International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Crusoe Osagie

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Chevron Nigeria Limited, (CNL), operator of the joint venture (JV) between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and  CNL (the “NNPC/CNL JV”), have launched a youth-in-agriculture (agripreneur) programme, aimed at providing training opportunities for young men and women to venture into agribusiness.

 CNL launched the agripreneur programme in collaboration with the Itsekiri Regional Development Committee (IRDC), the Egbema and Gbaramatu Central Development Foundation (EGCDF), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND).

 The pilot programme, which was targeted at forty youths from the Itsekiri and Ijaw communities in areas where the NNPC/CNL JV operates in Delta State was flagged off in a ceremony at PIND’s Economic Development Centre at Egbokodo, Warri. The event was attended by various stakeholders including representatives of the Delta State Government, the IRDC and the EGCDC (the bodies representing the Itsekiri and the Ijaw communities in the NNPC/CNL JV Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) process), IITA, PIND, CNL and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), an arm of NNPC.

 CNL’s General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Mr. Deji Haastrup stated that the objectives of the agripreneur pilot programme, which will gulp over N188 million, include empowering youths to embrace agriculture and agribusiness as income generating activities and training them on aquaculture, cassava, plantain/banana production and processing. In addition, the pilot program will assist the Community Youths in Agribusiness Group (CYAG) to enhance the sustainability of the program.

 Haastrup stated that from the inception of the GMoU in 2005 to 2015, the NNPC/CNL JV has contributed about N16.7 billion to the eight Regional Development Committees (RDCs) – including EGCDF and IRDC – through the GMoU process. Mr. Haastrup emphasised that following the successes recorded in infrastructural development in the communities, the GMoU+ was introduced as a new direction of the community development concept, which focuses on business development, income generation and economic empowerment as well as third party partnership and collaboration that align with the Sustainable Development Goals. This project is in line with the GMoU+ and the Economic Growth Opportunities/Sustainable Livelihood Assessment studies opportunities identified.

The Group General Manager, NAPIMS, Mr. Dafe Stephen Sejebor, represented by Deputy Manager, Community Development, Mrs. Clementina Arubi expressed delight at the agripreneur program and stated that the program will help encourage the youths to pursue other economic activities outside crude oil in the light of the challenging economic situation in the country.

 On his part, Delta State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Austin Chikezie represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. Ede Oghoro, applauded the efforts to embrace agriculture as an income generation activity.

 Oghoro said that the agripreneur programme accords with the state government’s agenda of strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony; agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialisation; relevant health and education policies and transformed environment through urban renewal (SMART), and pledged that trained youths from the program would be integrated into the state’s agricultural reform agenda, thereby amplifying the benefits of the youth initiative.

 Top representatives of EGCDF and the IRDC also commended the NNPC/CNL JV for initiating the program and promised to support and actively participate in it.

 The Deputy Director General, Partnerships and Capacity Development, IITA, Dr. Kenton Dashiell, described the initiative as an opportunity that would create wealth and jobs for young men and women in the communities where the NNPC/CNL JV operates. Also Dr. Alfred Dixon, IITA Head of Partnerships Coordination, said the approach of mentoring the youth and working together with them in the communities are other unique features of the program. “We will see ‘peer influence’ at work here in the oncoming days. Youths want to listen to youths, and we are confident that the trained youths in IITA will transfer knowledge, innovations and skills to their counterparts in these communities,” Dr. Dixon explained.

 Conceived and developed based on the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) model, the agripreneur program will provide mentorship and hands-on training to youths in the Niger Delta region, and will help them develop agribusiness enterprises along the cassava, plantain and aquaculture value chains. The two- year program builds on past successful agricultural interventions such as those implemented by PIND and other development partners.