic YAGEPreneurs who have willingly accepted farming, crop production, as their new love. The visit, an interactive one, afforded the Governor the opportunity to receive first-hand information on the level of implementation of this aspect of the job creation programme, feel the pulse of the young entrepreneurs and engender the monitoring and mentoring mechanism, a core component of the job and wealth creation initiative of his administration.
Welcoming the Governor to the cluster, the State Chief Job creation Officer, Prof Eric Eboh, gave a brief of the activities of the YAGEPreneurs and the facilities in the cluster which included 5 water boreholes with an overhead tank, complete set of Jain Drip Irrigation System to provide all year round farming, 5 numbers of 3.1 KVA Fireman generators to power the boreholes, young tomato plants nursed from a disease resistant variety of Cobra Tomato Seedling among others. According to Prof Eboh, the 24 YAGEPreneurs were at the stage of transplanting the young tomato plants from the nursery to their farms. Each YAGEPreneur was allocated 2000sq. m portion of land, ranging from plot 1 to plot 24. He further explained that the drip irrigation system would ensure farming for three cycles in a year especially during the dry season. An impressed Governor Okowa expressed his satisfaction at the level of interest exhibited by the beneficiaries. “I can see the enthusiasm in these youths. I believe that these youths who are the pioneers of this irrigated tomato farming will make the state proud,” he remarked.
One of the beneficiaries, Ugochukwu Chukwuneke, a graduate of Linguistics and Communication Studies from the University of Port Harcourt who hails from Burutu Local Government Area, responded on behalf of other beneficiaries. “We are committed to this course and are expecting that at the end of each cycle, 200 baskets of tomatoes would be harvested by each beneficiary and at the end of the cycle, each YAGEPreneur would take home #1.6m in three months,” he emphasized. He advised unemployed youths of Delta State to embrace agriculture so as to become self-reliant, explaining that the sale of crude oil is no longer fashionable in the world. He added that agriculture is the sure way out of poverty.
Other YAGEPreneurs, Temisere Patricia, an English Education graduate from Ughelli South and Amos Osiebe, an NCE holder from Ethiope East Local Government Areas respectively, expressed their satisfaction with the programme. They said they were happy farming and that the State Government provided the enabling environment for them to excel, pointing out that the era of waiting for white collar job was gone. They called on the government to continue with the programme in order to curb unemployment among youths and to boost wealth creation in the state.
This scheduled visit of His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, to the YAGEPreneurs was remarkable and would propel them to work with determination to make the state proud as further testimonials in the successful implementation of its job and wealth creation policy. It is expected that if the tempo is sustained, Delta State would become sufficient in tomato production, meet local demand, boost tomato value chain addition, promote the growth of off-takers in tomato value chain and become an exporter of tomato to other states in Nigeria.
By Gertrude Onyekachukwu-Uteh
The Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer was created as a special purpose vehicle for the actualisation of job and wealth creation under the S.M.A.R.T agenda. The job and wealth creation scheme has been tagged OkowaPlus.