By Olubunmi Osoteku, Ibadan
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has initiated a programme to take agribusiness studies to primary and secondary school students in Nigeria.
This is part of the institute’s efforts at pursuing initiatives and innovative research to tackle food security challenges and employment needs in Africa.
The initiative was made known in a press statement released by the IITA.
It said, “the specific objective of the Program is to create business opportunities and decent employment for young women and men along priority agricultural value chains.”
IITA has, since 1967, reportedly been working at improving the lives of millions of Africans in the face of escalating climate change and debilitating crop pests and diseases.
In the bid to achieve this mandate, the statement said that the institute initiated the IITA Youth in Agribusiness (IYA) platform to create employment for youths in Africa and deliver IITA technologies to end users.
“Youth in Agribusiness started in August 2012 with the recruitment of a multidisciplinary team of unemployed graduates”.
It is currently active in six countries of sub-Saharan Africa with 385 members and 13 groups involved in 54 different enterprises and startup businesses ranging from fish, livestock and vegetable production to seed production, processing and value addition.
According to the statement, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has taken over Youth in Agribusiness with the aim of creating a Pan African Youth in Agribusiness Scheme called Empowering Novel AgriBusiness-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture (ENABLE Youth).
“The scheme intends to reach 1,250,000 youths in 24 African countries who will contribute to job creation, food security and nutrition, rural income generation and improved livelihoods for youth in both urban and rural areas,” it said.
In recognition of its efforts, the IITA received the Africa Food Prize (AFP) award for 2018, as the first institution to receive the prize.
The Africa Food Prize award is given annualy to recognise individuals and institutions that are committed to tackling the challenges of hunger, malnutrition and poverty in Africa.
Receiving the award, the Director-General of IITA, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga said that he was committed to investing in the future of Africa’s younger generation.
Dr Sanginga explained that it was important to raise the ambition of primary and secondary school students, to guarantee a food-and nutrition-secure continent.
To show his commitment to the promise, Dr. Sanginga introduced the “Start Them Early Program” (STEP), which was designed to take agribusiness studies to primary and secondary school students.
The Director-General promised to use the AFP award prize money to implement STEP using a unique approach.
He said the program would redirect secondary schools and their students to agribusiness by engaging them to participate in agriculture-based clubs, course work and experimental learning.
The main objectives of STEP are; to provide primary and secondary schools with knowledge on agriculture and business, to train and empower students to change their mindset about agriculture as a business and an opportunity for job creation.
According to the statement, STEP is designed to operate in DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria for over two years and in nine secondary schools.
The programme has been introduced in three secondary schools in Bukavu, DRC, and is also about to commence in three schools in Nigeria.