AfricaRice: Empowering Youth to Transform Agribusiness in Nigeria

Youth constitute a significant portion of the global population hence a bold step by AfricaRice to include them in food production aimed at food security. According to the United Nations, in 2020, there were 1.8 billion young people aged 10 to 24 worldwide. Recognized as agents of social transformation and future change-makers, empowering youth with the appropriate technologies, innovations, business skills, knowledge, and opportunities is essential for transforming agribusiness within agri-food systems.

In alignment with the Nigerian government’s commitment to reducing youth unemployment and poverty, AfricaRice is fostering a new generation of youth seed producers. These individuals are expected to revolutionize Nigeria’s agricultural sector through rice seed production businesses. Historically, seed mixtures and the lack of high-quality rice seeds have posed significant challenges to rice production and food security in the country.

AfricaRice’s youth entrepreneurship development strategy addresses these constraints through three main pillars: enhancing technical competence and skills in seed agribusiness for youth and women, ensuring a significant return on investment by integrating technologies, innovations, and services, and organizing effective coaching and mentoring by connecting youth with experienced professionals and successful business owners.

One notable project under this strategy involved a partnership between AfricaRice, the Nigerian government, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-assisted Value Chain Development Programme. This collaboration trained 180 youth seed producers in rice seed production businesses across the Nigerian states of Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Enugu, Nasarawa, and Kogi.

The training included classroom lectures on seed production principles, field practical sessions for hands-on experience in nursery bed preparation and good agricultural practices, and the establishment of demonstration plots in each of the nine states. Each trained youth received 50 kilograms of breeder seed from AfricaRice to cultivate one hectare of land. The agribusiness incubation model has benefited from backstopping visits by AfricaRice’s seeds team.

This intervention has significantly improved the productivity of the youth involved. For instance, the line transplanting method for seedlings has doubled their yields compared to the traditional broadcasting method. Some trained youth seed producers now supply seeds and provide out-grower services for industrial rice processors, such as Olam International and Popular Farms.

Notably, Sumaiya Amadu, CEO of Sea Agro Enterprises from Taraba State, was selected by Olam International as their chief rice seed producer and has received several awards from IFAD Rome due to her training with AfricaRice.

Additionally, Reza Agro Services, managed by a youth seed entrepreneur from Niger State, sold seeds worth USD 41,667 through a linkage to off-takers in Akwa Ibom State. Peter Okonkwo, a youth seed entrepreneur from Anambra State, purchased a tractor from his rice seed sales.

AfricaRice has extended its youth entrepreneurship approach to other projects in Nigeria. Through the Youth Employment in Agribusiness and Sustainable Agriculture, project in Oyo and Ekiti States, 53 youth and women were trained and provided with foundation seed and capital to become seed producers, many of whom now market their seeds to farmers in these and neighboring states.

Similarly, under the Zero Hunger project in Ebonyi State, 200 youth seed producers were trained on digital extension advisory tools and supported with starter packs of foundation seed to become seed entrepreneurs in their rural farming communities. This initiative has shortened the distance farmers must travel to source quality improved seed, ensuring youth remain in profitable and sustainable businesses that contribute to job creation beyond the lifespan of seed intervention programs.

Through these initiatives, AfricaRice has highlighted the substantial business opportunities along the rice value chain and the socio-economic benefits of integrating the diverse skills and abilities of young people into the agricultural sector.

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