IITA celebrates with AfDB President on conferment of honorary doctorate degrees

The Director General of IITA, Nteranya Sanginga and the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) joined other well-wishers to celebrate with Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the conferment of honorary doctorate degrees of science award (D.Sc., honoris causa) by the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State and Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba (AAUA) in Ondo State on12 and 19 December, respectively.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina receiving his cap and gown during the conferment ceremony.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina receiving his cap and gown during the conferment ceremony.

OAU recognized Adesina’s contribution to the development of science and research in Africa. Adesina is a former researcher at IITA, where he worked from 1995 to 1998.

Other people who were honored by the institution were the Emir of Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, who became the 8th Chancellor of the University; Prof Jacob Kehinde Olupona, Director, African and African-American Studies at Harvard University who bagged the honorary doctorate award of Letters (D.Litt.); and a successful lawyer, Barrister of Law and Solicitor of the Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chief Alex Duduyemi, who was also awarded a Doctor of Business Management (DBM).

Responding on behalf of the awardees, Adesina thanked the University for building the foundation of what he has become in life. Adesina is an alumnus of the University, graduating from the Department of Agricultural Economics with first class honors in 1981. Reminiscing about his journey in life so far, Adesina said the core values of education and character being impacted by the University is world class, and cannot be compared to any other University in the world.

Adesina urged the 2015 graduating PhD students of the university to be worthy of character and not forget the values imparted to them. He stressed the need for them to preserve their integrity and that of the institution at all times and urged them to contribute to society’s development.

“Go out, compete, and win. Failure is not an option. We have faith in you, so rise up, and shine. In the course of doing this, do not forget those who helped you along the way especially your parents and teachers. Their reward should no longer be in heaven”, he said.

Also at the ceremony, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Julius Okojie, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, congratulated the awardees and the graduating students.

He said the government has mapped out strategies to review agriculture policies that will provide employment for youth in the agricultural sector. He said that with the dwindling price of crude oil, agriculture should become the backbone of the economy. He added that the development of farm implements that will make agriculture attractive to youth and also help farmers.

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs made use of the opportunity to showcase their products at an exhibition stand during the event.

Meanwhile, speaking at the AAUA convocation during the institution’s 6th convocation ceremony, the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, stressed the need for partners to invest more in education to enhance research and productivity in tertiary institutions. He commended the University for being recognized as the best state university in Nigeria.

Presenting the graduating students to the governing council of the university, Vice Chancellor Igbekele Ajibefun urged the students to remain good ambassadors. He stressed that the university has resolved to continue to produce globally competitive, technology savvy, entrepreneurship-driven, and socially responsible graduates who are problem solvers in a resource-challenged world.

He also urged the awardees to help ensure that the society becomes a better place for younger generations.

Other awardees include Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the paramount ruler of Ugbo Kingdom in Ondo State who was honored with the Doctor of Letters and Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, the former AfDB vice president who was also honored with a Doctor of Science.

Program to attract Africa’s youth to agriculture launched in Kenya

An IITA project seeking to entice the educated youth to go into agriculture and agribusiness was established in Makueni County in Kenya, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi and Makueni County Government and officially launched on 10 March.

The Makueni Youth Agripreneurs (MYA) project, based at the University of Nairobi, Kibwezi station, brings together university graduates in the region from diverse backgrounds. They will be trained on modern farming methods, processing of and value addition to agricultural produce, and entrepreneurship. The project will be replicated in other parts of the country to engage more of the youth in agriculture and contribute to reducing the country’s high unemployment rate.

The initiative is part of a larger program called IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), started three years ago in Nigeria by Dr Nteranya  Sanginga, IITA’s Director General. This program aims to tackle the twin challenges of youth unemployment and the need to increase agricultural production to supply food for a rapidly increasing population.

Group photo of youth “agripreneurs” and guests during the MYA launch.
Group photo of youth “agripreneurs” and guests during the MYA launch.

The Makueni project was officially launched at an event at the IITA-Kenya offices at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe).by Oscar Musembi Marco, Kibwezi West Sub-County Administrator, on behalf of the Makueni County Governor Prof. Kivutha Kibwana and its Deputy Governor, Hon. Adelina Ndeto Mwau.

Mr Marco lauded the initiative, saying it was much needed in the Makueni County in its current efforts to transform itself and become self-reliant on food. “Through this youth program we are on the right path to transform Makueni County from being food insecure to becoming a breadbasket of the country,” he said, “and change the youth in Makueni from being job seekers to job creators.”

