Director General Nteranya Sanginga has called on southern African countries to tap the youth population in the region to address food insecurity and end unemployment.
Addressing policymakers and the youth in the region at a conference organized by the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Sanginga said the youth population in the region should be seen as an asset, not a problem.
“The youth have the energy, and if we are able to tap this energy we will be able to advance agriculture on the continent,” said Sanginga who was represented by Alfred Dixon Head of IITA’s Partnerships Coordination Office, in Durban, South Africa, 3-6 August.
Speaking on the topic “Unlocking agribusiness opportunities for youth in Southern Africa”, the DG gave an account of how a youth program called IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiated by IITA in 2012 is attracting youth into agriculture.
“From zero dollars, these youths have been able to grow their incomes to $700 per month,” he explained. “On their own, these young men and women are today managing different enterprises including cassava, maize, vegetables, soybean, banana and plantains, fish, and livestock,” he added.
According to him, the experience of the IITA youth program clearly demonstrated that with institutional support and mentoring, the youth could be engaged in agriculture to make a decent living.
Mustapha Quadri, a member of IYA, gave also gave a presentation titled “Cassava production, processing, and marketing” during a break-away session on the subtheme “The role of youth in innovations and agribusiness solution: Cassava case study“.
The presentation was based on the various products and value addition that can be derived from cassava. Participants visiting the exhibition stands liked the various cassava products showcased in the exhibition.
In his keynote address, the Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Yemi Akinbamijo said, “The agricultural sector needs to be transformed to provide employment for the youth in Africa and we need to increase value addition to attract the youth.”
The Executive Director of CCARDESA, Timothy Simalenga commended IITA and other partners for initiating youth programs to attract the youth into agriculture, and emphasized that CCARDESA would continue to support agricultural development in the region with emphasis on getting more youth engaged in agriculture.
IITA participants included Godwin Atser, Ugheoke Avoedoghia Diana, Christophe Kongolo, Caroline Liwena, Bupe Gwasa, Ronald Ongario, and Christine Zamugurha.