Caribbean: an incubator for growth
IICA, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, is building a Virtual Business Incubator and Resource Hub for Caribbean youth interested in agriculture. The Virtual Business Incubator will support youth entrepreneurs in 13 countries by providing the information and knowledge they need to simplify the crucial first step of actually starting a business.
"We have been amazed to see both how simple and how difficult it can be to start up a business" said Brent Theophile, the IICA National Specialist in St Lucia, who is leading the project. Cooperatives seem to be the easiest form of business to get going.
One of the most valuable discoveries to hatch from the incubator so far is the realisation that plenty of free and cost-competitive services already exist to help start-ups and entrepreneurs already in business.
"They are relatively unknown," Theophile said, adding that "Information like this is important to guiding youth on how they can navigate the business environment to their advantage."
Bringing this kind of information together and making it available was one of the top-ranked requests in a regional gathering of youth entrepreneurs. To build on this, a meeting is being planned in the context of the upcoming Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016. This meeting will be held in collaboration with the Caribbean Agricultural Forum for Youth (CAFY) to discuss and plan further activities to include more youth in the region.
The Pacific: youth leading learning
The Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community POETCom/SPC is undertaking a large effort to promote climate-resilient agriculture, a particular concern for the small island states of the Pacific. One goal is to engage youth farmers to harness the power of Web 2.0, so POETCom brought about 100 young farmers to workshops in Cook Islands, Niue and Republic of Marshall Islands.
"Many of the youths were already familiar with using Web 2.0 tools and were internet savvy," said Theresa Fox of POETCom. "This was great, but if they didn't know how to create great content, they would not be able to use the Web 2.0 tools to maximum potential."
The workshops promoted great content focused on a powerful narrative: "that organic farming can help protect food security by strengthening farm resilience to climate change," a key element in the International Youth Day theme of "sustainable production and consumption". And participants discovered the details for themselves, on visits to organic farms. There they learned to tell their stories through poetry, articles, news reports, play acting, how-to videos and other channels.
Did the workshops succeed? Yes, in that the young people developed their narrative skills and combined them with their existing familiarity with the internet. In the Cook Islands, the videos made by the young people were even played on the local TV channel, which also covered the workshop. As for impact, they have already established three Facebook pages.
The Cook Islands Organic Tumutoas, the Niue Organic Gladiatoas and the Marshall Islands Organic Ri-Tarinae now use social media to share their own work on organic agriculture and climate resilience and other things they find inspiring and educational.
"The groups' names all mean 'organic warriors,' fighting climate change using organic agriculture," said Theresa Fox. Thanks to the project, young people are aware of organic agriculture as a solution and have been mobilised to advocate for it using social media.
West Africa: The power of online TV
Given how much time young people spend watching YouTube and other online TV, it makes sense to use that channel to reach potential agricultural entrepreneurs. MediaProd, a young independent media production company from Burkina Faso, is doing that with a series of short films in French and English for West Africa.
Agribusiness TV currently has a catalogue of 22 films – "44 in total if we count both languages," jokes Inoussa Maïga, project coordinator at MediaProd. Topics range from caterpillars against malnutrition to jam-making as a way to avoid food waste. And, says Inoussa Maïga, each has been watched between 5000 and 150,000 times on the project's platforms.
"The results we've been getting have been beyond our expectations."
On the project's Facebook page, for example, are several comments and messages from young people inspired by the videos to start a business in the agri-food sector.
The films have not only inspired the people who watch them, they have also brought extra exposure through media coverage. This, Inoussa Maïga says, represents a second level of impact: the young people featured in the videos have been contacted by other actors who have strengthened their businesses.
"We have a case from Burkina Faso whereby the young person who was featured has been able to obtain water on his farm. He has also integrated into several networks after participating in forums and events with Agribusiness TV."
For the future, MediaProd is working on generating revenue through publicity and other means, so that Agribusiness TV can continue even after funding from CTA end.
Zambia: farmers' clubs and information hubs
Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) already manages projects in Zambia under the general heading of Farmers' Clubs. With the support of CTA, an extension – Young Farmers' Clubs and Hubs – is bringing together groups of youth to ignite their passion for agriculture.
In Chibombo District in Central Zambia, as elsewhere in the country, the formal labour market cannot absorb young people, many of whom leave for the nearby capital city, Lusaka. DAPP has created Young Farmers' Clubs with about 300 members who are learning to be better farmers and effective leaders. The young farmers take part in the "Proud to be Rural" campaign, enthusing other young people about the value of rural life, planting demo gardens and attending food fairs.
"We tackle young people's barriers in accessing employment by increasing their role in agri-business, processing and marketing," said Elise Soerensen, DAPP's Managing director. "Training expands their economic opportunities and diversifies their skills."
Each club received a tablet computer loaded with lessons on farming, basic information on health and hygiene and the full Zambian school curriculum from grade 1 to grade 7. Club members use the tablet to learn together, with help from DAPP and the Ministry of Agriculture. Everything – from production, access to financial products, processing and the use of trade information systems – is covered.
There are challenges: this year, for example, rainfall patterns were disturbed, further evidence of the need for young people to learn about and use climate-smart agriculture.
"The project started in May 2016, so impact is difficult to measure at this early stage," said Elise Soerensen. However, she fully expects the project to help young farmers gain the information and skills they need to build viable businesses based on climate-smart agricultural production.
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