He added that the Makueni County government had set aside Kshs 25 million (US$277,330) to give low interest loans to young people, women, and those with disabilities. He urged the youth to take advantage of this incentive.

Dr Sanginga, who was also at the event, said Makueni County had been selected so the youth could support the Institute’s efforts in providing a solution to  aflatoxins―those deadly chemicals produced by molds which attack maize and other grains―as the area was one of the hotspots for the problem in the country.

“IITA is setting up a factory to produce aflasafe, a biological control solution to aflatoxins. The technology requires sorghum to be used as a carrier. The youth will produce and supply the factory with sorghum,” he said. “They will create employment and, at the same time, produce a great public good for the people of Makueni.”

He further added that the program was a start and would be replicated throughout the country; members of the group would be involved in outreach and the training of other young men and women.

He said that the IYA program had received much support from donor agencies and was well on track to reach its target to spread the program to 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Prof Geoffrey Kironchi from the University of Nairobi, one of the collaborators in the project, said the University had donated part of its 1200 acres of land and greenhouses at its Kibwezi station to MYA to grow vegetables through irrigation as a start-off activity. He added that the project, bringing together those from different backgrounds, could be instrumental in attracting the youth to agriculture.

“Our youth are not attracted to agriculture yet there are a lot of opportunities in the sector. We all have to eat every day. There is also a lot of food wasted and uneven distribution. While some parts of the country have an abundant food supply all year, others are constantly faced with famine and starvation.” 

This was echoed by Prof Nancy Karanja also from the University of Nairobi. She said the University was fully committed to the project and its endeavor to create youth employment. “It’s very disheartening to us as teachers and parents when we find our students loitering around after graduation because there are no jobs,” she said. “And on the other hand as a country, we can only talk of development once we are able to feed ourselves.”

Others at the event were Dr Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa; Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA Director for Central Africa; Dr Kristina Roing De Nowina, MYA Project Manager, representatives of IYA from Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, and representatives from other partner institutions.

2013 Open Day: Agripreneurs woo youngsters to agriculture


DG Sanginga (right) and other visitors make inquiry from IYA booth on Open Day
DG Sanginga (right) and other visitors make inquiry from IYA booth on Open Day

Members of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs participated in the 2013 Open Day, exhibiting products from their farms and also distributing literature to visitors about their activities. The event which was held on 16 November provided an opportunity for the agripreneurs to talk to people about the importance of agriculture as a profession. The agripreneurs shed light on their activities and clarified questions raised by visitors.

The Open Day which attracted friends and families of staff commenced with a tree planting activity followed by exhibitions in which each unit showcased their products at the Conference Center.

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.

Dr Sanginga calls for youth engagement in agribusiness


IITA DG Sanginga with IYA and members of staff of UNIOSUN after the inaugural lecture
IITA DG Sanginga with IYA and members of staff of UNIOSUN after the inaugural lecture

The Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Dr Nteranya Sanginga has underscored the need for youth engagement in agribusiness. This was part of his presentation at the 2013 Annual Lecture at the College of Agriculture, Osun State University (UNIOSUN).

Making reference to the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), Dr Sanginga said the group was proof of the latent potential in the youth being exploited for agricultural benefits.

Dr Sanginga’s topic: “The Need of a Brown Revolution in Africa and Engagement of the Youth in Science-driven Agribusiness” drew insights into the factors constraining agriculture and proffered a road map to the present challenge.

 “What the continent (Africa) needs is not a “Green Revolution” perse but a “Brown Revolution”, he added, stressing that land intensification, rather than “extensification” holds the key to Africa’s agricultural prosperity in the 21st Century. He explained that to close the current yield gap, there needed to be integrated soil fertility management which aims at optimizing fertilizer and organic resource-use efficiency and crop productivity.

Dr Sanginga further said that research should be used as a tool to tackle poverty and other socioeconomic problems. “Research is not an end in itself; rather it should be embarked upon for the sake of development,” he said. The IITA Director General also highlighted the vast disconnect between the gains from research and the realities on farmers’ fields. He said this has brought to the spotlight the need for strategic alliances to ensure proper research delivery.

Prior to the lecture, there was a drama presentation by the UNIOSUN Ejigbo students. Making up the team from IITA were Dr Gbassey Tarawali, Head of the Cassava Value-chain Unit; Mr Godwin Atser, IITA Communications Officer (West & Central Africa); and Ms Victoria Lawal. Also in attendance were the Pro-Chancellor of Osun State University, Prof G.A. Olawoyin; the Vice Chancellor, Prof A.B. Okesina; other members of staff of the university; and other invited guests.