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Tackling youth unemployment with Ogun broiler production template

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Poultry specialists and investors, as well as agro-economists, have suggested that to reduce the alarming rate of youth employment, underemployment and avert insurrection in the country, drastic investment and empowerment decisions should be taken.

Poultry production, especially short-term broiler production, is seen as one of the most viable means of resolving the twin challenges of ‘protein famine’ and unemployment. And, a template operated by Ogun State government is recommended by experts as a good model that other states should adopt.

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As unemployment emerges a monster, agro-economic analysts and industry players think agriculture, especially poultry production, appears to be a wand for arresting the trend.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data indicates that as of the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate was 27.1%. The rate in Q3 2018 was 23.1%, which increased steadily by 4.0% points between then and the second quarter of 2020.

The 2020 figure translated into 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians who remained unemployed as of August 2020. Unemployment and underemployment rate for the same year was 28.6%.

Protein deficiency is huge in the country, accounting for millions of malnourished and stunted children.

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Action Against Hunger, an international body monitoring hunger, poverty and malnutrition, has disclosed that despite Nigeria’s abundant natural resources, more than half of the country lives below the poverty line, with malnutrition.

It said more than one million under-five children are acutely malnourished across the affected areas. One in five children with severe acute malnutrition and one in 15 children with moderate acute malnutrition are at risk of death if untreated.

The Provost, Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Dr. Olatunde Owosibo, said: “We should go back to farm settlements and ensure that basic social amenities are on ground to make the lives of the farm settlers even better. With the farm settlements in place, the country will be able to curb cases of protein malnutrition in the populace, to which livestock products will be contributing a great deal.”
 

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This readily brings to mind the Ogun Broiler Project as demonstrated in the Eweje Farm Institute, Odeda and supported by the Bank of Industry, aimed at supporting young poultry farmers with funds, training and off-taking opportunities for firms like Amobyn Ltd.

It is believed that if every state of the federation could take similar initiatives of empowering youths in broiler production, unemployment and youth restiveness would reduce drastically.

Agricultural scientists have argued that of the available commercial sources of protein in the world, broiler is about the fastest. From day-old chicks to table size, it takes six weeks if good management is embraced. Comparatively, it takes three to four months to cultivate soybeans and cowpeas, which are alternative sources of protein. It will take a minimum of 20 weeks for pullets to start egg production.

It will take eight months to two years to get protein from cattle, and about six months to one year from goats and sheep as large-scale sources of protein to arrest protein deficiency. Hence, rapidity and scale of chicken production make it economically the best to tackle the challenges of youth unemployment and malnutrition anywhere.

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The Ogun broiler business model
The inauguration of the Ogun State Job Portal at the inception of the current administration was with over 50,000 individuals registering for various agricultural opportunities in the state. As of now, the figure stands at over 70,000 for various agricultural opportunities, especially poultry, data available from the ministry reveals.

The state commenced the pilot phase of a business plan at the Odeda Farm Institute, Eweje, in December 2019, where the state government had constructed six poultry pens of 9,000-bird capacity each with an output of 54,000 broiler birds per round of six weeks. Nine youths use a 9000-capacity pen, with 1000 birds to each.

The model, simply put, is a replica or revival of the late sage Obafemi Awolowo’s farm settlements in the southwestern region. The expected minimum and maximum deliverables yearly from the project is 216,000 birds (four rounds yearly) and 324,000 birds (six rounds).

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A committee was set up to screen and select beneficiaries, and qualified ones were selected on merits, according to sources.

“The list of potential beneficiaries was received, cutting across the three senatorial districts of the state, from chairmen of local governments, political office holders, youth & women empowerment groups, the Poultry Association of Nigeria, Ogun State chapter and other youths who heard about the poultry empowerment programme,” Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, said.

These potential beneficiaries were all invited for interviews to know their competence, availability and geographical locations after which 60 candidates were shortlisted and informed about their participation in the programme.

The 60 shortlisted candidates were trained on broiler management, business plan and group dynamics by resource persons from the Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with technical personnel from Amobyn Natnudo Farms Nigeria Limited in 2018. The training was highly successful as all the beneficiaries attended and the post-training evaluation showed the readiness of the beneficiaries for the programme.

