The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) is breaking new ground and recording successes in Nigeria—its birthplace—and the hubs.
For 2015, a landmark achievement of IYA was that the proposal to train about 140 young people from the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria on agribusiness was approved. The project, which is sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited, will give IYA the opportunity to fully execute the Chevron Youth Agribusiness (CYAG) project using their experience and acquired skills from the various workshops, seminars, and training attended on agribusiness and agripreneurship in Nigeria and elsewhere.
The project, which is the first self-written proposal by the group, is worth several million naira and will run for two years.IYA will showcase to the young people and communities of implementation (Ijaw and Itsekiri) how agriculture and agribusiness can be a viable livelihood and income generating option. Proposal writing to solicit for funds is an integral part of the project and another means of generating income for IYA.
Spreading IYA’s wings
During the year, IYA established affiliate youth groups in Kenya and Uganda, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two other youth groups in Kinshasa and Kisangani were created to complement the efforts of the already established group in Bukavu. The expansion of the IYA-affiliated youth groups in DRC attracted the attention of the government and other policymakers resulting in the first youth agribusiness exhibition co-organized by the government of DRC and IITA.
IYA also conducted a 3-day training workshop on agribusiness for members of the Nigeria National Youth Corp serving in IITA. After the training, the Corp members were screened and recruited as interns to undergo an 18-month internship program under IYA. Following the Youth Agribusiness Guidelines (YAG), these interns – called
‘Green Wealth Agripreneurs’ – will be further trained on different agro-business enterprises, developing bankable business plans, and establishing independent business enterprises.
Another achievement brought about by the group was the wide acceptance and recognition of the ENABLE Youth program. The concept note for the project was developed in 2014 during the Youth in Agribusiness Development Initiative (YADI) conference held at IITA Ibadan. ENABLE Youth is a five-year program designed using the IYA model to empower young African adults through a comprehensive outreach effort by providing information, proven technologies, and opportunities to about 800,000 of the youth in at least 25 African countries. The program will give opportunities for more than 20,000 internships, over 10,000 agribusiness startups, and over 30,000 new
jobs in rural and urban areas, leading to future incomes of at least US$450 per month and a projected US$160 million annually. ENABLE Youth will mobilize the energies and ambitions of the youth as engines for employment and agricultural transformation, reduce migration to urban areas, and improve the self-image of the youth, within their communities, and across society as a whole.
In 2015, the IYA model was again cited with the launching of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program (ATASP) by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Under this project, IYA will play an active role by coordinating and training young people across the agricultural value chains for cassava, rice, and sorghum in three youth training centers to be established in Onne, Abuja, and Kano. Using the IYA model, about 200,000 new jobs will be created for unemployed and underemployed
young people in Nigeria. The three youth training zones, which will be handled by IYA, will cater for Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Enugu, Anambra, and Niger states in Nigeria.
Expanding business ventures
During the year, IYA continued to grow its fishery and livestock ventures with the expansion in the number of its fish ponds from 4 to 17. The IYA fishery and livestock unit started in 2014 with 4 fish ponds after being trained by the Durante Fish Industries—the largest fish company in West Africa. To meet increasing demand for catfish, IYA added 13 more fish ponds in 2015. Fish harvest also tripled from 70 tons in 2014 to about 200 tons in 2015.
The group also continued to multiply and provide high quality planting materials to banana growers. Using the macropropagation technique, IYA increased its production of plantain suckers by 25%. Six additional macro-chambers were constructed to help meet the increase in demand for plantain suckers.
2015 also saw the addition of several new items in IYA’s high-value product lineup. These new products included Tidbit Delight, smoked fish, Sneh balls, and croquant which are produced from maize, cowpea, soybean, and high-quality cassava flour.
IYA was also able to acquire a modern kiln for smoking catfish during the year, which added value to the fresh catfish raised and marketed by the group. With aggressive marketing campaigns, the group was able to introduce the smoked catfish product in major markets in the southwestern zone of Nigeria. The product is expected to be available in major supermarkets and stores across Nigeria by 2016.
Influencing young minds
In 2015, IYA also successfully organized a debate on the topic “Agriculture is a Sector of Economic Opportunity for Youth in sub- Saharan Africa,” This was inspired by the MasterCard Foundation to enable the youth to express their views on the topic to be debated by IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga and Prof James Sumberg, Research Fellow with the Institute of Development Studies at a summit organized by the MasterCard Foundation in South Africa. The event was attended by many young people and other interested IITA staff. More debates will be organized to give the youth the opportunity to express their views on topical issues of interest in 2016.
IYA contributed to a chapter of the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) 2015 Africa Agriculture Status Report. Writing on the topic “Youth and Agricultural Productivity in sub-Saharan Africa”, IYA relayed a case study of how the youth can be productively engaged in agriculture using the experience gathered so far. Many references were made to the chapter and case study shared by the Agripreneurs at the Alliance for Green Revolution Forum held in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2015.
The group also launched its official website (www.youthagripreneurs.org) in 2015 to enable it to communicate and share information widely. The youth group also acquired two sophisticated DJI inspired drone cameras, which helps in taking aerial photographs and videos of fields for scientific analysis and documentation. Eric Sika, a member of the group in Bukavu, DRC, was selected to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2015. Prior to this fellowship, Eric graduated from the Catholic University of Bukavu with a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy. The fellowship was a flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The selection was keenly contested across Africa. Following his selection, Eric studied business and entrepreneurship for 6 weeks at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The study sharpened his leadership capabilities before his attendance at the presidential summit in Washington where he had an opportunity to interact with US leaders in the fields of business and government, and the non-profit sector.
During the year, IYA relocated from its former office in IITA-Ibadan to the ultra-modern building at the Business Incubation Platform (BIP). The building is about 516 m2 and houses offices, seminar rooms, board rooms, and other facilities. This movement is expected to enhance the operations of the group.
Another major milestone was the approval and the distribution of start-up grants for 40 young people in Borno State trained under the N2Africa project. In September 2014 and 2015, IYA moved from Ibadan to Kano State to train the Borno youth on agribusiness. The trained youth, who are now receiving grants based on the bankable
business plans they developed, will be backstopped by IYA to offer technical support when the need arises.
Building on the momentum of activities from the previous year, IYA in 2015 continued to implement some projects such as the Cassava Transformation Agenda (CTA) and the High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) training of rural youth and farmers on the projects, and the establishment of cassava fields in Ekiti, Ogun, and Kwara states.
With the success of IYA, the CGIAR Consortium organized a workshop on “Mobilizing the youth in agriculture in the second phase of CGIAR Research Programs” to define the key issues to be addressed and to explore and identify good approaches to promoting youth engagement, employment, and enterprises that can be integrated into the work of CGIAR. IYA representatives participated and spoke at the workshop, which took place at the CGIAR Consortium Office in Montpellier, France.