IITA Partners Michigan University to Implement Youth Programme

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Jonathan Eze

IITA is partnering Michigan State University to implement the AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab project in Nigeria and Tanzania.

This project is sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation and will help 15,000 young people access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing horticulture, aquaculture, poultry, cassava, and oilseed sectors.

The project will focus on young men and women between ages 18 and 24 in major food-shed regions surrounding Lagos and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Ag Youth Lab will assist economically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach, and out-of-school youth transition into employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agrifood system.

The programme will have a special focus on gender equity, aiming for an equal representation of young men and women across its programmes and addressing policy, training, mentoring, and other constraints that affect the ability of young women to start enterprises or obtain employment.

Using the “youth-to-youth” and “train-the-trainers” approach, IITA, through its youth component model—IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) will work with a Nigerian company known as Venture Garden Group, Tanzania’s Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO); and Nigeria’s Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology.

According to IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, “IITA will bring the lessons from its experience to help Ag Youth Lab tap the dynamism of Africa’s youth, by creating better jobs for themselves; youth can transform Africa’s agrifood systems and build a brighter future for Africa.”

President and CEO of MasterCard Foundation, Reeta Roy speaking on the partnership, said it is an excellent example of using evidence to address youth unemployment. This, according to her, is achievable by engaging the private sector to develop business opportunities for young people and also addresses some of the challenges youth face in seeking work.

Also speaking on the project, President of Michigan State University, Lou Anna K. Simon said: “Working with the MasterCard Foundation and African partners to address one of the most critical problems facing the continent—youth unemployment—reflects the means of pursuing the institution’s global vision. It is an opportunity to expand youth agrifood employment both on and off the farm.”
The project kicks off after the launching of the programme, which is slated for 15 May