Start Them Early Program: How Oyo Government is Turning Secondary Schools into Agribusiness Hub
The enthusiasm of the students was palpable as they proudly displayed their products. You could see the pride in their faces as they stated the price of doughnuts, chin chin and tidbits. “We made it all by ourselves,” one of the students said excitedly. “We are in the Value Addition Enterprise.”
According to Dr Debo Akande, the Director-General of the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), the agency in charge of STEP, the programme has had tremendous impact in the lives of these students. “Before we started this programme, we conducted a survey where we gauged the knowledge of the students and their general attitude towards agriculture. You will be amazed at the changes in the last year.”
When the Oyo State Government flagged off the Start Them Early Program (STEP) at Fasola Grammar School on July 15, 2020, many did not realise how revolutionary this idea would become and the impact it would have on the students. Today, STEP which is a collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), runs in seven schools in Oyo State with a plan to expand the programme to six more, that is two schools in each zone plus the pilot school.
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Dr Akande revealed that student’s interest in agriculture jumped from about 40% before they started the programme to over 80% in some schools. While their knowledge of Information Communications Technology (ICT) and agricultural tools also doubled. “The number of students in agricultural clubs grew from zero to 77 at Fasola Grammar School while in Methodist High School, it was from zero to 59.”
The Oyo State Government through OYSADA is turning secondary schools in the state into agribusiness hubs. Presently, there are seven STEP schools selected from each zone in Oyo State namely: Oyo Zone – Fasola Grammar School, Fasola; Ibadan Zone – Bishop Phillips Academy, Ibadan, Methodist High School, Ibadan and Christ High School, Oleyo, Ibadan; Ogbomoso Zone – Iresaadu High School, Iresaadu; Ibarapa Zone – Adegun-Asake Grammar School, Igangan; and Oke-Ogun Zone – United Missionary Church of Africa (UMCA), Igbeti. The authorities plan to add six more schools also selected from each zone of the state in 2022.
The STEP schools run Crop and Mechanisation, Greenhouse, Livestock, Value Addition and ICT enterprises. Students in each of the enterprises are learning skills that will help them pursue a career in various parts of the agricultural value chain.
To accomplish this, more than content changes needed to be made in the curriculum. School facilities need to be upgraded and teachers trained.
Each school was upgraded with a training centre, processing unit, central laboratory, poultry pen, computer rooms, students/teachers desks and chairs, and other training materials. They also get landscaping, toilet and borehole facilities.
With these facilities in place, OYSADA has been building a new generation of entrepreneurs who have a well-rounded knowledge in agribusiness.
“Before I joined this enterprise, I did not know any of the things I know now.” A student in Bishop Phillips Academy recounts. “But now they have taught us many things. They taught us that we can use cassava flour to make meat pie, chin chin and other products and we are doing everything by ourselves.”
A student in Methodist High School is happy about being in the crop and mechanisation enterprise, he enjoys using farm tools like motorised slashers and seed planters to carry out farm operations. While in the ICT Enterprise the students are learning how to create and design logos, labels, proposals and other documents that agropreneurs deploy.
The students in the Greenhouse and Livestock Enterprises are not left out as they excitedly share how they can now raise fish and other livestock at home, which they sell in the open market. “I make money from selling my fish,” one of the students of Methodist High School shared with us. “My parents are very happy that I can make my own money.”
With this excellent foundation laid, OYSADA anticipates that by 2024, over 25,000 secondary school students will have received training in contemporary agriculture and agribusiness through STEP, resulting in a higher number of students pursuing post-secondary education in agriculture related disciplines.
As Dr Akande puts it, “With STEP, Oyo State is building for the future.”