The Start Them Early Programme (STEP) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is currently taking roots in some secondary schools in Africa. The programme which began last year is working towards advancing agribusiness development in secondary schools in the continent.
The aim is to redirect the aspirations of Africans towards careers in modern agriculture by exposing them to viable opportunities in agribusiness at an early age.
To achieve this, an initial operation programme is being carried out in three African countries—Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, and Nigeria.
The two-year project, which is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), would serve as a kickstart for building the next generation of agribusiness leaders in Africa.
Ten secondary schools were selected in the three countries. In DRC, Institut Weza, EDAP/ISP, and Institut Mushunguri were selected in the South Kivu Province. Mwiki Secondary School, Nairobi County; Afraha High School, Nakuru County; Kisayani Secondary School, Makueni County; and Muongoiya Secondary School, Kiambu County, were selected in Kenya. While Fasola Grammar School, Oluponna High School, and Lead City International School were selected in the Southwestern region of Nigeria.
Training and practical sessions have begun in all the selected schools to promote agricultural activities. In DRC, the STEP team organised a special agribusiness holiday program for the students. This aimed to create clubs that offer young people a favourable environment for learning on agribusiness and arouse their interest in agricultural research and a career path in agriculture.
In Nigeria, training has commenced for teachers and students on the use of ICT in agriculture. This will develop and strengthen the teachers’ usage of digital tools and technologies in facilitating learning and creating awareness and give the students the opportunity to develop their ICT entrepreneurship and innovations.
Aside from leveraging the IITA Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) expertise and incubation centres close to selected schools, STEP is partnering with the USTADI Foundation under the VijaBiz project on youth empowerment through agribusiness, in Kenya.
Plans are in progress to train 1197 youths in the first six months of 2020, including 593 students in DRC, 210 in Kenya, and 394 in Nigeria. The training would centre on the application and enhancement of the STEP model across the 10 selected schools in the three countries.