Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the first Africa Food Prize recipient, will visit the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria on 19 October, to show support to African youth engaged in agricultural entrepreneurship and involved in the movement to encourage more youth into productive engagement in agriculture.

The visit, which also kicks off the 50th anniversary celebration of IITA, will highlight some of the evidence-based results on the rejuvenation of Africa through IITA’s intervention and showcase the impact of youth engagement in agriculture. For the keynote address, Dr Nwanze will be talking about Youth and Agripreneurship as an Engine of Growth for National Development.

Dr Nwanze first visited IITA in August 2012 and talked on Rejuvenation: Investing in agriculture and young people. This provided the wake-up call for youth corps members at IITA who were encouraged to go into agriculture and establish profitable agribusiness enterprises that would create wealth and jobs for the unemployed youth in Nigeria and Africa. During that visit, he had planted a tree at IITA headquarters in Ibadan. The tree symbolizes the birth of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA)—a youth-in-agribusiness program that has now taken root and has become a model for youth engagement in development that is being adopted across the continent. In his speech, Dr Nwanze emphasized that investing in young people in the rural areas is a “simple solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems such as poverty and hunger, and curtails migration to urban centers.”

“I congratulate IITA on its 50th anniversary and for its continued efforts in finding solutions to hunger, malnutrition, and poverty through research. I also applaud the IITA Youth Agripreneurs program, a model for youth engagement in agriculture and development. Young people who have prospects can build foundations for their future. But young people who have no prospects have nothing to lose and are more easily swayed by rhetoric and extreme acts of desperation,” said Dr Nwanze.

The youth agripreneurship program has quickly expanded and is now being outscaled to other states in Kano, Abuja, Borno, and Onne in Nigeria and with other African countries under the Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture (ENABLE Youth) Program funded by the African Development Bank.

With the ENABLE Youth Program, over 8 million agribusiness jobs will be created within 5 years for youth.

As part of the 50th year opening program, representatives of IYA from other chapters in Nigeria will debate on agriculture-related topics.

According to IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, the Institute’s 50th anniversary celebration provides the opportunity to celebrate the Institute’s achievements and partnerships, but will also strongly highlight future strategies for shaping the food and nutrition security agenda over the next 50 years.

“IFAD has been a major partner of IITA in efforts to ensure that the millions of Africans have food and nutritional security. With the support of IFAD, we will continue to provide solutions to global challenges, but especially pressing development problems in Africa, including youth unemployment,” said Dr Sanginga.

IITA was established in July 1967 as the first African link to a network of international agricultural research and development organizations that is working for a food-secure future.