Heifer International has launched the Nigerian edition of the Agriculture Youth and Technology (AYuTe) challenge for young entrepreneurs.
The initiative aims to leverage technology and innovation in boosting agricultural output in Africa’s most populous country.
The new national challenge offers young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that proffer solutions to challenges limiting smallholder farmers’ productivity across the various value chains the opportunity to pitch for investments to scale their businesses.
“More than half of our population is young people and with inflation skyrocketing, fuelled mainly by food inflation, we’ll need the youths with energy, tech-savvy, and entrepreneurial skills that can be channeled to transform the agricultural sector,” said Rufus Idris, country director, Heifer Nigeria during the launch recently.
“Also, it will help reduce inflation, enable us to feed ourselves, and create jobs,” Idris said.
“The national competition in Nigeria has been initiated as an enterprise development program to further identify, nurture and support innovative, relevant and technology-driven agricentric enterprises to grow, scale and thrive,” Idris said.
In a keynote address, Abiola Olusanya, the Lagos State commissioner for Agriculture stressed the need to make agriculture attractive to youths.
“Children from their infant ages are interested in every other profession but not farming and this is because of the perceived unprofitability in agriculture and the ‘image’ that already exists of the typical farmer,” she said.
Also, Olusanya noted that most students studying for degrees in agriculture do not have access to farms where they can put to test the theories they learn, adding that the narrative needs to change to bring more youths into the country’s agricultural space.
Olusanya added that marketing of agricultural products remains the biggest challenge that farmers in Lagos face. “Our markets are run in such a way that unless you’re a part of that market, you will not understand. The cartels running the markets are not allowing farmers within the state to thrive,” she said.
Heifer is in partnerships with several agri-tech companies from countries and states where the challenge has been kick-started. These partnerships have also yielded technological solutions and initiatives like the Hello Tractor initiative.
Oluwafunmibi Asunmonu, project manager at PULA, an agricultural insurance and technology company, discussed how the agri-tech company was already employing technology to improve the profitability of smallholder farms.
“We give farmers in-season agronomy tips and advisory services. We use SMS, WhatsApp, USSD code, and IVR among others, and we send out these communications in their local languages,” Asunmonu said.
The competition opened on Wednesday, August 17 for entry applications and will close by September 16, 2022. Interested participants can visit https://ayute.africa/nigeria to register. .