Developing creative messages/methods that would attract young people to agriculture could help Africa to attract youth to agriculture and end the rising unemployment in the continent, says the Deputy Director General Partnership for Delivery, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Kenton Dashiell.
In a message to journalists to mark the 2017 Media Day— part of activities to mark the 50th anniversary of IITA on 24 July 2017, Dr Dashiell said addressing the food insecurity question in Africa required collective efforts from the different institutions operating in Africa, stressing that “IITA cannot succeed in isolation.”
He underpinned the importance of creativity in packaging and dissemination of information on agricultural innovation in a way and manner that would attract youth into agriculture, and clear illusions about the sector.
Dashiell explained that for IITA, “our message is this—agriculture is the way to become wealthy. But this cannot happen if it is practiced the way our parents did. Fortunately, IITA has advanced technologies that if used could make farming very profitable and fun for farmers.”
The Media Day was a time for IITA to appreciate the invaluable contribution of the press to the Institute in the past 50 years. It was the first time the Institute would engage members of the press for a full day, showcasing to them its facilities, projects, and the Institute’s direction for the next 50 years.
As journalists toured the campus, stories of IITA research breakthroughs reverberated— from the fields where IITA defeated the Black Sigatoka disease on banana, cassava mealybug, and maize streak virus; to the labs where breakthroughs such as the use of Aflasafe is making maize and groundnuts safer to innovations where researchers are growing yam in the air and new technologies are being developed to control weeds in cassava.
Journalists were taken around the facilities to see research on maize, yam, cassava, cowpea, banana and plantain. IITA is also piloting the first ever Africa-wide youth in agribusiness initiative (IITA Youth Agripreneurs), which has received strong support from the African Development Bank and about 11 heads of African States.
Dr Kwesi Atta-Krah, Chair, IITA50 Organizing Committee and Director, Systems and Site Integration said that in the last 50 years, IITA had stood with the people by providing agricultural solutions that address the constraints to Africa’s agricultural development.
“And because we are truly people-centric, our goal in the last 50 years has always been to make living more fulfilling for even the poorest of the poor farming households. Even now, IITA will not stop. The Institute will continue to join hands with relevant stakeholders to do its best to transform agricultural practices to be able to transform Africa,” Dr Atta-Krah explained.
The Chair of the IITA50 Organizing Committee also announced that on 30 June 2017, a press conference will be held at IITA’s facilities in Lagos, after which IITA’s senior management team will proceed to ring the closing bell at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, officially announcing the Institute 50th anniversary to the public.
Established 1967, IITA is a leader in agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa. Innovations from the Institute have translated to better nourishment, food security, and livelihood-generating activities for millions of Africans.
The IITA50 celebration received financial support from IITA staff and the Board of Trustees, Dangote Group, Bovas, and Inqaba. Other supporters include Punch and the Guardian Newspapers.