As a move to address the gaps of Nigeria’s youths in the agribusiness, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and Oyo state government on Thursday, launched a programme tagged: ‘’Start Them Early Programme” (STEP) for secondary school students in the state.
The programme tagged: ‘STEP in Oyo State and the inauguration of STEP Agri-business training facility for youths was held at Fasola Grammar School, Oyo State.
Speaking at the event, Dr Chrysantus Akem, the IITA Coordinator of Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, (TAAT) said the programme was to introduce agri-business training in secondary schools in Oyo state.
Akem said that it was to make the youth multi-millionaires through agri-business.
He, therefore announced the donation of 100 kg of aflasafe product used to control aflatoxin on maize, on behalf of IITA to the state government as well as two tonnes of high quality maize seeds.
He promised that IITA would provide two additional security officers to guard the facilities inaugurated and appealed to the state government to ensure that the place enjoyed adequate continued security.
Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said the project starting from the Fasola Grammar School would be extended to other zones of the state.
Makinde said the programme was a wake-up call for stakeholders to steer the interest of youths toward agriculture to change their views about farming.’
The governor said that the government invested in many agricultural value chains and remained steadfast on how to improve the state’s economy through agri-business.
He commended IITA for its contribution to the development of agriculture and the state at large, hoping that the partnership would yield more positive results.
The STEP Programme Coordinator, Dr Adedayo Adefioye said it was to promote interest in agriculture and learning among the school aged children, adding that the STEP initiative was established in 2018 to advance agribusiness development in secondary schools in Africa.
According to him, the programme aims to expose young people to viable opportunities in agri-business at early stage to help direct their aspirations toward careers in modern agriculture, thereby building new African agri-business leaders.
He said that IITA realised that young people between 11 and 18 years were at a critical stage in life when they decide on livelihood paths.
Adefioye noted that the facility in Fasola would be used to by the STEP team in Nigeria to engage a selected number of students and teachers and train them on modern agricultural technologies.
He said they would also be exposed to how to use mechanisation and ICTs to enhance agricultural productivity with serious implications toward agricultural transformation.
“Fasola grammar school is one of the three schools where IITA is implementing the programme in Nigeria, other selected schools are Oluponna High School, Iwo Osun state and Lead City International School, Ibadan.
Adefioye said that STEP, which was also implemented in DR Congo and Kenya, had recorded a measurable change in mindset of the beneficiaries about agriculture.
“In Nigeria, we have trained instructors across nine schools and established nine student agri-businesses clubs and 27 pilot agri-business enterprises, over 1000 students have been registered trained in agribusiness through the clubs.
“The programme is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) for two years in the three countries – DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria, under the project titled: “Building the next generation of agribusiness leaders in Africa”, he said.
One of the students, Samuel Joshua said the programme changed his view of seeing agriculture as punishment to a profitable business.
“The training is worth having, it was an opportunity worth changing lives and I believe in the nearest future, I will use it to develop myself and eradicate poverty as we were taught. We say a big thank you to IITA and Oyo government,” he said.
The highlights of the event were the IITA Youth Agri-prenuer exhibition, opening of the agri-business building and tour; food processing/value addition demonstration as well as ICT/ marketing trainings.
The agri-business building comprises mechanisation, crop production, poultry, vegetable production, conference room with STEP video and chemistry/biology laboratories.