The Oyo State-IITA Youth Agribusiness Incubation Park Centre: Turning a moribund facility into a thriving centre for agribusiness
Baskets upon baskets of luscious-looking tomato seeds gathered from the farms. 70 youths who were part of the Oyo Hub of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Agrihub Nigeria, launched in August 2021, were excited as they harvested their crops. “We are almost finished with this cycle of harvest,” a delighted Waheed Oni, Agrihub Manager of the Oyo State-IITA Youth Agribusiness Incubation Park Centre, Awe stated, “but we are planting another set immediately.”
There was a good reason for excitement. A few years ago, this harvest and the entire ongoing operations at what has come to be known as the Oyo State-IITA Youth Agribusiness Incubation Park Centre would have been impossible.
Before 2019, this 210-hectare facility then known as the Rural Community Development Centre (RCDC), Awe lay moribund. The Oyo State Government saw the strategic benefits of reviving the centre. And so in June 2020, the rehabilitation of the centre was flagged off after the authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
According to the Lead Management Person, IITA at the Oyo State-IITA Youth Agribusiness Incubation Park Centre, Dr Chris Akem, this was the first time any government in Nigeria had signed an MOU with the IITA clearly outlining the terms of engagement and responsibilities of the organisation and the Oyo State Government.
The choice of working with the IITA on this project was itself strategic. The Director-General of the IITA, Dr Nterayan Sanginga, is well known for his passion for youth development. He has initiated a good number of youth incubation programmes. Also, the IITA is renowned for attracting funding for its programmes.
The partnership has indeed proved mutually beneficial. Aside from training the IFAD-Agrihub cohorts, IITA now carries out most of its practical youth training at this site. Speaking on this, Dr Akem said, IITA is now implementing various youth programmes such as the ENABLE TAAT programme, and the Youth in Agricultural Enterprises programme funded by GIZ at the centre.
This is just one of the benefits that Oyo State has derived from resuscitating and reviving the hub, driven by the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), as a sub-component of OYSADA’s Youth in Agribusiness Programme.
According to the Director-General of OYSADA, Dr Debo Akande, Oyo State is providing the infrastructure to ensure that the centre remains operational. The state government has set up an integrated power system that includes solar energy. The government is also rebuilding the dilapidated hostel, providing security and fencing and also providing boreholes for the various enterprises.
Using 133 hectares of cultivable land, the incubation centre serves as a site for the development of hands-on entrepreneurial skills. In contrast to the past when training was theory-heavy, these young persons can now put into practice what they are learning. Also, funding and business linkages for agribusiness enterprises can be accessed by the youths of the state.
The 133 hectares presently includes the once-moribund 22 hectares of oil palm and10 hectares of cashewswhich have now been resuscitated by the state. Another 100 hectares of land for field crop production serves as the basis of the IITA supported processing centre now operating at the facility. According to Dr Akande, this processing facility does not only serve the youths at the centre but has also become a hub for smallholder farmers in the Awe area to process their crops.
The site also boasts of a livestock section and a palm processing facility. Dr Akande said that with the new approach to agribusiness by the Oyo State Government, opportunities abound in agribusiness. “Agriculture is no longer just about putting seeds in the ground and watching them grow, there is a whole value chain and various enterprises to pursue. Our youths should make themselves available for these opportunities and be prepared to put in the work required,” he said.