Nigeria is supporting the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Youth Agripreneur program with a commitment of US$500,000 as part of efforts to tackle unemployment through the engagement of youth in agriculture.
The funds will go into training and capacity building of youth and will create the next generation of young farmers in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, declared Nigeria’s commitment at the just concluded workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa held from 28 to30 May at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Initiated two years ago, the IITA Youth Agripreneur program builds the capacity of youth and exposes them to the numerous untapped opportunities in agriculture and, more importantly, changes the negative perception that young men and women hold when it comes to agriculture. The program has currently engaged 31 Nigerian youths from different backgrounds with the possibility of expanding in the years ahead.
Dr Adesina gave kudos to IITA for developing the program, and the milestones recorded by the youth so far in cultivation and dissemination of improved planting materials. He noted that the program was in line with the Nigerian Government’s transformation agenda which is also creating job opportunities for youths.
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga commended Nigeria for supporting the initiative and described youth unemployment in Africa as “a time bomb” if authorities failed to act quickly to harness their potential.
Like many other countries, Nigeria is facing serious unemployment challenges as a result of the increase in population; and the growing number of students/ candidates into tertiary institutions over the years that results in more graduates than available jobs further complicates the situation. The state of affairs is a serious challenge for every successive government that has ruled the nation since 1990 with unemployment rising to 24 percent in 2011.
Nigeria’s government alone cannot provide the needed jobs. However, agriculture is seen as a key sector that could help absorb the increasing number of youths in the labor market.
Researchers say to get the youths involved in agriculture, agriculture itself must be attractive.
Dr Bashir Jama, Director of Soil Health Program with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said to make agriculture attractive would involve narrowing yield gaps and adoption of improved technologies to increase agricultural productivity.
“Equally important is the need to diversify production systems that minimize risks and generate attractive incomes, enhancement and integration of livestock and nutrients recycling, and reduction of postharvest losses,” he explained.
The Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa workshop which was organized by IITA was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) project, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and AGRA.