In 2011, IITA established the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) to change these perceptions and get more youths into agriculture. This group of enterprising young individuals coming from diverse disciplinary backgrounds aims to make young Africans see that agriculture can be an exciting and economically rewarding business venture, and convince investors to invest in Africa’s youth by showcasing their success stories.
Agriculture suffers from entrenched negative perceptions amongst African youths. In the minds of many young Africans, farming is poor man’s work that involves backbreaking labor and insufficient financial gains.
Empowering youths and promoting agriculture
The ENABLE YOUTH program is a continent-wide expansion to the IYA initiative. It provides opportunities for underemployed young people, especially in rural areas, giving them the chance to establish innovative agricultural enterprises and improve their agribusiness skills. It helps to create a conducive business environment by advancing youth-led policies and provides a communication network that delivers much needed agricultural information to others involved in agribusiness.
Spreading the word through social media and organizing extensive training courses, IYA is raising awareness for youths in agriculture and setting an example for the future.
IITA’s Youth Agripreneurs are not only successful in the conference hall and training classroom. They are also doing a booming trade in a range of agriculture products. In 2014 they cultivated a total of 46 hectares of cassava across Nigeria and harvested 37 tons of cassava roots and 3,678 bundles of cassava stems proving that cassava farming can be an exciting and economically rewarding venture.
The group also diversified into the production and sale of cauliflower, okra, sweet corn, papaya, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, watermelon, and green beans. For value addition, IYA introduced and promotes a new product, soymilk, tidbits—a cassava-cowpea snack, and other nutritious foods. With an ever-expanding product list and a growing farm the IITA Youth Agripreneurs are leading the way for youth into agriculture.