Youth involvement crucial to successful agriculture intervention programs

The N-power Agro program introduced in 2015 as a National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) designed to create jobs and empower Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35. The goal of the program is to provide skills, tools, and experience necessary to advance from unemployment to employment, entrepreneurship, and innovation. This was part of the Nigerian government’s efforts to address the unemployment challenge while also integrating youths in agricultural activities.

In a country of about 200million people, the government has over the years constituted various initiatives to address the issue of unemployment, food security youth involvement in agriculture. However, the impact of these initiatives has been minimal due to the inconsistency in government policies, changes in government, inadequate implementation mechanisms amongst others.

With this background, a study was carried out to evaluate the impact of the N-power Agro program on youth employment and income generation in some parts of rural Nigeria. The study carried out across three states southwest of Nigeria by Adewale Ogunmodede under the IITA Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence (CARE) In Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa project being sponsored by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), explored the state of youth participation in agribusiness activities in rural areas.

With the average age of farmers in Nigeria placed at 50-60 years, the government strategically targets young people with these initiatives to encourage their participation in agriculture and agribusiness, this is because the present state of decline in agriculture production is dimming the hope of attaining the vision of food security in 2050.

Looking at the N-Power Agro program, which is geared at promoting employment and job opportunities for youth in the agricultural sector, Ogunmodede explored the regional growth analysis of youth labor and employment trends in Nigeria, with a focus on the emergence of agribusinesses while evaluating the impact of the program to generate income and create employment for the beneficiaries through their participation.

Nigeria has the largest youth population in Africa, a group that represents about 34% of the total population, the study revealed that youths involved in agriculture during the production season often tend to take non-farm jobs to ensure stable income during the off-season, hence the need for policies that will ensure that youths are actively involved in agriculture all year round to achieve food security.

According to the study, Nigeria’s agricultural value chain is slowly evolving with limited diversification in an environment that yet undermines the progress, a situation Ogunmodede recommends policy interventions that will address the constraints inherent in the space. Despite attempts by the government to improve rural livelihood, provide employment and ensure food security through agricultural development initiatives, most of these programs have had little or no impact on the lives of the youths due to corruption, inconsistency in government policies, and a top-down approach in implementation among other reasons.

Ogunmodede states, ‘it is crucial for the policymakers to know that the central part of policies should target youth as partners and leaders in development. It should be a collaborative intervention that will ensure youths are fully consulted and integrated into the decision-making process.’

The study under the IFAD sponsored IITA-CARE project, also recommends that the government should consider incorporating the beneficiaries of these initiatives into the Home-grown school feeding program to supply produce and bottom-up approach by policy-makers would help understand the type of interventions that will adequately provide solutions to address these challenges of unemployment among youth in Nigeria.

The IITA-CARE project is addressing youth unemployment and involvement in the rural and non-rural economy through the funding of studies being carried out by young researchers across Africa with sponsorship by IFAD, these research works are designed into policy briefs that are used to engage Parliamentarians in Africa to ensure policies are made to effectively address these areas of development.

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