The Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga has called on Southern African countries to tap into the youth population in the region to address food insecurity and end unemployment.
Addressing policymakers and youths in the region at a conference organized by Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Dr Sanginga said the youth population in the region should be seen as more of an asset than a problem.
“Youths have the energy, and if we are able to tap into this energy we will be able to advance agriculture on the continent,” Dr Sanginga who was represented by Dr Alfred Dixon, said in Durban, South Africa, 3-6 August.
Speaking on the topic: Unlocking Agribusiness Opportunities for Youth in Southern Africa; the Director General gave an account of how a youth program (IITA Youth Agripreneurs) initiated by IITA in 2012 is attracting youths into agriculture.
“From zero dollars, these youths have been able to grow their income to $700 per month,” he explained.
“On their own, these young men and women are today managing different enterprises including cassava, maize, vegetables, soybean, banana and plantains, fish, and livestock,” he added.
According to him, the experience of IITA from the youth program clearly demonstrated that with institutional support and mentoring, youths could be engaged in agriculture to make a decent living.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) also gave their presentation during the break-away sessions, in the sub-theme 3 group tagged; The Role of Youth in Innovations and Agribusiness Solution: Cassava Case Study by the IITA Youth Agripreneurs. The presentation was titled: “Cassava Product, Processing and Marketing.”
Mustapha Quadri, a member of IYA, gave the presentation after which he took questions from the audience. The presentation was based on the various products and value addition that can be derived from cassava. Cassava products were concentrated on due to the fact that the exhibition focused on cassava-based products. Participants visiting the exhibition stands liked the cassava products (eg fufu, garri, tidbits, chinchin, cake and cookies).
Earlier in his keynote address, the Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Dr Yemi Akinbamijo said, “Agricultural sector needs to be transformed in order to provide employment for the youth in Africa and we need to increase value addition to attract the youth.”
The Executive Director of CCARDESA, Prof Timothy Simalenga on his part commended IITA and other partners for initiating youth programs to attract youths into agriculture, and emphasized that CCARDESA would continue to support agricultural development in the region with emphasis on getting more youths engaged in agriculture.
Those who attended the meeting from IITA were: Dr Alfred Dixon, Mr Godwin Atser, Ugheoke Avoedoghia Diana, Mustapha Quadri, Christophe Kongolo, Caroline Liwena, Bupe Gwasa, Ronald Ongario and Christine Zamugurha.