International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has started the training of 40,000 young Nigerian women and men between 18 and 35 years to become self-employed or gain employment in agri-food systems.
The Young Africa Works project commenced the first cohort of the training programme in Lagos, Kaduna, and Kano states.
This capacity-building activity began on February 1.
The training is running concurrently in the three states for six weeks and participants will gain practical and theoretical knowledge by engaging with reputable agribusiness firms and mentors who will expose them to the reality of operating a successful agribusiness enterprise.
IITA Project Training Coordinator, Evelyn Ohanwusi, says “capacity-building is a crucial step in creating the next generation of agripreneurs.”
Agricultural value chains will include maize, soybean, rice, horticulture, sweet potato, groundnut, aquaculture, and poultry.
Continuing, the IITA training chief says,“the mix of theoretical and practical exercises will position trainees to secure fulfilling jobs or establish their enterprises. E-learning is a focus for the project to achieve a wider reach and adapt to the global pandemic. It will also promote digitization in the agricultural sector.”
Ohanwusi, a Nigerian, is the training/partnership coordinator for the Young Africa Works, an IITA project in collaboration with the MasterCard Foundation. Until July 2020, she coordinated the youth component of the African Development Bank funded Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) programme.
Prior to this, she served as the interim head of the Youth in Agribusiness office of the Partnerships for Delivery Directorate.
She began her career as a pioneer and founding member of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) programme at IITA Ibadan; and has since become a strong advocate for youth and women in agribusiness.
She has an MBA in Agribusiness and is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), she has about seven years experience designing, implementing and managing Youth in Agribusiness programmes across sub-Saharan Africa.
Nigeria Country Head, Mastercard Foundation, Chidinma Lawanson, said “because of limited funds and training, young people are hampered by a lack of opportunities and access to the skills and resources they need.
“Through the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works in Nigeria partnership with IITA, we are empowering Nigerian youth and women while boosting agriculture across the country.”
The project, which was launched across the three states, had representatives of government parastatals and the private sector.
In Lagos, Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, commended IITA and Mastercard Foundation for introducing this innovative approach to arouse the interest of youth and teenagers in agriculture.
“I am particularly delighted to be in your midst for the launching of this program as the Lagos State government is particularly interested in this programme as it is in tune with the goal of recruiting more youth, teenagers, and women into the agricultural space to replace the aging farmers as well as to increase food production, create employment opportunities, alleviate poverty and boost income generation in the state”, she said.
In Kano, the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Nasiru Gawuna, who was represented by Hafiz Mohammed, Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, said the programme was introduced when the State needed agricultural transformation through youth engagement. He stressed that Kano is one of the highest producers of food commodities in Nigeria but lacks technology and innovation, which could only be driven by young people.
“With the population of young people in the State, I am hopeful that the program will record a lot of impact. Most of them have basic knowledge about agriculture, but they need to be introduced to technologies and agribusiness skills, and this is a platform to impart such knowledge”, he said.
During an interactive session in Kaduna, the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Prof. Emmanuel Ikani, advised the beneficiaries to utilize the skills and knowledge from the program to develop the agricultural sector in the state.
After completing the six-week training, participants can take advantage of the project’s partnerships with selected and reputable financial institutions to secure credit facilities to start independent agribusiness enterprises.