By Raphael Jov
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has flagged off the farming season for the Base Youths Empowerment Through Agriculture (BYETA) programme at NAF Base Makurdi.
The ceremony, which was part of activities marking the recent visit of the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to NAF units in Makurdi on 23 June 2018, marked the formal commencement of Year 2018 farming activities of the programme.
According toAir Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesina, the Director of Public Relations and Information of the
Nigerian Air Force, BYETA, which is an initiative of the CAS, was instituted in 2016.
He said it is part of efforts aimed at empowering Barrack Youths in all NAF Bases across the Nation by training them in different aspects of agriculture in order to engage them in productive enterprises through which they could earn income while their parents are away on security operations across the country.
The NAF Base Makurdi BYETA Farm has 40 hectares of land for crop farming as well as 10 pens that house a total of 1,000 chicks in the poultry section and 4 tarpaulin tanks that currently contain 8,000 fingerlings in the fishery section.
In his remarks during the event, the Special Guest of Honour, Chairman House Committee on Air Force, Honourable Samson Okwu, commended the CAS for the worthy initiative of establishing BYETA.
He said it was gratifying to know that the programme would keep the participants busy thereby keeping them away from social vices while also adding to the Federal Government’s efforts towards ensuring food security in the country.
He therefore, urged all the youths in NAF Base Makurdi to key into the opportunity and make the most of it.
Honourable Okwu also pledged the continued support of the House of Representatives to all the laudable initiatives of the NAF.
Speaking during the event, the CAS remarked that he was delighted that the objective for establishing the BYETA programme was gradually being achieved because, in just 2 years of its establishment, the programme had not only positively influenced youths residing in NAF Bases but had also equipped them with necessary skills for self-employment, increased productivity and financial independence.
He said he was glad that the programme had grown from its modest beginning to the point where BYETA members were forming cooperatives for the purpose of accessing agricultural loans to boost production.
As proof of his commitment to the programme, Air Marshal Abubakar stated that he had directed the NAF Investment Limited (NAFIL) to allow these cooperatives access loans. He also appealed to financial institutions and other stakeholders to do the same.
The Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Tactical Air Command (TAC) Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Oladayo Amao, lauded the CAS for his commitment to the BYETA programme which according to him had made significant impact in the lives of the dependents of NAF personnel not only in Makurdi but also in other units within the Command’s area of responsibility. The AOC noted that TAC had remained in the forefront of execution of the BYETA programme, having earlier flagged off the 2018 farming season at 115 Special Operations Group Port Harcourt in April and later at the 107 Air Maritime Group NAF Base Benin in May.
Earlier, the Commander 151 Base Services Group Makurdi, Air Commodore Lawal Danzangi, had briefed the Guest of Honour, CAS and other senior officers that a total of 151 barrack youths had so far been trained and empowered by the BYETA programme, 41 in crop farming, 46 in poultry and 64 in fish farming.
Speaking further, he mentioned that the NAF Base Makurdi BYETA programme has formed 3 registered cooperative societies that had already commenced processes to obtain low interest loans from 2 financial institutions, namely Bank of Agriculture and Cahill Agro Company Limited.
Highlight of the event was the launch of the fishery, poultry and crop farming sections of Farm.