FMARD – Nigeria: IITA holds critical position in Nigeria’s agricultural sector

25 January 2021

Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram, the Technical Adviser on Knowledge Management and Communication to Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Honorable Mohammed Sabo Nanono, has highlighted IITA’s role in the nation’s agricultural sector. He spoke on this during a visit to the Institute on 18 December 2020.

According to Mbaram, the visit aimed to explore opportunities to encourage the country’s youth to engage in productive and profitable agricultural enterprises. In his words: “Young people, by their nature, are capable of generating the economic energy needed to recalibrate the Nigerian economy.”

IITA holds critical position in Nigeria’s agricultural sector
Mbaram with IYA members at the board meeting discussing purpose of visit.

IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell, received the Ministerial aide and a team of IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA). Mbaram watched a presentation highlighting IITA’s innovative contributions to agriculture, particularly the IYA program, which aims to improve Africans’ quality of life by creating employment. A significant highlight of the visit was a tour of the IITA campus, including the hatchery, TAAT Aquaculture Compact demonstration site, the fishpond, and cage culture.

While there are so many ways young people can be economically engaged, Mbaram stated that the Minister is pushing for a revitalization of Nigeria’s agro-industrial competencies, with its attendant benefit of job creation. He noted that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is supporting this objective through the $500 million Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) Program.

 IITA holds critical position in Nigeria’s agricultural sector
Group picture of Mbaram and Dashiell with IYA members.

The IITA DDG noted that “Youth have the fundamental background that gives them the capacity to learn quickly, to be ingenious, and come up with ideas.”

He added: “For the past nine years, we have had a major program with youth in agribusiness. A lot of mistakes have been made, successes celebrated, and we will continue to learn. But it all began with helping youth have a mindset change about agriculture, which was very negative. This was changed after they were exposed to modern agriculture as a business and not the traditional labor-intensive methods that rely on the use of hoes and cutlasses.” Dashiell further indicated the willingness of the Institute to understand the vision of the Honorable Minister and to be part of his delivery team.

For Mbaram, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (FMARD) emphasis on the SAPZ program hinges on the immense economic growth potentials present in the agricultural sector. “When this is combined with the promise of qualitative job creation, one

can see that the Honorable Minister intends to deploy it as a means to address the youth unemployment challenge.” Speaking further, the Technical Adviser pointed out that the current high levels of postharvest losses experienced in the agriculture sector are alarming, with a total loss rate of 50‒60% at different stages from harvest to consumption. “As a team, we believe industrialization is key to addressing this. Increased industrial off-take of farmers’ harvest will surely reduce postharvest losses and guarantee good returns for our primary producers,” Mbaram stated.

IITA holds critical position in Nigeria’s agricultural sector
Mbaram on a tour of the hatchery.

He also revealed the plan to roll out the SAPZ program in the early part of 2021 in different locations representing Nigeria’s geo-economic zones. He added that the various zones would become hotbeds for job creation and agribusiness incubation for young people once the Program begins.

Also contributing, IYA representatives Adedayo Adefioye, Oluyemi Adunoye, Bolanle Larinde, and Idowu Osun, fully supported the SAPZ plan confirming that agribusinesses would be very successful in the supportive environment contemplated by the SAPZ and that the IITA Youth in Agribusiness programs would like to partner with the Ministry in the Program’s implementation.

In his closing remarks, Dashiell said: “You have really motivated us to work even harder for the Nigerian youth in 2021. We appreciate your words of encouragement and advice and the goodwill message from the Honorable Minister, which reflects our shared ideologies in transforming agriculture in Nigeria. This is very encouraging for us.”