Young people vouch for agriculture to fight joblessness

18 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. 

Members of the Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs pose for a group photo as they prepare to plant vegetables in their greenhouse

Veronica Kebwe, is the chairlady of Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs (TYA), a group of young people that have come together to engage in agribusiness with support from IITA and other partners. She has been providing leadership to the group since its formation, one a half years ago and says the group has been making progress in their agribusiness ventures.

Veronica Kebwe, chairlady of the TYA

“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.

“For the time I have been leading TYA, I have discovered that there are many agriculture opportunities that the youth can utilize for their own development. However, they need to be patient and committed. Many youth who engage in agriculture expect to make a profit within a short time and they give up when this does not happen.

“Capacity building is also very important. If youth are provided with enough capital, they cannot be productive and benefit from agribusiness, unless they are well trained.”

On today’s youth day she encourages youth to be their own problem solvers. “Agriculture can be a solution to unemployment. There are many opportunities in the agriculture sector. The youth should keep their eyes and ears open, and be ready to put effort to benefit from agribusiness. Youth can be at the forefront of action to fight poverty. ”

Plenty of opportunities to be exploited

Mariam Senn, member TYA

“Before joining the group, I had very little knowledge on agribusinesses. Now I realize there are a lot of opportunities in agribusiness that we young people can explore to create income for ourselves. People need food to survive, but not only food, but healthy food, so we are assured of a market for our agriculture produces,” says Mariam A. Sein, also a member of the TYA.

“I have learned a lot from all the training we have received, such as on cassava production/management, soy processing/production and applications of herbicide for weed management. I am now capable of producing/processing soymilk and making and cooking various cassava recipes such as donuts.

“Being a member of TYA has not only changed my mindset on agribusiness, but also exposed me to a lot of opportunities through the travels to other countries in sub-Saharan African countries and getting to meet and connect with fellow youth with interest in agriculture.

Maria observes that very few youth are engaged in agriculture. “This is because many of them perceive agriculture as an ‘inferior’ sector. Much still needs to be done to change this mindset and make the youth aware about the opportunities they can get from the agriculture sector.

On this youth day, Maria appreciates all ongoing efforts from governments to donors and institutions such as IITA to empower youth to find creative ways to generate income for themselves, She also urges the youth to keep their eyes open for any opportunities.

Equip youth with sufficient knowledge

“I simply enjoy what  I am doing as it contributes to controlling diseases that attack  farmers’ produce  and contributes to the country’s development,” says Christopher Mduda, a bachelor’s degree holder of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and an intern at the IITA Eastern Africa hub conducting research under the supervision of IITA senior scientist James Legg.

Christopher Mduda photo image
Christopher Mduda: intern at IITA

He has been extracting DNA from cassava leaves and describes his stint with IITA as a wonderful learning experience that has built his confidence in performing molecular research.

“Most youth have negative perceptions about agriculture. This is because youth are not well exposed to many of the opportunities available. The youth are active and energetic; they can be at the core of development if they are equipped with sufficient agriculture knowledge and fully supported. They can make marvelous changes in the society”.

Reuben Samweli: Research Technician

Reuben S. Samweli, an IITA Research Technician with a degree in Biotechnology and laboratory, also says youth engagement in agriculture is key for development and tackling the high levels of  unemployment in many countries.

“Engaging youth in agriculture sectors can help deter them from engaging in anti-social behaviors such as drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual addiction, and crime. However, the support received from government and non-government organizations is inadequate. There is also poor flow of information.

“There is a need to provide information on existing opportunities to the youth across the country. There are many programs/project launched for supporting youth development; however the youth are not able to engage and benefit from them as they are not aware of them. If the youth are fully engaged in agriculture, they can play a big role in reducing levels of unemployment.

“The youth have a great role to play in supporting development and they should sufficiently be empowered, well involved, and linked with key players in the agricultural sector.”

 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.

Agricultural scientists: Systems research offers solutions to tackling poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation

Agricultural scientists and researchers from over 30 countries met this week at IITA headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, for the International Conference on Integrated Systems for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture.

Conference speakers and exhibitors, representing the implementing partners of three systems research programs of the CGIAR Consortium presented strategies and results that respond directly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations, and have a marked impact on the lives and livelihoods of smallholder producers and consumers of developing countries.


DG Sanginga addresses participants at the Conference in IITA, Ibadan.
DG Sanginga addresses participants at the Conference in IITA, Ibadan.

The conference aimed to: (1) demonstrate and share experiences and evidence that show the effectiveness of Systems Approaches in agriculture research in contributing to livelihoods and natural resource management; (2) share methods, tools, and research approaches used in Systems Research; (3) explore opportunities for new partnerships in Systems Research for development; and (4) identify opportunities for cross-system learning, and methods to do this effectively.

The conference covered the following research themes: integrated systems improvement and sustainable intensification; sustainable intensification in practice; partnerships and institutional arrangements for innovation, scaling up, and impact; and foresight in systems research for development impact.

Among the CGIAR research managers who attended this multidisciplinary event were Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of IITA; Dr Kwesi Atta-Krah, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics); Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium; and Dr Ann Tutwiler, Director General of Bioversity International.

Keynote speakers during the media briefing.
Keynote speakers during the media briefing.

Other key partners present at the meeting were Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) who took part in the opening program on 4 March; Prof David W. Norman, Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University; Dr Bernard Hubert, President, Agropolis International; Dr Andy Hall, Agriculture Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organization (CSIRO); Dr Dennis Garrity, UN Drylands Ambassador & Senior Fellow, ICRAF; Dr Linley Chiwona Karltun, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; among many others.

