IITA launches STEP at planning workshop
A 3-day planning workshop for the Start Them Early Program (STEP) is ongoing at IITA Headquarters, Ibadan. The purpose of the workshop is to launch STEP and make plans for its operations in the next one year.
STEP is currently operating in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria, with the vision of transforming African agriculture through partnerships with secondary schools. This initiative aims to transform the mindsets of young Africans from seeing agriculture as undesirable to seeing it as a viable source of income.
Jemimah Njuki, Senior Program Specialist in Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC), in her keynote address said, “This is the first time we have done something like this, and we hope that the vision is achieved.” Njuki also commended IITA for being committed to providing solutions to agricultural problems.
STEP aims to build the next generation of agribusiness leaders in Africa. The training in agribusiness will merge with school curriculum in the participating schools and be turned into a model for other schools to adopt.
Sanginga highlighted the mission of STEP and the commitment of IITA’s partners to the program. He spoke of the program’s prospects, saying “When next there is an evaluation, you will see all the changes that have been made. STEP will grow to become an institution on its own.”
So far, STEP has reached over 800 students in DRC where 33 pupil-initiated agribusinesses are thriving. Some are involved in rabbit farming, guinea pig breeding, poultry keeping, and vegetable production. School Managers are also involved in agricultural production, especially poultry and rabbit rearing to improve school incomes and pupils’ practical knowledge.
STEP focuses on helping young people to explore the various opportunities across the agricultural value chains. Participants at the workshop agreed that agriculture needs the involvement of young people who are “innovative and tech savvy” to achieve an economically stable and food secure future. In the same way, young people need agriculture to meet their personal goals and to sustain the family.
At the end, Sanginga advised all country representatives to be creative, hardworking, and strict with timelines, to achieve the goal of the program.