The International Youth Day 2019 was celebrated all the over the world with the theme “Transforming education”, highlighting efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves. In similar vein the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Youth Agripreneurs in conjunction with ENABLE TAAT hosted a symposium on the 15th of August 2019 at the IITA Conference centre Ibadan to celebrate the youth day.
According to statistics, Nigeria has a teeming population of 180 million with over 40 percent of her people falling within the age bracket of 18-35 years. Thus the youth are a major resource base not only for development of national economic and financial prosperity but also for effecting social change. Hence the need to empower them to effectively contribute to National development through agribusiness and agro-allied ventures.
Dr. Chrys Akem who is the Program Coordinator of Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), delivered the opening address at the symposium and highlighted the key objectives of TAAT which cut across improving the productivity and profitability of African agriculture via usage of proven technologies. He advised youth to take up the great challenge of feeding the nation and aim towards self-empowerment. He assured youth that the TAAT project is highly supportive of youth engagement through Enable TAAT youth compact.
Several senior executives and hundreds of youth from all walks of life were present as the symposium zoned in on the opportunities, and prospects available along agribusiness value chains. YPARD Nigeria was ably represented by Showemimo Akinbowale, who is the Oyo state local representative for the YPARD network. He spoke as part of a panel session on the topic “Youth Enterprise Opportunities in Agribusiness”.
Akinbowale explained the concept of a value chain in Agriculture using his area of specialty - fish farming and said agro value chain is the sum total of all activities that begin at the production stage till the final product gets to the consumer. He outlined, “For instance, if the final product is a pack of dried fish, the value chain that makes up that process encompasses the fish breeder that bred the fishes to fingerlings; the feed producer who made the feed; the feed retailer who owns a shop that makes the feed available for the farmers; as well as the farmer who outgrows the fishes from fingerlings to melange. Others on the value chain include the person who builds the fish ponds that would house the fishes; the fish processor who processes the fish from live weight melange to dried fish; and the sales outlet that makes the final processed fish available for customers to buy.”
Akinbowale advised youth to tap into the numerous opportunities that abound in marketing, processing, packaging, logistics, trainings, inputs, extensive service, business support services, ICT, agritech, advertising and farming sub-sectors so they can carve out a niche for themselves thus contributing towards food security and economic development. He said agriculture must be treated as a business. He also advocated support from government, private sector and research agencies to unleash youth potential and reap huge benefits for all stakeholders.
Paul Woomer, Technical Adviser to IYA program, emphasized the efforts made by IITA to drive youth engagement and sustainability in agribusiness and agro-allied sectors. He advised youth to embrace teamwork and maximize the benefits of collaboration to grow their agro-businesses while surmounting challenges associated with low external funding.
Other presenters who spoke include Frederick Schreurs, the CEO of Business Incubation Platform (BIP), he gave highlights about their premium Youth in Business Incubation Program which is planned to empower youth with the right mindset, relevant skills, mentorship and networks to strive in the agribusiness space. A testimonial session featured, Mr Ayodeji Olukoya of AM Consult and Farms who shared his real life experience of how he grew his poultry farm from a humble beginning to its present success. He advised youth to seek knowledge and start agricultural ventures on a small scale and grow organically.
There was an exhibition display of various products and services offered by the agripreneurs such as cassava bread, organic fruits and processed fish. This indicates positive change among the coming generation to become major players in the sector in the near future. The IITA Youth in Agribusiness (IYA) Incubation Program is about entrepreneurship development in agriculture among the youth, including women. It will be implemented by the dedicated Nigerian youth with huge support from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and partners.
Agribusiness can be profitable for youth with the right skills, needed inputs and supportive networks. Rural enterprise is being promoted along agricultural commodity value chains within the context of professionalized agricultural business. As a result, training projects increasingly link youth and women with access to agricultural resources. In this way, the quality of training along agricultural value chains, terms of credit and the agricultural technologies, commodities and markets being provided have a huge influence on the livelihoods of youth as well as on agricultural transformation in Nigeria.
Photo credit: Osun Idowu