Transforming IITA to nourish Africa

Group Picture of CGIAR Consortium and IITA Youth Agripreneurs
Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO CGIAR Consortium with the IITA Youth Agripreneurs

My first visit to IITA was in 1982. As a young scientist with the Delft Hydraulics Lab in the Netherlands I worked on my first soil science project that also happened to become my last. I had obtained funding for a project on the impact of soil erosion on soil productivity and I was looking for good data. My research led me to IITA soil scientist Rattan Lal who was among the five scientists I had identified across the globe that had the time series data I needed and he agreed to work with me. My funding enabled me to visit all 5 research groups to see their experiments and go over their data. This was my first visit to Nigeria.

And then we arrived at IITA. Once cleared by security the car started up the long driveway, flanked by rolling hills with bright green grass, cut smooth like a golf course, dotted with picturesque palm trees, painted bright white. The contrast of this oasis of quiet prettiness with the chaotic world outside the barbed wire fence could not be greater. A well-oiled, well-maintained, well-equipped island of advanced research. A small army of well-trained Nigerian staff to support a team of senior researchers that were almost without exception white, male and Anglophone — or indeed, Dutch. Rattan Lal was a fine host, had many years of excellent data, and was a great collaborator for my project (Rijsberman and Wolman, 1985).

Since then, I have visited and worked in Nigeria quite a bit, including a two-year stint as Chief Technical Advisor of a UNDP project to strengthen the Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja in the late 80s. But fast forward to 2012: I rejoined the CGIAR as the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium in May 2012 and started an effort to visit all 15 Centers. In July-August the Consortium Board Chair, Carlos Perez del Castillo, and I visited AfricaRice in Cotonou, Benin and then traveled overland to Ibadan. We were received by the new DG, Nteranya Sanginga, and the new Board Chair, Bruce Coulman and given the grand tour. We met with scientists, discussed the newly reformed CGIAR, enjoyed presentations of the key science groups, saw the laboratories, and hiked the forest.

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Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO CGIAR Consortium at the Agripreneurs’ office

I was also very impressed by the dynamic presentations and self-confidence of the young graduates in IITA’s Youth Agripreneur program. With unemployment of young Nigerian graduates as high as 60-70%, this program aims to show that there is a future for young Africans in agriculture, that there is viable employment and an attractive career in catfish aquaculture, in soymilk production, yam sucker farms and cassava bread production.

Dr Sanginga, who is the father of this program and naturally very proud of its success, predicts that it can scale up and out, in Nigeria and other African countries —his vision is about a movement to give a future back to millions of African youth through agriculture and the value chains in the agri-food business. The program is just a start and has already attracted attention from IFAD, AfDB, and the Nigerian government. It is a good example of what the CGIAR can do when it focuses on youth—very timely with “gender and youth” identified as a key cross-cutting issue in the new CGIAR strategy.

Written by Frank Rijsberman, CEO CGIAR Consortium

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Dr Lekan Quadri
Dr. Lekan Quadri (representative of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina) delivering the welcome speech

It is indeed my privilege and honour to present this address in this workshop titled Agripreneurial and Business Management Training.

  1. We are all aware of the high youth unemployment situation in this country, like in other nations worldwide, and its consequences on our socio-economic well-being, which fortunately the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President (Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) is addressing aggressively through the various interventions in different sectors of the economy. Nigeria is an agrarian economy and the fact that for years the country has not given agriculture the right attention due in part to over reliance on oil, is partly at the root of the unemployment problem. To put Nigeria on the right trajectory, the Transformation Agenda has unequivocally recognized agriculture as the sector with the biggest potential for mass job creation and the most viable for poverty alleviation among both graduated and rural youth as well as women.
  2. In 2011 and in recognition of this fact, Mr. President (Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan ) directed that the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, in addition to food and nutritional security, focus on massive job creation for the youth. Accordingly, my Ministry (FMARD) under technical assistance of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and consultation with youth and other stakeholders, designed and developed the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP). This was followed by its approval by the National Agricultural Council in 2013 and official launching during the 2013 Economic Summit by Mr. President (Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan). The presentation and discussion at these forums was to garner support from all stakeholders, to underscore the importance of issue of youth empowerment in the country and to serve as an advocacy tool for all to contribute to the realisation of Mr. President’s vision on youth empowerment for our dear country Nigeria.
  3. Nigeria is reported to have about 67 million youth, 50% of which were unemployed in 20t1. This was more than double that of Ghana at 25.6% and the national average at 23,9% in 2011, which unfortunately has also been growing by 16% annually since 2007.

