In most developing countries, agriculture is the leading employer in rural areas. However, many young people regard the sector as the domain of the older generation, and shun it as a result, often migrating to urban areas in search of greener pastures. Here, two cases from Nigeria and Jamaica showcase the successful experiences of young agripreneurs who have launched start-ups, instead of moving away. Their stories may serve as inspiration for other youths contemplating a future in agriculture.
Youth-led organic network provides jobs for other young people
Launched in 2008 by Lawrence Afere and his wife Helen, Springboard is a Nigerian social enterprise that is rapidly developing a network of organic farmers. Growth of the Springboard network, which now has more than 3,000 members, is driven by rural farmer-to-farmer training in organic farming and the production and processing of crops, specifically plantain and maize.
Both aged just 24 when they set up the enterprise, Lawrence and Helen Afere were motivated by a desire to address the serious problem of youth unemployment in Nigeria. Springboard serves as a source of jobs for youth, currently employing 21 full-time and 10 part time staff. It also offers training in the processing of agricultural produce, helping young people to start up their own businesses and secure a livelihood. The enterprise is now looking to increase its operations through the development of a national cooperative network of organic farmers, which seeks to establish rural offices for farmer-to-farmer training, product value addition and packaging.
Despite its success, the venture has not been without its setbacks. “The agriculture sector is a complicated one, but I hope my story will motivate fellow youths to try their hand as agripreneurs,” said Afere. “I would urge them to cultivate the habit of patience, even when social structures such as family units put pressure on them to take up other careers, become rich quickly and cater for the family.”
Blockchain technology helps unbanked farmers
With a background in computer science, Jamaican Varun Baker, 34, was keen to use his knowledge of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a basis for an agribusiness. The result was Farm Credibly, a technology driven start-up that uses blockchain to help farmers gain access to credit and insurance. Established in 2017, Farm Credibly uses the technology to manage farmers’ data, enabling unbanked farmers to obtain better access to loans, and insurance by supplying this data to financial lending institutions. Once a financial lending institution has access to verifiable data on farmers, such as their profit and loss, they are more likely to offer loans, with greater confidence that they will be repaid.
The agribusiness has now grown to a team of three, and Varun is hopeful that it will continue to develop further. “Although accessing experienced talent in the Caribbean is difficult, I would encourage youth to join the sector,” he said. “But it is important that they are committed if they want to venture into agriculture, as the process is still modernising and can be frustrating as a result.”
This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.