Start Them Early Program” (STEP), is an intervention designed to take agribusiness studies to primary and secondary school students, engaging them in club participation, course work, and experimental learning. The STEP is designed to operate in Nigeria, DR Congo and Kenya, for over two years and in nine secondary schools and is partnering with a local organization of young people called NEWDAY Afrika to expand an already existing initiative and has been introduced in three secondary schools in Bukavu, DRC.
At the 2018 Africa Food Prize, AFP, ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Director General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, reiterated his commitment to invest in the future of Africa’s younger generation and emphasized the importance of raising the ambition of primary and secondary school students to guarantee a food- and nutrition-secure continent. With the $100,000 AFP prize money, Sanginga promised to carry out an intervention program, using a unique approach that would redirect primary and secondary schools and their students to agribusiness skills.
Dr Sanginga followed up on his promise by initiating the “Start Them Early Program” (STEP), an intervention designed to take agribusiness studies to primary and secondary school students, engaging them in club participation, course work, and experimental learning. STEP aims to provide primary and secondary schools with agricultural inputs, and train and empower students to change their mindset towards agriculture as a business and as an opportunity for job creation. Currently, over 800 students have been reached in DR Congo. Thirty-three, pupil-initiated agribusinesses are thriving; some are involved in rabbit farming, guinea pig production, poultry, and vegetable production. School managers are also involved in agricultural production especially in poultry and rabbit rearing to improve school incomes and pupils’ practical knowledge.
All DRC students involved in the project succeeded in their national examination with two girls among them scoring the best results, 88 per cent and 84 per cent. Most of them are committed to continue in agriculture at university level. Exactly six weeks after DG Sanginga dedicated the Africa Food Prize award to agribusiness development in secondary schools, he initiated the process in Nigeria when he visited the students of IITA International School to share his strong passion for agriculture and his experiences on how he developed his career in the agriculture sector.
The students have also undergone a series of agribusiness training by the STEP team set up to commence activities on the program. The curiosity of the students to learn more about agribusiness continues to grow day by day. The team is also working closely with the IITA Women’s Group to engage more students in Ibadan, Oyo State, in the program. Since the program commenced in Nigeria, the STEP team has reached out to more than 100 students from three schools to educate them about the benefits of modern agriculture and different viable opportunities along its value chain.