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On giants’ shoulders- Empowered through YAWS

Through the MasterCard Foundation’s Young Africa Works (YAW) Summit held in Kigali in the month of February 2017, Bamlaku Asmare- a young Ethiopian agripreneur with the dream of excelling at apiculture was introduced to his mentor, Azage Tegegne.

Azage is the Project Manager of the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Over the years, Azage has been engaged with youth groups and women in agriculture- making the best of every opportunity to coach and mentor them in good agricultural practices.

On their first encounter with each other, Bamlaku came across to Azage as a calm and very quiet young man who has lots of aspirations. The young man organizes a group of ten youth in various farming activities. At the time he first met his mentor, he and his team had aspirations to diversify their activities to include horticulture crops, sheep fattening and apiculture. He was very excited to have his first ever mentor ready to guide his way. Though quiet and reserved, the young agripreneur had all the boldness needed to chase his dream as he even had prospects of venturing into petty trading.

But for the intervention of MasterCard’s YAW Summit and mentoring program, it would have taken a miracle for Bamlaku and Azage to meet each other through their daily schedules. The mentee lives in the Amhara region of the country which is almost a seven-hour drive from the capital from Addis- where his mentor lives.

This mentoring relationship which sprouted during the YAW Summit as grown very strong as the parties now relate with each other as father and son. They have regular phone calls with discussions on various topics. Even before their conversations begin, they could go on for minutes discussing how Bamlaku’s family is doing. However, the focal discussions include challenges the mentee has leading his team of young enthusiastic and passionate agriculturists and other technical challenges having to do with practices in their venture.

Azage paid his mentee a couple of visits on his site and he was so impressed at the order he witnessed. He also took notice of another youth group of about the same size as his mentee’s. He was amazed the coherence of the different teams. He also noticed that they all had great regard for Bamlaku for being a participant of the YAWS. They drew great inspiration from their colleague who is involved in the YAWS activity. They were very much excited to see Azage, Bamlaku’s mentor in person.

Through these invaluable interactions, the mentee has learnt some effective marketing skills. Also, he is now able to juggle his personal life with both on-farm and off-farm activities. It is also very important to mention that his connection with his mentor has helped build Bamlaku’s confidence to a very great extent. Now he can say in the voice of Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Photo credit: bionicgrrrl (Flickr user)