BY ROSEMARY NWAEBUNI
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state has pledged continuous support for all wealth creation and skill acquisition programmes targeted at the youths of the state to enable them compete favourably with their counterparts globally.
Okowa gave this assurance at the Master Class organized by the Ministry of Youth Development as part of the programs for this year’s International Youth Day, with the theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”.
The governor who was represented on the occasion by his Chief of Staff, Festus Ovie Agas, averred that the theme was apt considering the teeming unemployed youths in the society and current youths restiveness world over, adding that agriculture would help immensely in curbing unemployment in the state.
Okowa noted that his administration believed in agriculture as key in social economic development, necessitating its inclusion in the SMART and Stronger Delta agenda. He stressed that youths remained veritable tools for building social development in agriculture.
He revealed that the state had trained no fewer than 100,000 Delta youths in various youth empowerment programmes who are currently great entrepreneurs, boosting the economy of the state and creating jobs for others.
The governor assured that whatever decisions and resolutions reached at the Master Class would form part of the state’s future developmental plans towards enhancing the agricultural sector.
He urged the participants to make judicious use of the interactive sessions for fruitful deliberations and cross fertilization of ideas for future programmes and policies.
While commending the Commissioner for Youth Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, for the creativity he brought to bear in the ministry through various initiatives, policies, he affirmed: “You all can attest to the fact that he has really changed the narrative of the ministry”.
In his welcome address the Commissioner for Ministry of Youth Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, said the Master Class was aimed at highlighting the success of global efforts at driving innovation in the agricultural sector, noting that such success would not be attained without meaningful participation of young people proffering solutions to the challenges of food system.
He listed areas where such assistance could come handy to include improving food production; promoting sustainable agriculture; and using innovative and emerging technologies to ensure the health and well-being of humans and the environment.
In his words: “It has been acknowledged that there is a need for inclusive support mechanisms that will ensure increased youth participation in agriculture with improved agronomic practices, efficient value chain optimization and eco-friendly technologies in the transformation of food systems.
“This means that in order to practice sustainable agriculture that will improve the environment, we need to be innovative in our practices”.
Egwunyenga explained that the world’s population had been projected to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years and added that numerous stakeholders believed that simply producing a larger volume of healthier food will not ensure human and planetary wellbeing.
“Other crucial challenges such as inequality and access to improved agro-inputs, poverty reduction, social inclusion, health care, biodiversity conservation and climate change migration have to be addressed.
He revealed that Governor Okowa’s administration in the past six years had demonstrated the importance of youth inclusiveness in agricultural development via the Wealth and Job Creation program and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP).
He added that YAGEP has produced and equipped agro-entrepreneurs in poultry, piggery, fishery, crop production, agro-processing and agribusiness with skills and capacity development on the best agronomic practices in respect to the sustenance of the food system for both individuals and the environment.
While hinting on other giant strides of Okowa administration in the agricultural sector, he said that the ongoing establishment of Agro Industrial Parks in Kwale and Aboh-Ogwashi were part of the Governor’s Stronger Delta agenda.
“Today is a reminder that the youths are the hope now and the future. We call on all stakeholders to work with youths in agriculture as well as partner with the State Government in Transforming the Food System in Delta State. Together, we can improve our wellbeing and the health of our planet, earth.
Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health; Youth in Agriculture: Challenges and Concrete Solutions; and Boosting Agricultural Productivity in Delta State were lectures delivered at the occasion by Hon. Samuel Oghenevowogaga Mariere, Dr. Eric Nwachukwu and Mrs. Joy Enamokwu respectively.