IITA-CARE awardee calls for promotion of youth engagement through ICT-based policies
Outdated agricultural practices, lack of policy support, and poor access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) have reduced employment opportunities for youth in agriculture and agribusiness. As a result, youth who are supposed to improve the productive efficiency of the agricultural sector and achieve the sustainable development goals, including food security and zero hunger, now prefer to settle for white-collar jobs.
The world depends on digital technology now more than ever. There is a possibility that ICT will make agriculture more interesting for youth who are the largest users of ICT devices and applications. This assertion prompted Sodeeq Abdulrahman Enesi, an IITA-CARE Project awardee, to research the effect of ICT on youth-led enterprises’ efficiency in the cassava value chain in Nigeria.
Enesi sought to answer the question, ‘will the present usage of ICT devices and applications by youth lead to agricultural efficiency?’ There has been no empirical study linking the youth and ICT as driving factors in agriculture, so the study aimed to fill this gap. He believes that advanced value chains laced with appropriate ICT-based policy will provide employment opportunities, increase youth engagement, and improve efficiency in the agricultural sector.
The research, which focused on the cassava value chain, was carried out in Benue, Kebbi, Nasawara, Niger, Ogun, and Oyo states of Nigeria because of the dominance of cassava value chain activities in these states. Two rural communities were then randomly selected from each state— Benue (Gwer west and Guma), Kebbi (Augie and Kangiwa), Nasarawa (Doma and Kenna), Niger (Kantagora and Wushishi), Ogun State (Odeda and Obafemi Owode), and Oyo State (Atiba and Iseyin). Cross-sectional data were collected from 480 youth through a multistage sampling technique. The selection comprised cassava input suppliers, farmers, processors, and marketers.
The study reveals most youth only make use of mobile phones and radios, with very few using laptops and other sophisticated ICT devices. This has restricted their use of ICT to contact customers and collect market information. They are totally left out of record keeping, enterprise data analysis, and e-extension services, which are essential in agribusiness management. Nevertheless, the few youth that adopted ICT and use it for enterprise proved to have positive marginal effects on efficiency in the cassava value chain. Also, the study showed more male youth engage in Nigeria’s cassava value
chain, which describes the patriarchal sociocultural setting in rural Nigeria. This contributes to the high rate of female youth unemployment estimated by the World Bank to be 1.26 times more than that of males in 2017.
As a result, Enesi suggests that gender-oriented policies that remove barriers to active female youth engagement in rural agricultural production activities should be introduced. “The government should also look into the creation and implementation of youth-oriented policies and re-orientation of ICT intervention in Nigeria as a strategy to expose youth to learning and use of ICT for value chain development. In addition, policy support for sustained public and private investment in cassava value chain enterprises should be considered,” he said.