In line with two of its core objectives, that is to facilitate exchange of information and knowledge among young professionals across disciplines, professions, age and regions; and to promote agriculture among young people, the Young Professionals Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) Nigeria, recently paid a visit to the IITA Young Agripreneurs at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria.
The YPARD delegation led by the Country Representative Mr Olawale Ojo, and comprising of Local representatives Jackie Opara, Bunmi Ajilore and Jeremiah Majid, was received by the Corporate Communication Officer West and Central Africa of IITA, Mr. Godwin Atser.
Mr. Godwin welcomed the delegation and explained to them that the research centre, under the leadership of the Director-General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, had initiated the youth program – as a model – to address unemployment using agriculture as a tool. “The plan is to encourage the youth to tap the many opportunities inherent in agriculture”. According to him, the project exposes young graduates to the different opportunities in agriculture and allows them to identify entry points in the agricultural value chains where they could play a role.
Similarly Mr Akinyele Bankole, the leader of the IITA Young Agripreneurs, welcomed the YPARD representatives. He mentioned that they had first heard of YPARD from the Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, who introduced them to the network during his recent visit to IITA, and that they are excited to have YPARD Nigeria representatives in their midst as he believes the meeting will be of immense benefit to him and his colleagues.
He stressed that the Young Agripreneurs are corp members and graduates of different backgrounds – from statistics to history – who were co-opted into the programme to empower them with necessary skills and equipment to practice modern agriculture. Over the last one year, they have been taught, and have engaged in different farming practices e.g. seed generation and multiplication, crop production and processing etc. and many of them are now eager to become active participants in the agricultural value chain as they now firmly believe that “agriculture is practicable and profitable”.
Olawale Ojo, the YPARD Nigeria Country Representative, in his response said he is "highly impressed with the work IITA has put in to change the lives of the young people who are in this program and (he) believes that in years to come other organizations and research institutions will follow suit”
Furthermore, Olawale stated that the average age of farmers in Nigeria is about 65 years and in 5-10 years we would need people to produce food for us which is why we need more programs involving the youth to help erase the negative perception of agriculture by young people to ensure food security in the nation.
He also said that there are ways in which this project will have a positive multiplier effect, and that is by applying social media and using it as a tool to attract more young people to get involved in agriculture and food security. He added that social media is needed to stay abreast of what is happening globally, and that social media platforms expose us to new information on what other countries are doing in agriculture and food security that can be adopted in our country and domesticated to suit the peculiarities of our environment. This way we can produce more and ensure a food-secure country.
He then rounded off by saying that he looks forward to Nigeria feeding itself and, not stopping at that but, joining other nations to feed Africa. But to achieve this daunting but attainable goal, social media is that tool that has the appeal to attract the youth to get involved in the fight for food security from whatever part of the world; and to win that fight more programmes like that of the IITA Young Agripreneurs must be publicized, encouraged and replicated.
Finally, the meeting was closed with a field visit, by the YPARD Nigeria representatives and the leaders of the IITA Young Agripreneurs, to the group’s maize farm, cassava farm, the processing unit and other sites of interest within the research institute.