By Tosin Kolade
The Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority (BORBDA) has trained 70 youths on beekeeping.
The Managing Director of the authority, Mr Saliu Ahmed, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
The training, he said, was made possible with the implementation of the Graduate and Youth Empowerment Programme of the Federal Government.
The four catchment states of the river basin development authorities are; Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Delta.
According to him, the river basin is making some strides in youth empowerment, following tremendous challenges of food production due to continued population growth in the country.
“40 of these trainees have been signed into an international off-takers of honey and bee products, who is supporting them with more hives and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for beekeeping.
“The off takers have made promise to also off take at international market rates of all their products; honey, bee wax, pollen grains”.
Saliu noted that the Federal Government had initiated several policies with special emphasis on promoting agriculture; thus turning the country into a net producer of food for both domestic and export markets.
He added that the authority had also identified some communities and acquired some lands and selected some youths in communities for agriculture mechanisation.
“We are supporting them with inputs and mechanisations to crop maize in one community and cassava in another.
“For these ones, we have also gotten off takers who will buy their harvests and sell at commercial rates when the harvest comes.
“While the cost of those inputs will be recovered to help us keep the programme running for another set of youths. It is slow, but the impact is certain. So far, the percentage of success is above average”.
The managing director said the river basin was at the forefront of implementing the Songhai Model of integrated farming.
He added that currently, one farm was in production and processing of agricultural products and the other farm has its processing units being put together.
“The Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority Songhai integrated farm model is tailored after the Songhai Model farming practice in Benin Republic.
“Its aim is to establish an integrated organic farming to enhance food and animal production using sustainable methods as well as to serve as training center for Nigerian youths interested in modern farming techniques”.
Accordin to him, the second one which is a mini ranch has cattle and goats, being raised for the production of meat and milk.
He added that two other farms were in their preparatory stages, noting that lands were cleared and infrastructure ready to be installed.
“In all, we have four locations where the Songhai model of agriculture is being implemented.
“All these four are in Edo, but this year, we shall be launching our proghramme in Ekiti , to a very large extent, we are in the forefront”.
He noted that the farms were also being used as training sites for agriculture students of tertiary institutions, with two streams of penultimate students learning the rudiments for six weeks.
He pledged the authority’s commitment to sustain progress made and also keep the enterprises on the farm running.
He said the two new Farms being developed were conceived around the host communities, saying it was a conscious step towards promoting community ownership within the next three years.
“We realise that community ownership is key, the farms have a potential for creating employment and instigating new agricultural practices”.
He said 10 youths in each community were being trained in PortoNovo to see how they would be involved in production and also step down knowledge to other people in their communities.
On challenges, Ahmed expressed worry that farming was still being misconceived as an occupation of the poor, with those going into farming lacking an alternative source of income.
“We are working to make the youths see that agriculture is business, we are supporting them to move from the hoe and cutlass practices and farm larger expanse of land through support of mechanisations and inputs”.
He stressed the need for agriculture extension workers to support with knowledge sharing to make young farmers work productively.