African countries should embrace IITA youth programme to tackle poverty, unemployment – Sanginga

African leaders urgently need to depart from mere rhetoric and begin to take action in solving the continents problems marked by poverty, unemployment, hunger and malnutrition, says the Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Nteranya Sanginga.

Dr. Sanginga who spoke at the Food Security Future Summit held at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, on Wednesday, expressed worry at the disturbing trend of youth unemployment in Africa, citing that in Nigeria, between 2001 and 2010; 22 million young people entered the labour market in search for jobs.

“Some of these young people end up without decent jobs. In spite of our arable land, majority of African farmers are poor—most of them living on less than two dollars a day. Again malnutrition is widespread. So, we need to act and change this narrative!” Dr Sanginga who was represented by Godwin Atser, IITA Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert, said.

Dr Sanginga, however, said that there was a ray of hope for the continent, citing some of the achievements recorded by the IITA as well as ongoing programmes for farmers and young people.

According to him, the youth program at IITA, that is providing decent jobs for young people in agriculture, was a model that African nations could embrace and replicate to solve youth unemployment on the continent.

The ENABLE YOUTH programme, which is a continent-wide expansion to the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative, provides opportunities for underemployed young people, especially in rural areas, giving them the chance to establish innovative agricultural enterprises and improve their agribusiness skills.

Sanginga noted that research outputs by IITA which recently won the Africa Food Prize, and its national partners are helping farmers to come out of poverty, creating jobs and demonstrating the possibility of having a prosperous African continent

He stated that Africa could achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (especially goal number 2 also known as Zero Hunger) by 2030 if governments on the continent take real action.

Looking at global trends, the IITA boss said that by 2050, Africa’s population will double.

“What that means is that we will have to feed more people. We will need more jobs for our youths. We will need more land, water, etc to produce food.

“Clearly, if we continue with a business as usual approach, we will be in trouble,” he added.

He also noted some of the breakthroughs recorded by IITA, if scaled out, could lift Africa out of poverty and put the continent on the path of prosperity. They include IITA improved varieties of cassava, maize, soybean, yam, banana/plantain, and cowpea that are resistant to pest and diseases, and high yielding.

“Besides, we also have several other initiatives/projects that have demonstrated how countries can transform agriculture. For instance, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project clearly demonstrates the possibility of doubling cassava yield from the current national average of 10 tons/ha to more than 20 tons per ha,” he added.

The summit, which had the theme: The Role of Stakeholders in Harnessing Nigeria’s Agricultural Potential for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Development, was organised by the Community Action on Food Security Initiative—a non-governmental organisation as part of activities to mark the World Food Day.

The Convener of the Summit, Azeez Akanni Salawu said the objective of the summit was to spark critical discussions, inspire, engage, network, connect and form a formidable partnership that will be based on investing in food security and rural development leading to the achievement of the SDGs.

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