The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says its Start Them Early Programme (STEP) can help the Oyo State Government reduce the number of out-of-school children in the Western Nigeria state.
Coordinator of the STEP initiative, Adedayo Adefioye, said so during the official launch of the programme and the modern agribusiness training facilities at Fasola Grammar School in Oyo West Local Government Area.
To promote an early interest in agriculture, IITA is introducing agribusiness training in secondary schools through STEP.
Fasola Grammar School is one of three beneficiary schools selected in southwestern Nigeria. Established in 2018, STEP aims to challenge the mindsets of young Africans about agriculture and expose them to viable opportunities in agribusiness from an early age.
In his opening remarks on behalf of IITA, TAAT Programme Coordinator Chrys Akem, spoke about the vision of the IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, to see the students of Fasola emerge to become millionaires as they embrace agriculture as a business.
Speaking on behalf of the IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell, Akem also highlighted the recently launched Agribusiness Education Programme of the state government.
“These two programmes, STEP and the youth-in-agribusiness training centre, when expanded all over Oyo State, would stimulate the agricultural transformation of the state and create jobs for thousands of youth”, Akem says.
Adefioye thanked Governor Seyi Makinde, and the people of the state for providing an enabling environment to establish the initiative.
He said he hopes the program would lay a solid foundation to transform the students into global entrepreneurs in agriculture, pointing out that the programme will not only reduce the number of out-of-school children in the state but also allow them to complete their secondary school education and even further their academics with income generated in the school agribusiness clubs initiated within the programme.
The ceremony also featured testimonials from students such as Motunrayo Folarin, who participated in the program pilot.
Folarin expressed gratitude for the depth of the knowledge that he and fellow students learned about the agricultural value chains.
They also learned about mechanisation, ICT, and how to add value to their farm products. She urged the governor to assist in expanding the program so that more students in Oyo can participate and benefit from the initiative.
Another student, Samuel Joshua, spoke of how he used to view agriculture negatively because of the amount of manual labour required.
“But today, in just an hour, we can clear two acres of land, which used to take us two to three days”, said Joshua. He also noted that there was no gender discrimination, even in the mechanization training, and that the girls were as active as the boys.