Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Geoffrey Van Leeuwen, has called on Nigerians to consider investing in high-tech farming for food security and self-sufficiency.
The minister made the call when he visited Abuja for a training of Youth in Agribusiness, a project sponsored by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in partnership with Golden Finger Green Skill Academy on Monday.
The concept of high-tech farming mainly refers to the process of deploying agricultural operations involving the use of latest technologies.
Leeuwen told journalists that if his home country, the Netherlands, with just 80 million people can attain the level of being the second largest exporter of agricultural products through hi-tech, nothing can stop Nigeria with a huge population of over 200 million from being better.
The Dutch also stressed that The Netherlands and Nigeria have enjoyed strong bilateral relations that date back to 1593 with both countries working on a wide range of issues, notably political, economic, and migration.
He said, “You are the future of Nigeria. In the Netherlands, agriculture is one of the major driving forces of our economy. It is not just agriculture, we have technology and science to mitigate the challenges of agriculture production in the future. For us, it is not just the traditional farming that we thinking about. Farming means business, making money, technology, and exporting to make money.
“High-tech agriculture is something The Netherlands is very proud of. We are the number two agricultural products exporter in the world. We have only 80 million people. With high-tech farming, you can imagine what Nigeria can do for the world. With your population, young people, and knowledge, your future should be on high-tech farming.
“The whole goal of this farming training is on food security and I think with the education system behind it, Nigeria can be self-sufficient in agriculture. We are helping with education, scientific operations, and company support. If you set up a high-tech farming industry, you can supply food to not just Nigeria but to the world in the future.”
Amid rising inflation, fall in purchasing power, and insecurity, experts had called on President Bola Tinubu last week to declare an immediate “State of Emergency” on food insecurity in the country.
The United Nations World Food Programme has also predicted that over 26.5 million Nigerians may grapple with food insecurity and face acute hunger in 2024 if nothing is done to address the problem.
Earlier in her address, IITA Executive Manager in charge of the Youth in Agribusiness initiative, Aline Mugisho told our correspondent that despite the challenge of brain drain and an exodus of youths, they believe young Nigerians are still the future of the country.
She said, “It is about changing the face of science, not only for the innovation but for it to yield some level of business and income for young people. Just as the minister said, we are more interested in training youths who are between the ages of 18 and 35 because they are the future. We can’t do away with young people because we know most jobs are not only going to be created by institutions.
“Under the YAS (Youths in Agribusiness) project, we have trained 10,000 youths and inspected the indirect beneficiaries of the audit policy so that for, at least every young person or business created, we tend to nurture and help them to accelerate their businesses to make sure we link them to the direct market system as well as to connect them to the right financial institutions. We don’t give the finance ourselves but we create the enabling environment for that.”
Appreciating the minister and other speakers at the event, Chairman of the training academy, Major General Ezra Jakko noted that the partnership and funding of the project will go a long way in promoting and improving agro-business in the country.
“It is quite gratifying to note the confidence that the international community has in the people of Nigeria and to the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria in their effort to provide food security for the country.
“We are glad that this farm has been chosen as a hub for training and development. A highly integrated farm set up. We also have an educational system behind it,” he stated