The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says its Youth Empowerment in Aquaculture Programme is targeting 10 million youths in West Africa within the next three years.
Mr Nourou Tall, the Acting FAO Representative in Nigeria, who said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday, noted that three 3 million of the beneficiaries would come from Nigeria.
He said that FAO was working with the West African governments to introduce pragmatic policies that would facilitate youth employment in the area of aquaculture.
Tall said that the policies would include adequate support from the governments in areas of access to land, technical support, access to loans from various financial institutions and marketing skills as well as connection to major markets for exports.
The representative said that the FAO interaction with the West African governments had become imperative because youths were typically excluded from most institutions that provided financial services such as credit, savings and insurance.
He added that the development had particularly hindered the ability of the youth to participate in agriculture in a meaningful way.
Tall said that Nigeria was chosen as a pilot state for West African project because of its great potential in fish farming, adding that the major focus of the project would be on cat fish.
He stressed that FAO would also use the opportunity to scale up aquaculture activities in Nigeria.
He said that FAO has achieved a lot in the areas of food security in Nigeria, as it had evolved measures to curb the outbreak and spread of Avian Influenza, while supporting policies on reducing post-harvest losses as well as promoting the National Programme on Food Security and value chain development.
Tall said that FAO had also used its corporate innovations to assist fish farmers to develop aquaculture businesses, while organising them into cooperatives to enable have to better access to markets for good deals.
The FAO representative reiterated the commitment of his organisation to collaborating with the federal and state governments in all the implementation processes of the programme.
Dr Aboubakar SIDIBE, an official of FAO in charge of fisheries, noted that fish was an essential source of dietary protein in sub-Saharan Africa.
He said that fish had provided over 22 per cent of the people’s protein intake but noted that the West African marine fish resources had been over-exploited, adding, that there was, therefore, an urgent need to fill the gaps.
SIDIBE said that this was the rationale behind the FAO project, which aimed at stimulating the involvement of the youths in aquaculture enterprises so as to fill the perceptible gaps.
“The sector must be adequately improved because the industry supports over eight million people, while contributing to the livelihood, employment, and household food security of coastal communities,’’ he said.
He said that FAO was working in tandem with other West African countries to engender the necessary polices, assistance and public awareness to achieve the goals of the youth empowerment project in West Africa.
He said that fish farming was an important and lucrative business in Nigeria, adding that this explained the interest of FAO in reviewing the profitability of the fish farming business in the country and expanding the benefits that could accrue from it.
SIDIBE said that a national meeting on the programme would soon take place in Abuja to work out the modalities of the project with other participating countries.
He said that the implementation of the programme would be launched before the end of the year.