IYA celebrates success in its youth empowerment programs for 2019
Since its inception in 2012, the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) has been working tirelessly, creating capacity development programs and projects to engage youth in agribusiness. Although IYA has experienced challenges in accessing funds and credit facilities to assist some of the trained youth in establishing and expanding their agribusinesses, about 7,000 youth have benefited from the training.
According to Evelyn Ohanwusi, Head of the Youth in Agribusiness Office, “2019 was very eventful for IYA. We were engaged with agribusiness activities in about 10 countries of Africa including Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
One of the many highlights of the year for the team was winning the 2019 International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food and Agriculture at the 41st Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in Rome. This was in recognition of IYA’s commitment to improving both agribusiness opportunities and the creditworthiness of youth across Africa. With the prize money, the team proposed and is setting-up an Agribusiness incubation program that would train and empower young people in the Republic of Benin.
In partnership with Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) and AfricaRice, IYA implemented the Youth Employment in Agribusiness and Sustainable Agriculture (YEASA) project. The project, funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), aims to build the technical, entrepreneurial, and soft skills of youth between the ages of 18 and 35 in the Republic of Benin (Lokossa and Cotonou) and Nigeria (Oyo and Ekiti). This is meant to improve their productive capacity and facilitate the establishment of independent agribusiness enterprises. Trainees are awarded grants and start-up kits, after developing bankable business plans vetted by experts.
In Nigeria, two IYA businesses not only took-off but also secured the certification of the National Agency for Food & Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Frotchery Farms Limited, producing smoked catfish, and Gracevine producing clean beans and yam flour.
In addition, IYA birthed a youth group known as the Youth Agripreneurship Global Limited (YAGL). YAGL is a profitable organization that aims to help 40 percent of its members become self-employed by either establishing independent agribusiness enterprises or organizations. The group serves as a link between IYA and the private sector.
Of all IYA’s achievements, becoming an Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) was the most important. As an EDI, IYA facilitates short entrepreneurship training for youth, after which the trainees are certified and recommended to financial institutions for loans at 5% interest rate, to establish small- and medium-scale enterprises.
Ohanwusi mentioned that IYA was able to achieve some of these feats through partnership and support of organizations. “We are open to more of this in 2020 as we aim to see more youth agribusinesses emerging, so we can continue to fulfill our mandate to the teeming unemployed African youth,” she concluded.