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Monday, 31 December 2012 00:00
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Henshaw (left), Balogun, Chioma Alonge, Chico Ejiro, at the Veleta, Grand Touch Xmas Carol with Nollywood stars

•Some of the participants“This is too good to be true, ambitious, practically impossible”, Lanre shot back at Rotimi as his friend informed him about the ingenuity that seeks food for the people and employment for the youths, especially graduates, roaming the streets. Rotimi had been hinted of the scheme by a relation who is a government official, and had been interested.

He believed his long time friend, Lanre, should not be kept in the dark of the scheme.
They are both graduates of economics and had, for the past two years since they finished their Youth Service looked for job everywhere without success. Now there is an opportunity to reverse their joblessness, but his friend is treating it with disbelief. “Why not let us give it a trial. We have nothing to lose if we enrol for the programme and find it is not worth our while,” Rotimi tried to persuade Lanre. Lanre agreed reluctantly.

Today, the two friends are among the thousands of graduate farmers that are not only gainfully employed at the Caring Heart Agricultural Village, Ore,in Odigbo local government area of Ondo State but also engage in large scale agricultural production.
Lanre is into fish farming while Rotimi is into poultry farming. So profitable are the two friends in their ventures that they have become  objects of envy by their colleagues who opted for employment in government service as against the Caring Heart Agricultural Scheme about 15 months ago .

Rotimi, Lanre and the thousands others in the wealth creation scheme owe their success to Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State who initiated the modern agricultural process. The Caring Heart Agricultural Scheme is a two-pronged programme designed to tackle two of the nation's most pressing challenges: food crisis and acute youth unemployment. Before this scheme, there had been many others with similar mandates.

The previous schemes, however, had one snag. They were not innovative enough to attract the large segment of the population – the youths – into agriculture as the youths saw agriculture as a profession for the dregs of the society. Studies by the Mimiko administration showed that if there were to be well thought-out agricultural schemes, youths will embrace it. This marked the beginning of the Caring Heart Agricultural Village, Ore. The scheme is technology-driven.

It is a residency programme with participants accommodated in a 'village' that boasts of basic infrastructural facilities. There are at least 70 self-contained housing units for the participants. The 'village' has electricity round the clock. The taps run 24 hours. The roads are well tarred to ease the movement of farm produce.

There are in fact 15 kilometres of internal farm roads in the 'village'. For the residents of the Caring Heart Agricultural Village, there seems to be nothing more to add in terms of infrastructure. In terms of bringing this initiative at par with modern day agriculture, all the crop farming activities in the 'village' is tractor-driven. Weed control is chemically done. Participants are empowered with facilities for crop farming, fish farming, poultry farming, mushroom farming, etc.

There are at least 10,000 youngsters earning a living courtesy of the Ore Agricultural Village. Two other agricultural villages in Ondo State are also established by the Mimiko administration. One is in Epe in Ondo East local government area while the other is in Auga-Akoko. The Auga-Akoko branch is distinct from the two other Caring Agricultural Villages in the sense that it has cattle ranching.

Mimiko himself realised the capability of the rare agricultural scheme to curb unemployment and poverty in Ondo State when he said, “I want to encourage you, young graduate farmers, that this (Caring Heart Agricultural Village) is about you, it is about the future of this state, it is about a task to be chosen by a nation if it wants to get out of poverty. Through your activities here, I believe that Nigeria will come to learn that farming is a profitable venture and it is one avenue that we can explore to ensure that we defeat youth unemployment in Nigeria”.

One cannot but agree with the governor. Indeed he rode on the crest of aggressive youth empowerment and wealth creation for the various segments of the people of Ondo State, among other programmes, to victory in the October 20, 2012 gubernatorial election. The people expect no less as Mimiko prepares to begin his second tenure. The will not be disappointed.