In 2011, under the leadership of Dr. Nteranya Nsanginga, D.G. of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a youth-led development initiative was initiated in Ibadan, Nigeria. The initiative was called IITA Youth Agripreneurs Strategy, commonly referred to as IYA. It was created to serve as a model to encourage young people to go into agriculture and prove that the youth can succeed in the agricultural value chains, be directed towards market-oriented agriculture, agribusiness, and/or agro-service provision if given proper training, opportunities and incentives. The innovative approach was proposed as one of the solutions to reduce unemployment and underemployment of young African graduates and, above all, as a tool for Africa’s development through agriculture and related sectors.
The approach used was experiential, with clusters of youth who completed their mandatory year-long youth service provided with support—resources and expertise—to explore options for income generation, and then develop business plans and enterprises around the most promising ones.
This IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative comprises a budding team of 35 young professionals from diverse but complementary academic backgrounds including History, Computer Science, Building and Quantity Surveying, Statistics, Biochemistry, Mass Communication, Economics, Soil Science, Agronomy, and Plant Breeding, all aligning their efforts to bring about the much-awaited agricultural transformation in Africa.
Within 18 months, the group successfully produced tons of quality planting materials (seed, stems, suckers) of cassava, maize, soybean, and new plantain varieties. They initiated vegetable, fish and soy milk operations, leading to the creation of a marketing arm within the group. After one year, IITA launched similar incubations in DR Congo (32 members) and Tanzania (48 members). In Nigeria, much local government and private organizations are now organizing youth groups using this same model.
IYA has now spread Africa-wide with youth groups established in several locations within Nigeria―the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Kano, Onne, and Borno State―and other African countries like Kenya, DR Congo (Bukavu, Kinshasa, and Kisangani), Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
IYA also has an active training arm that organizes and facilitates training for other youth and youth groups. Since they started in 2013, IYA has trained more than 2,000 other youths, some of who are now successful agribusiness entrepreneurs.