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Youth in agribusiness and rice seed production in Nigeria


Youth represent a substantial segment of the global population: according to the United Nations, in 2020 there were 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. Youth are also considered the agents of social transformation and change-makers of tomorrow. Empowering them with the right technologies, innovations, business skills, knowledge, and opportunities prepares them for transforming agribusiness in agri-food systems.

 

AfricaRice, in line with the Nigerian government’s commitment to reduce youth unemployment and poverty, is creating a new generation of youth seed producers who will revolutionize the Nigerian agricultural sector through rice seed production businesses. In this country, seed mixtures and lack of good quality rice seed have long been major constraints to rice production and food security. The AfricaRice youth entrepreneurship development approach seeks to change those constraints with three pillars of action. First, we are enhancing the technical competence and skills of youth and women in seed agribusiness. Second, we are ensuring significant return on investment, especially when technologies, innovations, and services are combined. And third, we are organizing the effective coaching and mentoring of youth—connecting them with experienced professionals and successful business owners who can provide guidance and support.

 

In one project under our approach, AfricaRice partnered with the Government of Nigeria and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-assisted Value Chain Development Programme in training 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 modules included a series of classroom lectures on the principle of seed production, field practical sessions to provide hands-on experience in the preparation of nursery beds and good agricultural practices, and the setting up of demonstration plots in each of the nine states. Each trained youth was empowered with 50 kilograms of breeder seed from AfricaRice as a starter pack to plant 1 hectare of land. The agribusiness incubation model has benefited from backstopping visits by AfricaRice’s seeds team.

 

This intervention has changed things for good for the majority of the youth—especially the line transplanting method for seedlings, which has doubled their yields compared to the broadcasting method of planting rice. Some of the trained youth seed producers not only supply seed, but also provide out-grower services for industrial rice processors such as Olam International and Popular Farms. Olam International selected one young producer, Sumaiya Amadu, the CEO of Sea Agro Enterprises from Taraba State, as their chief rice seed producer. Ms. Amadu has also received several awards from IFAD Rome thanks to her training with AfricaRice. Reza Agro Services, run by another youth seed entrepreneur from Niger State, sold seed worth US$ 41,667 through a linkage to off-takers in Akwa Ibom State. Peter Okonkwo, a youth seed entrepreneur from Anambra State, has bought a tractor from his sales of rice seed.

 

AfricaRice has simultaneously pursued our youth entrepreneurship approach in Nigeria under other projects. Through the Youth Employment in Agribusiness and Sustainable Agriculture project, implemented in Oyo and Ekiti States, 53 youth and women were trained and provided with foundation seed and capital to become seed producers. Some of them are today marketing their seed to farmers in these and neighboring states. Under the Zero Hunger project implemented 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—shortening the distance farmers must travel to source and buy quality improved seed. This has proven itself as a good exit strategy that ensures youth remain in profitable and sustainable businesses contributing to job creation beyond the life of seed intervention programs.

 

With projects like these, AfricaRice has showcased the enormous business opportunities that abound along the rice value chain, and the socio-economic benefits of integrating the divergent but complementary individual skills and abilities of young people into the agricultural sector.

 



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