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How youth can engage in agribusiness post COVID-19

The Young Professionals for Agricultural development (YPARD), over the last couple of years, has offered young people with interest in agriculture, agribusiness, and players within the long diverse value chain a platform to interact, rub minds, share knowledge, expand their businesses, and generally innovate.

The rate of agricultural development in Nigeria is still relatively slow; practice being mostly subsistence and smallholdings. Products are consumed mostly by producers and the remainder gets into markets.

Processing has not been so developed as it applies in more advanced economies. For the few quantities of farm output scheduled for the export market, they are shipped in their raw forms with little or no value added. This essentially puts the exporting country in a disadvantaged position. Many jobs that would have been created in the processing value chain are exported. Jobs such as supply chain, quality control, processing engineering, logistics, standardization, packaging, etc are lost to the economies of the processing countries.

Nonetheless, things are changing gradually, however slow, but steady. This is as a result of more youth active participation in agriculture. Many agri-tech start-ups are springing up all around Nigeria with innovative models in primary production, processing, value addition, and packaging, in manners that had never been seen before. These start-ups are pioneered by young people to make profits and sustainable impact in their communities while leveraging smart technologies to achieve their goals. YPARD asides from the networking and business linkage benefits have been able to incubate ideas of young people in agriculture and see such ideas grow into high-impact sustainable businesses. Even if it is hard to find this elsewhere, it is happening in Nigeria.

Young people in agriculture have been on an impressive impacting trajectory, at the forefront of several innovative solutions for agricultural development, food and nutrition security in Nigeria until the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus II otherwise known as COVID -19. This virulent threat, the ability of its damage initially underestimated, has swept over the entire world affecting all parts of the society. From aviation to technology to manufacturing to health to education to entertainment to political economies and very significantly, food systems.

ILO data indicates that youth unemployment rates are about three times as high as those of adults. Youth that have been in disadvantaged positions before, now have to grapple with the devasting effect of COVID-19. As resilient as young people are known to be, there are several instances of negative coping mechanisms adopted to survive the storm.

It was again this backdrop that YPARD Nigeria café was organized in the Northern City of Kano to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the agribusiness of young people, how they were able to cope, their successes, failures and lessons. The café which was held at the Conference Hall of Kano State Drugs and Medical Consumables Supply Agency on the 9th of December, 2020 hosted several young professionals and enthusiasts to a morning café to share their experiences managing their agribusiness during COVID-19 national and international lockdown.

It was gathered that many of the participants’ businesses were adversely affected in the aspects of the input supply chain, product distribution, accessibility to farms, accessibility to markets & traditional market supports, transportation, produce glut, access to finance and a host of other pertinent challenges were raised and discussed.

would appreciate the innovativeness of young people during the conversation regarding how they managed the situations for reasonably fair outcomes. Many tweaked, their initial models, manoeuvring around the hurdles posed by COVID-19, ensuring their businesses did not die off.

For instance, a student among the participants reduced his rice hectarage cultivation due to high costs and low accessibility to inputs. Another participant involved in produce supply to the southern part of Nigeria had to obtain a movement pass from government authorities to carry out his business, and also for his delivery trucks to travel interstate.

On financing and access to finance, a panellist who is an agricultural cooperative expert, Alh. Hussein Almustapha expressed his worry about the performance of their societies this year. Members were struggling to meet up their loan repayment obligations, thereby affecting access for others waiting. He mentioned that things were improving when the government lifted the lockdown.

Dr Mohammed Auwal, a practising farmer and an agribusiness lecturer at Federal University, Dutse suggested during the panel discussion that a coordinated inter value-chain collaboration, partnership, and knowledge sharing are means to collectively persuade the government to provide special incentives and leeway for agricultural practitioners in unusual situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, Mr. Nathaniel Malgwi a youth advocate and development practitioner with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)’s Young Africa Works gave a brief about how the current project in their organization is training about 40,000 young people in Nigeria, mostly women, on starting up their agribusinesses. He further mentioned that their model ensured their activities weathered the core COVID-19 storm.

The café ended with a resolution that young people must do all it takes to remain innovative, forward-thinking, spontaneous and resilient in good weathers and bad weathers. They should never be weighed down by anticipated or unforeseen situations that might have a severe adverse impact on other age demography.