8 August was United Nation’s Youth day to create awareness on the importance of engaging youth politically, economically and socially which is essential for the achievement of sustainable human development. We speak to a few of the young people engaged in Agriculture at IITA to hear their experiences and views on how to engage young people in agriculture and research.
“TYA members are now well equipped with agribusiness entrepreneurship skills. Currently we are producing/processing high quality cassava flour, soy milk/yoghurt, making various food products from cassava, growing tomatoes and providing weed management service through safe use of herbicides.
IITA support to Tanzania Youth
IITA is currently running a program to empower youth to use agriculture as a tool to tackle youth unemployment across sub-Saharan Africa through training and by supporting them to carry out various agribusinesses. The program, IITA Youth Agripreneurs, was launched in 2012 at IITA Headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria. In Tanzania, the program started in January 2014 at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is supervised by Adebayo Abass, IITA’s Value Addition Specialist at the hub.
The group is currently engaged in processing soymilk, high quality cassava flour with the brand name Mpishi Mkuu, selling maize, and growing tomatoes. The group is also benefiting in participating in youth programs across the world, and members are exposed and linked with potential development actors within and outside the country.
IITA is also constructing a training center at a cost of US$1.5 million at Kwembe (about 25 km from Dar es Salaam City center) to equip the youth with skills in production and processing and running successful agribusinesses.
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.
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.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs are a group of young graduates involved in agribusiness, with the aim of being a unit that would serve as a model to other young people planning to venture into agribusiness and becoming the trainer of trainers.