Rice is one of the priority agricultural commodities in Crop Production, a branch of the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP). YAGEP was established to create decent and gainful youth employment through the agricultural value chain, boost agricultural productivity as well as diversify the economy of the state. This is one of the implementation strategies of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s vision for job creation in fulfilment of his prosperity agenda for all Deltans. Under the YAGEP, a total of seven hundred and fifty seven (757) previously unemployed youths have been trained, established in 25 farm clusters across the state and mentored in agricultural enterprises over three successive years/cycles of implementation – 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/2018.
Like other priority agricultural commodities as poultry, cassava, aquaculture and vegetables, rice has comparative advantage to boost the social and economic landscape and transform the agricultural value chains in Delta State. To this end, the YAGEP rice initiative started in 2017 with the cultivation of 74 hectares of land at Ugili-Amai in Ndokwa West Local Government Area. Subsequently in 2018, the initiative involved the cultivation of 96 hectares of rice farm- 42 hectares at Deghele, Sapele Local Government Area and 54 hectares at Mbiri, Ika North East Local Government Area. A total of 48 trainees were trained and established in these two rice farm clusters, 21 at Deghele and 27 at Mbiri. These 48 trainees worked under close tutorials, facilitation and guidance of the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer through knowledgeable and experienced resource persons from within and outside the state.
It is worthy to note that the rice value chain initiative involved instructional and field-based training, farm enterprise incubation and establishment of youths through the entire process of rice production, processing, packaging, branding and marketing. The programme activities included soil testing and site selection, land preparation (clearing, ploughing and harrowing), seed treatment and planting, soil treatment, weeds prevention and control, fertilizer application, prevention and control of pests and diseases and birds scaring. Other operations were harvesting (cutting and packing), threshing, drying, winnowing, washing/parboiling, milling, destoning and packaging/bagging. The cultivation, harvesting, threshing, drying, parboiling, milling, destoning and bagging operations were carried out with participation of the YAGEPreneurs. All the inputs, technologies and materials used in the rice production and processing and packaging operations were provided by the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer.
Speaking on the gains of establishing youths in cluster farms, the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh said, “The advantages cannot be overemphasized. As you can see, the Delta State Government is transforming the agricultural landscape of the state through the establishment of cluster farms across the state. Some of the advantages include an improved programme targeting as a result of high concentration of many YAGEPreneurs in one location; enhancement in the operational efficiency of the programme in terms of value for money and value for efforts and enabling growth, collaboration, peer-learning and cooperation among the YAGEPreneurs and in the long run boost agricultural productivity and wealth creation.” Continuing, “The end game of the exercise is to have processed, packaged Delta YAGEP Rice. Market for Delta YAGEP Rice will not be a problem. Beneficiaries will not have challenges because the rice is of high quality. The whole quantity will be bought up before they get into the market. In Delta State, there is deficit in rice cultivation and we are supporting our YAGEPreneurs to bridge that gap“, he emphasized.
One of the YAGEPreneurs, Beauty Adibeli described the experience as wonderful. “If given the opportunity, I will bring more youths into the field of agriculture, especially rice production.” For Matthew Obriki,” I am an NCE holder. I studied Agricultural Education and graduated from College of Education, Warri where the Delta State Government through the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer, compiled the names of best agricultural science graduates for the YAGEP programme. I was enrolled in 2016. We began rice production from Ugili-Amai in Ndokwa West Local Government Area. I want to appreciate the state government for this opportunity.
Delta YAGEP Rice, packaged in 10-kg packs, have been presented to the initiator of the job creation programme, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa. The actualization of this milestone deserves commendation, especially to His Excellency, the Governor for providing the resources, leadership and enabling environment for the accomplishment of this milestone.
Written by Gertrude Onyekachukwu-Uteh