       The 1991 census recorded 88 million people as the population of        Nigeria, which doubled by 20 years later to 165 million people.              This means that 50% of Nigeria’s population, or approximately              80 million Nigerians, were born in the last 20 years. This                             population explosion has had a dramatically negative effect on             youth employment as an ever-increasing number of youth enter           the workforce, with limited prospect for employment. There are           simply not enough jobs to keep up with the growing youth                         population.

  1. Ladies and Gentlemen, with our natural endowment for agriculture as you are all aware, Mr. President (Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) has made it a cardinal pillar in his Transformation policies to address gender inequalities in Nigeria, because with 49% of Nigeria’s population being women, it is smarter economics to address the issue of women empowerment in all our policies and programmes. There are enormous opportunities in the sector for employment and wealth creation for our teeming youth population. Therefore, Agripreneural and Business Management training will be the vehicle that will properly situate our youth – both males and females to seize these opportunities for self-realisation and employment generati on.
  2. Agripreneural and Business Management training, ladies and gentlemen, will provide this nation with the vehicle to change the fortunes of our teeming youth population and by extension the nation. However it requires a collaborative approach and contributions of all from the public to private, civil societies and donor communities to attain the level of success it is capable of delivering. Specifically, I wish to appeal to high net worth individuals, political office holders and the corporate world to channel a large chunk of your Corporate Social Responsibility budgets to upscale or contribute to youth employment in agriculture through support to enabling environment, patient capital windows, revitalization of our extension systems, provision of social safety nets, increase access to productive resources for youth and women especially in the rural areas. These measures will enable our youth and women to unlock and access the employment generation potentials of the sector and set Nigeria on the way to industrialization.
  3. Finally, I want to thank the Management of EKIMIKS NIG. LTD for organizing this event in partnership with IITA.

I would like to use this opportunity to appeal to all our corporate bodies to emulate EKIMIKS NIG. LTD in the nation’s quest to provide a sustainable solution to youth unemployment in Nigeria.

I want to personally acknowledge the immense contribution of the DG IITA (Dr. Nteranya Sanginga) for the youth in Agriculture Initiative that started under his leadership.

Thank you all for your attention.


Mr Tope Ekiyor Miriki
Mr Tope Ekiyor Miriki, Managing Director of Ekimiks Nigeria Limited delivering a keynote address


Good Morning distinguished ladies and Gentlemen. All protocols duly observed please.

We welcome you all to this Business Training Workshop jointly organised by Ekimiks and IITA. For us in Ekimiks, it is a great honour to be associated with the IITA Young Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative.

We are aware of the frightening statistics on youth unemployment in Nigeria and Africa at large, the IYA initiative is one of many solutions that would help to reduce this menace. The IYA is collaborating with other initiatives including the recently launched Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP) to ensure that the youth are given the necessary opportunities to exit the unemployment queues and excel as Business Owners.

The newly coined term “Agripreneur” we all know, is a combination of 2 words – Agriculture and Entrepreneur. It implies that those fit this description have the required competencies in both Production and Entrepreneurship.

We trust that IITA with its vast array of Agricultural Scientists and Experts has been able to train the IYA members in the best Agricultural Practices. However to be a true Agripreneur, each one must have the essential Business Management skills that would enable them not only to survive but to thrive and excel as Entrepreneurs. We know that all business is tough – business survival ratio is less than 50%, but Agriculture is even tougher than others. Therefore, it is vital that our Youth Agripreneurs are adequately prepared so they would excel – not only in the Technical aspects but in the Business aspects too; hence the need for a Business Training forum.

As a company founded by a young entrepreneur many years ago, Ekimiks chose to sponsor the Business Management training aspect of the development of the young Agripreneurs. It is our own little contribution to the efforts of IITA and the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in ensuring that young Nigerians and Africans are effectively equipped for 21st century living.

The objective of this workshop is to bring high grade Business Management education like those obtained in the best Business Schools to our young Agripreneurs. The curriculum has been carefully designed and it covers all major areas that an Entrepreneur needs to develop the necessary proficiencies.

