Efforts to tackle unemployment among the youths through agriculture has received a boost as the federal government is supporting the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Youth Agripreneur programme with $500,000(N7.7billion). The funds will go into training and capacity building for youths and will create the next generation of young farmers in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, disclosed the financial commitment recently at a workshop on “Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa” held in Ibadan recently.
Initiated two years ago, the IITA Youth Agripreneur programme builds the capacity of youths and exposes them to the numerous untapped opportunities in agriculture and, more importantly, changes the negative perception that young men and women hold about agriculture. The programme has already engaged some Nigerian youths from different backgrounds.
Adesina commended IITA for developing the programme, and the milestones recorded by the youths so far in cultivation and dissemination of improved planting materials. He noted that the programme was in line with the Nigerian government’s transformation agenda which is also creating job opportunities for youths.
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, on his part, hailed the for supporting the initiative and described youths unemployment in Africa as “a time bomb” if authorities failed to act quickly to harness their potential.
Like many other countries, Nigeria is facing serious unemployment challenges as a result of the increase in population, and the growing number of students/ candidates into tertiary institutions over the years that results in more graduates than available jobs. The state of affairs is a serious challenge for every successive government that has ruled the nation since 1990 with unemployment rising to 24 per cent in 2011.
Nigeria’s government alone cannot provide the needed jobs. However, agriculture is seen as a key sector that could help absorb the increasing number of youths in the labour market.
Researchers say to get the youths involved in agriculture, agriculture itself must be attractive. Director of Soil Health Programme with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Dr Bashir Jama, said to make agriculture attractive would involve narrowing yield gaps and adoption of improved technologies to increase agricultural productivity.
“Equally important is the need to diversify production systems that minimise risks and generates attractive incomes, enhancement and integration of livestock and nutrients recycling, and reduction of postharvest losses,” he said.
The Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa workshop which was organised by IITA was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) project, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and AGRA.