By Cheruto Valentine

The youth program of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has won the 2019 International Innovation Award for sustainable food and agriculture. The award is in recognition of IITA’s commitment to improving both agribusiness opportunities and creditworthiness of youth across Africa.

The award, which is the first of its kind, was presented during the 41st conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It was funded by the Government of Switzerland and the event took place at FAO’s headquarters in Rome.

FAO Director General, José Graziano da Silva, congratulated the organization on being awarded and thanked them for their contribution.

“Your work is an inspiration to all of us. It is very important to showcase positive results and concrete ways in which we can work together,” da Silva added.

There were two categories of awards: category A, which was the award for ‘excellence and digitization and innovation for sustainable food systems’, and category B which was ‘the international innovation award for sustainable food and agriculture.’

These awards reflect the important role of innovation for the future of sustainable food and agriculture and the improvement of food security and nutrition for all, particularly in the face of increased environmental challenges.

Receiving the category B award on behalf of IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), Evelyn Ohanwusi the Head of IYA, appreciated the organizers and sponsors of the award saying, “IYA is grateful to have been recognized as an innovation that empowers youth in agriculture and food systems and chosen among other qualified nominees. We sincerely appreciate the Government of Switzerland and the Food and Agriculture Organization for contributing to our success story.”

She dedicated the award to young people involved in agricultural transformation, and urged them to keep working hard towards resolving the problems of food insecurity and unemployment in Africa.

“This award is dedicated to all youths in the agriculture and food systems across the world especially in Africa. We have started the revolution and yes, we can achieve more,” she added.

The IITA Youth Agripreneur Program is a youth in agribusiness initiative that was established in 2012, by the Director General of the IITA, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, to address the issue of widespread youth unemployment, and to provide a platform that propels young people towards self-employment in agriculture.

The program started in Ibadan, Oyo state Nigeria and has expanded into 13 groups with over 385 members operating 36 learning-by-doing enterprises in about 10 African countries including; Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Madagascar and Togo.