I therefore, urge all the participants to take full advantage of the workshop; pay attention, learn, write notes, ask questions, participate in discussions. Opportunities like this are not commonplace – please use it well.

We thank our invited guests for honouring our invitation. Many of them are accomplished Agripreneurs – Role Models that the young ones would do well to learn from and follow their examples.

We thank IITA for the opportunity to partner with them in this very laudabke project.

We thank the Training Consultants – LA Consult for their role in designing and facilitating this program. We trust that they would deliver the quality education that they are reputed for.

Thank you all and do have a great program.

IITA Youth Agripreneurs prepare for an Entrepreneurial and Business training workshop


IITA Youth Agripreneurs

IITA youth Agripreneurs (IYA) will be sharpening its entrepreneurial and business management skills by participating in a three-day Entrepreneurial and Business Management Training Workshop organized and sponsored by Ekimiks Nigeria Limited.

IYA with some of their other counterparts from other 5 selected African countries such as Kenya, Zambia, DR Congo, Tanzania and Uganda will convene at IITA’s conference center in Ibadan, Nigeria between 3rd and 5th of February to gather experience that will facilitate effective management of their agribusiness enterprise.

Ekimiks Nigeria Limited is a consulting firm that seeks to empower business owners and managers including budding entrepreneurs on financial and management related issues that will  facilitate effective and efficient running of the organizations.

IYA’s Head of Capacity Development Unit Owoeye Molayo stated that the workshop became imperative because of the roles being played by IYA among youths in the agricultural sector. She added that the workshop will better equip and prepare agripreneurs for future challenges especially in the business world.

IITA Youth Agripreneur IYA is a group of young vibrant minds from different educational backgrounds who have embraced agriculture as a means of livelihood. This group of 35 youths focus on promoting agriculture among other youths by providing them with training and exposure on agricultural best practices and value chain. The organization which has its head office at the IITA headquarters in Ibadan has been replicated in other IITA hubs such as Tanzania, DR Congo and Zambia.

The workshop is aimed at creating and/ enhancing productivity and ultimately profitability of the young agripreneurs involved along various value chains of agriculture and is expected to transform the attitude of all participants, while strengthening their skills for increased productivity.

Various sessions at the workshop include: Leadership and Self-Management in Entrepreneurship, Essential Business skills, Business Accounting, Effective Sales and Marketing Strategies, Creating a Bankable Business and many others would be used to facilitate the learning processes.

At the end of the training, the trainees are expected to have a basic knowledge of Book-keeping and Accounting, Zero defects  in Business Operations, Corporate Governance Practices, Fundamental Entrepreneurial Skills etc.

Use #AG4YA2015 (Twitter) to follow up on the event.

Governor Mimiko re-affirms committment to combating youth unemployment

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Governor Olusegun Mimiko (standing) giving the welcome address at the event

The Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko has described the IITA Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) initiative as a source of inspiration for the birth of the state’s Agro-business city.

Dr Mimiko stated this during a working visit paid by the Director General of IITA Dr Nteranya Sanginga and members of the IYA to the Ore Agro Business City also known as Ore ABC in the state.

Ore Agro Business City is an Ondo state government initiative under the Wealth Creation Agency (WECA), which was set up by Governor Mimiko’s administration to stem the tide of unemployment by involving youths in agriculture.

In his welcome address, Dr Mimiko commended IITA for its continuous support since the inception of the agro business city, revealing that the institute provided the necessary technical backstopping and mentoring for the youths known as PRO-FARMERS involved in the initiative.

The Pro-farmers after 18 months of intensive training at Ore ABC are expected to establish and run their own farms and become employers of labour in the agricultural sector.

While disclosing the activities of the Pro-farmers, the chairman of WECA Barrister Bolanle Olafunmiloye, stated that over 360 hectares of maize and cassava have been cultivated, with over 1,500 hectares of oil palm plantation as well. She added that the pro-farmers have also ventured into livestock rearing with about 4,600 broilers and 20,000 catfishes.

Also speaking during the visit, the Director General of IITA, Dr Sanginga, commended  Governor Mimiko for his effort in encouraging  the youths in the state to adopt agriculture as a means of livelihood.