According to Dr Atta-Krah of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics), “The conference offers a platform for sharing of experiences and research results in systems research for development, from different countries and regions of the world. It provides a reminder of the challenges facing global agriculture and food systems, and the solutions that integrated systems research offers as part of a global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.”

The event featured 45 plenary and oral presentations, and over 50 poster presentations, representing one of the most important and stimulating international platforms for knowledge exchange on the latest scientific results, developments and experiences in the agricultural systems research for development sector.

Participants at the opening program of the Systems Conference.
Participants at the opening program of the Systems Conference.

The conference called upon the donor community, agricultural research institutions, partners in the wider research and development community, the private sector, as well as policy and decision-makers to work jointly and strengthen the use of systems approaches in agricultural research for development, to further advance the contribution of science to the international community’s commitment to end hunger completely by 2030.

The international meeting was organized by the IITA-led Humidtropics, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (Drylands).

Governor of South Kivu, DRC, thanks IITA for its development efforts in the country


The Governor of South Kivu during the dinner he hosted in honor of IITA DG at his residence
The Governor of South Kivu during the dinner he hosted in honor of IITA DG at his residence

His Excellency, Governor Marcelin Chishambo Ruhoya of South Kivu in DR Congo, has praised IITA’s efforts to support development in his region and country and assured the Institute of his government’s support of its activities. He said he was especially happy with the decision to set up a new science building in the province which is scheduled to be launched in June 2014.

IITA is a friend, he said, and the repairing of the road to the Station was a clear demonstration of his government’s desire to collaborate with the Institute.

The Governor was speaking at a dinner he hosted at his residence on 10 January 2014 for the IITA DG who was in the country on an official visit. It was attended by the Provincial Ministers of Agriculture, Health, and Budget, other aides to the Governor, and others.

On his part, the IITA DG thanked the Governor for granting him an audience earlier in the day and for his continued assistance and generous support to the IITA Station.  He recalled how the two of them had nurtured the idea of establishing a science laboratory in Kalambo (to be known as “Science for Peace” building) in 2004 while the DG was the Director of International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Governor was a State Advisor. 

The DG further commended the Governor for facilitating the execution of the project and for supporting the expansion of the station and construction of a Science Building. The DG also seized the opportunity to inform the aides of the governor of the plans to commission the IITA Kalambo Science Building on 5 June 2014. 

He said that the launch would attract Heads of States and top government functionaries and representatives of donor agencies and international organizations in the region and that the IITA Ambassador for Africa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would attend. 

He added that the Station will have cassava processing facilities so that farmers will have the opportunity to learn how to derive more benefits from cassava production.

“Apart from ugali, a popular cassava food in the region, there are more than 27 food products from cassava, well known for their nutritional value and marketability”, he said.  

DG Sanginga was accompanied to the dinner by Chris Okafor the Officer in Charge of IITA Kalambo and Musendeeq Oyedeji, one of the IITA engineers working at the site.

IYA members give seminar on opportunities in agriculture


IYA with the chairman of Ibarapa Local Government, Mr Olaosegba
IYA with the chairman of Ibarapa Local Government, Mr Olaosegba

As part of efforts to get more young people engaged in agriculture, members of IYA went for an outreach in Ibarapa Local Government Area and gave a seminar presentation to the youth in the community on the benefits inherent in agriculture.

    The visit to Ibarapa Local Government which is located in Oyo State, southwest Nigeria was held on 30 October 2013.

    The outreach culminated in a partnership agreement, in principle, between the Local Government and the IYA that will see the training of youths in that community on best-bet agricultural practices.

Sixteen representatives from the Ibarapa Local Government attended the meeting.

    The Chairman of the Local Government, Honorable Lanre Olaosegba commended the quality of presentation and lauded the young agripreneurs for their level of knowledge. He noted that despite the fact that most of them do not have an agricultural background they were able to take up agriculture as a form of business and a means of income for themselves.

    The Ibarapa Local Government agreed to pay a visit to the IYA to strengthen the partnership.

Oyo State to partner with IITA on youth development


Governor Ajimobi (Second from left) with his entourage and IITA management team during a visit to the office of IYA.
Governor Ajimobi (Second from left) with his entourage and IITA management team during a visit to the office of IYA.

The Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi has pledged his administration’s willingness to work with IITA towards addressing youth unemployment and food insecurity.

The Governor has also made a commitment to support the construction of a youth training center in IITA. This came at the request of the Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, during the Governor’s visit to IITA on 20 November 2013 in which he also commissioned new facilities at the headquarters of IITA in Ibadan and also visited the office of the IYA.

Governor Ajimobi cited striking figures that highlighted the need and benefits of an agribusiness center as a means of training the youth in Oyo State.

“I congratulate and also commend the IITA Youth Agripreneurs and the management of IITA for paying attention to the high rate unemployment in Oyo State.”

Governor Ajimobi also cited how his own administration’s work complements that of IITA.

Earlier, members of the IYA made presentations describing the nature of their project. The group explained that they aim to unlock the potential of agriculture thereby attracting and engaging young men and women in agribusiness to create decent employment opportunities comparable to those in other sectors.

After the presentation, the Governor was accompanied to the seed processing center by the youth where he saw the seed processing machine in operation and had a view of produce from the fields cultivated by the IYA.