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Project implementation/financing arrangement
The project is based on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement where the state government provides the fund for the construction of poultry houses. Rent for the use of the poultry houses are paid by the beneficiaries per bird cycle.

“Following successful training of the participants, the 60 beneficiaries were profiled for the Bank of Industry FarmerMoni Loan of N900,000 each, for a six-month duration with an administrative charge of 5% (N45,000). Following the approval from Bank of Industry, 54 beneficiaries were approved for the FarmerMoni Loan, which was disbursed in November 2019,” Dr Odedina said.

Amobyn Natnudo Farms Nigeria Limited, Awe, Oyo State, served as the end-to-end off-taker, supplying inputs and mopping up the chicken after six weeks.

Interactions with some participants revealed that in 42 days, an average profit of N150,000 was made per beneficiary in a cycle. Getting a profit of N150,000 in every six weeks is farm above the average salary of most Nigerian graduates.

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The state disclosed there has been an upsurge in the demand for poultry opportunities, as over 10,000 fresh applications for the programme, cutting across all the 20 LGAs in the state, have been documented.

More importantly, there is the willingness of the financial institutions to provide financial windows for the funding of the project, according to state officials. A source in the ministry said commercial banks such as Sterling Bank, First Bank and Wema Bank, among others, had expressed readiness to partner with the state on the project.

The commissioner Dr Odedina, said approval had already been given by Governor Dapo Abiodun to replicate the pilot in all the 20 local government areas in the state, and that the ministry was seeking approval to kick-start selection process for proposed beneficiaries across the three senatorial districts.

Dr. Odedina said: “When they commenced this project in December 2019, most of them were fresh graduates with different backgrounds. At the end of the first six weeks, they broke all available records in the reduced mortality and the feed conversion ratio to the satisfaction of the off-taker. Due to their success in the three cycles, we have on our table more than 9,000 applicants, who are mostly youths and have shown interest in becoming a part of the Ogun Broiler project.”

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The governor, while addressing the participants during their graduation, has said: “As you go out there, we will work with you and empower you. Some of you will go on to own your own broiler pens. The state government will facilitate that. We are going to have this project in each of the 20 local government across the state.”

The Broiler Farm Coordinator, Mr Femi Odubiyi, disclosed to The Guardian that the project is a public-private partnership programme aimed at training young people and empowering them to increase broiler production while creating jobs and adding value.

Odubiyi disclosed that public facilities that have not been in use in the state would be adapted for broiler production under the scheme.

He hinted that the second batch of the scheme could kick-off in the next month with the facilities for the training made readily available.

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Why other states should adopt, adapt the scheme
One of the participants in the project, Miss Lara Mafe, confirmed to The Guardian that after the first cycle of the chicken production for six weeks, she realised a margin of N200,000, and N45,000 was paid as interest on the loan and other expenses. The second cycle, she said, was a bit distorted by restricted movement following lockdowns, causing loss as a result of feeds consumption beyond six weeks. Mafe said the third cycle was profitable, and after the scheme, she now raises broilers, though in small-scale capacity for now.

Another participant, Mr Ekundayo Usiafo, who was head of Group Nine in the project, said he now raises 100 broilers in each cycle, having realised that it is a sustainable means of steady income. He urged more states to follow the model to get as many youths as possible kitted with knowledge, settlements, and other means to get them off the labour market and extreme poverty.

Mr John Olateru, a hatchery owner and former chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) in Oyo State, said such a scheme is commendable and recommended, especially if done in a farm settlement and made relatively permanent, with backward integration for feed production and maize cultivation. He said Osun State, in the Rauf Aregbesola administration, did a similar project, where it was off-taken for school feeding programmes.

Managing Director of Amobyn Ltd, the off-taker of the chickens, Dr Ayoola Oduntan, also explained to The Guardian that the firm was ready to partner with other states to maximize benefits of job creation, value chain growth and affordability of protein sources for more Nigerians.

Disclosing the capacity to effectively do so, he said the firm operates two hatcheries producing day-old chicks in Awe, Oyo State, and Owerri, Imo State, with feed mill facilities.

Specifically, he said the partnership with Ogun and Osun have been good models to adopt, where Ogun provides infrastructure, and the firm supplies chicks, feeds, vaccination and technical support financed by some banks. He describes Ogun’s project as a more organised scheme capable of creating more jobs.

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