Dr. Sanginga revealed during his remarks that although it was not easy at the initial stage but through continuous mentoring and training, members of IYA have been able to achieve a lot and the institute as well as IYA intended to do the same with the Pro-farmers in Ore ABC.

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Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko (M), DG IITA, Dr Nteranya Saginga, Dr Richardson Okechukwu (far left), Bar. Bolanle Olafunmiloye (far right) and IITA Youth Agripreneurs at the visit to OreABC

His words, “members of IYA will offer training to the Pro-farmers on mindset change, proposal writing etc. Experts from IITA staff such as Drs Alfred Dixon, and Richardson Okechukwu, will also be available to train these youths on best agronomic practices.”

Dr Sanginga further advised the Pro-farmers to delve into the areas of marketing and value addition for their farm produce.

“Cultivating and planting is not enough. When you plant and you do not have anybody to buy, then it all results to nothing. So look more into the areas of marketing and value addition of these things. There are several things you can do with cassava, maize etc. You can make ice-cream, biscuit, etc from cassava. And when you do this, people will buy,” he added.

Governor Mimiko however showed appreciation to Dr Sanginga for shedding light on other areas in agriculture.

The IITA and IYA in partnership with the Ondo state government also own demonstration fields of cassava and plantain in the Ore ABC.  These fields were established to showcase the potential yields that can be gotten when best agronomic practices are ensured. IITA scientist, Dr. Okechukwu revealed that agriculture ought to be science-based to ensure optimum yield, hence maximum revenue for the farmer.

IYA will also be diversifying into the planting of high quality maize and cowpea in Ore ABC in the coming year.

The IITA team which comprised DG Sanginga, Drs Dixon and   Okechukwu as well as IYA members were taken round the fields.

IITA Youth Agripreneurs celebrate with FARA at Jo’burg as they showcase youth’s involvement in agriculture

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IITA Youth Agripreneurs, IITA Scientists and other participants at the session discussing youth engagement in agriculture

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the Director General, received commendations at the 15th anniversary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) held at Johannesburg, South Africa, 26-29 November 2014.

At the event, there were various sessions and panel discussions where representatives of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs: Odusanya Oludare and Owoeye Molayo, championed the cause of youth engagement in agriculture.

The panel discussion began with presentations from the two agripreneurs who showcased some of the activities and the prospects of involving the youth in agriculture to reduce the level and effects of youth unemployment in Africa.

In their presentations, the IYA representatives stated that the importance of youth involvement could not be over-emphasized as this would re-shape the agricultural sector and give it a new face.

HE Tumusiime Rhoda-Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union (2nd from left); Dr Akin Adesina, Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria (3rd from left); and Dr Jimmy Smith, Director General of ILRI (4th from left), during a panel discussion at FARA@15.

While commenting on the activities of the group, Dr Fina Opio, the Executive Director of Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), stated that changing the mind-set of young people would go a long way in improving the sector.

She stated, “If we can change their mind-set and let the youth know they can run agriculture as a business, I think they will make headway. I have visited IITA and seen what their young people are doing. I even went to Ondo State in Nigeria with them and wish to congratulate them. I love their energy.” She called for support to sustain the zeal and enthusiasm displayed by the youth.

Giving kudos to IITA, Dr Simon Mwaze of the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) stated that young people needed to be mentored so as to keep them on the path which they had chosen. He said, “They know what to do; they just need to be mentored.”

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Nigeria targets youths in new initiatives

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President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (M), Vice-President Namadi Sambo (2nd from left), and the Minister of Agricultue and Rural Development of Nigeria, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina (2nd from right) with the representatives of IITA Youth Agripreneurs: Bekee Barituka (far left) and Ohanwusi Evelyn (far right) at the exhibition booth during the YEAP launch

The Nigerian government has launched two initiatives to encourage young people to become more involved in agriculture, and stem the rising unemployment in the country.

The two initiatives which were inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan in December are Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP) and the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN).

The YEAP which is similar to the IITA Youth Agripreneur (IYA) model is designed to reposition the agricultural sector by involving, developing and raising 760,000 youths in agribusiness within the next five years.

FAFIN on the other hand is a financing vehicle targeting Nigeria’s small and medium enterprises in agriculture.

