The Head of Agribusiness for Sub-Saharan Africa at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Director-General of Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency, OYSADA, Dr. Debo Akande, has explained that Governor ‘Seyi Makinde, has provided opportunities for the agribusiness to thrive through the Start Them Early Programme (STEP), a partnership project between the state government and IITA.
The initiative, according to him, is aimed at promoting innovative thinking that ensures that young people learn agribusiness in theory and practice right from secondary school.
Akande, while speaking with Vanguard, yesterday, noted that there is no doubt that the state has reference point for other states in the country and beyond, adding that the initiative is a solution to developing young minds towards agribusiness.
He disclosed the the project, with initial operations implemented in three countries such as DR Congo, Kenya and Nigeria in 2019, has been implemented in five states, Oyo, Osun, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos,
Dr. Akande recalled that the programme first started in Oyo before its expansion to other states, stressing that it is aimed at reinforcing agricultural classroom training by introducing modern agricultural technologies offered in schools through experiential learning.
He maintained that the programme uses learner centered-method to empower students with relevant agribusiness skills.
Akande said: “With the success recorded in the first phase of STEP, it targeted cluster areas such as Fasola Grammar School, Bishop Philips Academy, Methodist High School, Christ High School Oleyo, Adegun Asake Grammar t, Iresaadu High School, Iresaadu, UMCA Secondary Grammar School Igbeti, Governor Makinde has approved the extention of the program which is to cover six schools across 6 Federal constituencies not captured in the first batch.”
“In this era of technology innovation, agribusiness has moved from the old traditional of practice to technological ways of doing things, so good governance is beyond providing seedlings for the farmers, it’s all about providing infrastructure for the farmers and that is what exactly Governor Seyi Makinde is currently doing in the state and this has not only attracted more investors into the state, it has also boosted the socio-economic values of the state.”
“The investors are thriving in their businesses because the Governor has provided enabling environment through provisions of structural and functional system needed in aiding productivity of any Investor.”
“For instance governor’s choice of celebrating Christmas at Oke-Ogun area of the state is because he always wanted to see how those investors are doing on their farms as well inspect all the state government investment in agribusiness.”
“He has provided access roads to meet the needs of some agribusiness Investors in Oke Ogun, he has also provided transformers to meet the yarnings of some farmers in Fashola farm settlement to aide productivity, all our farm settlements in Oke Ogun axis of the state are now enjoying infrastructures which has help in ease of doing business.”
Speaking on effectiveness of the programme, Akande said, it has triggered the number of students in Fasola Grammar School from 0% to 77%, with number of agricultural entreprise club crop and mechanisation; greenhouse; livestock; value addition and ICT from 1% to 5.
“The program has increased the knowledge of agricultural tools from 29.2 to 72.7, with the students knowledge in agribusiness from 40.1% to 70.7%, while students perception towards agriculture has risen from 39.8 to 81.3%, students interest in agriculture has equally risen from 43.7 to 88.2% with students knowledge on ICT risen from 35.7 to 72%.”
Akande noted also that the program will not only provide job opportunities for the youths, it will also expand their knowledge in Information Technology and how to make use of tech innovative in solving agribusiness challenges.
He noted that those students who are currently doing well in their various schools, also formed cluster groups in their various homes and are also providing poultry and vegetables to their immediate environment.
“The focus on transforming the economy will strongly be dependent on our ability to reshape and revamp our agricultural sector, changing from the current practices generally dominated by subsistence production and ageing farmers to commercially produce and develop the younger generation in agriculture for sustainability.”
“As agriculture increasingly becomes important as a source of consumer and industrial demand, it will require innovative approaches in stimulating, supporting and sustaining more extensive economic growth and development.”
“We target the young people at the secondary and tertiary levels, especially in our specialised tertiary agricultural schools for enhanced technical, business and entrepreneural life skills. We do not want to wait till when they this young people have no alternative before they embrace agriculture.”
“We will ensure young people willingly develop interest in the sector and take a step ahead to become champions in agribusiness by adopting modern approaches and global best practices,” Akande submitted.