The YEAP program which is part of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) will involve at least 20,000 youths from each state of the federation.

President Jonathan, stated that the program encompasses all the economic activities along the agricultural value chain, including commercial farming, processing, value addition, logistics, transport and marketing of value added agricultural produce.

Representatives of IITA Youth Agripreneurs with Dapo Oyebanjo (D’Banj), the Ambassador for the Nagroprenuers Initiative

Describing the agriculture sector as vital for the country’s growth, President Jonathan said the involvement of youths in the sector would rapidly boost the sector. He further stated that, with the program, young people would not only take agriculture as a way of life, but also as a viable source of generating income.

He said youths under the program would be known as Nagropreneurs, and added that he was confident that the agricultural sector would produce several young millionaires and billionaires in the country.

President Jonathan noted that the ageing population of farmers posed a significant threat to the agricultural sector, and said unless young farmers were developed, the nation’s food security would be compromised.

In order to change the negative perception about agriculture, the President emphasized the need to adopt mechanization in the sector.

According to him, his government plans to successfully attract young people into agriculture by replacing the hoes and cutlasses with modern farm machineries.

While shedding light on YEAP, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said the launch of the program was the birth of an idea that was conceived three years ago.

He said with the current fall in the price of crude oil, agriculture would now serve as a better option as the country’s source of revenue.

Presenting the success story in the sector, Dr Adesina revealed that food importation had reduced drastically.

His words, “food importation has reduced due to the effort being invested into local food production. In the last three years, we have produced over 21 million metric tons of food and I think that is quite encouraging. The country no longer needs to import food,” he said.

Ohanwusi Evelyn, who represented the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) commended the initiatives saying that through agriculture, many youths would be employers of labour thereby reducing the scourge of unemployment in the society.

Another agripreneur, Mosunmola Umoru encouraged other youths to become actively engaged in agriculture.

A medical doctor turned farmer, Temitope Aroge who was at the event, also said that from experience, “farming is too interesting to be abandoned.”

Side events at the launch included exhibitions of agricultural produce ranging from snailery, horticulture, fishery, rice processing, palm fruits, bee keeping, leather works, and cassava processing among others.

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CEO Durante Fish Industry, Chief Ogie Alakija and Management Visit IITA Youth Agripreneurs

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DG IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga (9th from left), Chief Ogie Alakija (10th from left), Management staff of Durante Fish Industry, IITA Scientists and IITA Youth Agripreneurs during the visit

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, the management of the Durante Fish industries and other distinguished guests paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

IITA has been linked with the Durante Fish Industry which was responsible for the training of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) – that led to the formation of the group’s fishery unit – and the resultant backstopping, but is now exploring the possibility of furthering its partnership with the aquaculture giants. IITA Youth Agripreneurs had earlier reflected through the strategic workplan in January to invest in Aquaculture as a means of advancing youth employment among young people especially unemployed graduates and enhancing income.

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Bekee Barituka, one of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs delivering a keynote address

After a warm reception at the Conference Center, the visiting team made a tour to IYA’s fish ponds and some of the institute’s facilities. They expressed delight to see the progress made by the Agripreneurs in fisheries over the past couple of months. “If we have achieved this much in such a short time, then we are prepared to continue and expand this relationship,” said Chief Ogie Alakija, Chairman of Durante Fish Industries Limited.

The group has 4 active ponds stocked with over 20,000 fishes which by November would be harvested, while 9 more earthen ponds are under construction. According to Olaniyi Ajibola, the Coordinator of Fishery Unit of IYA, “we have realized that with little capital, young people can go into production and grow gradually.”

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Ibironke Ifedayo demonstrating the feeding of fishes at the pond to the guests
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DG IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga [far right] talks about the Business Incubation Platform.

From the pond, a stop was made at the field where improved varieties of various crops were showcased and their post-harvest products displayed. The tour culminated in a visit to the institute’s Business Incubation Platform (BIP) – a model approach in boosting delivery of research results for enhanced impact across Africa.

IITA Youth Agripreneurs in its major goal of reorienting youths toward more productive engagement in agriculture continue to forge alliances with the private sector as the importance of private sector partnership cannot be overemphasized in scaling out  the group’s model, while developing the capacity of the group.

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Article written by Bekee Barituka