One can only understand the real feeling of being unemployed and jobless, if they have experienced it. This is especially true in rural areas where there is a shortage of land to grow food and it is difficult to generate income and survive. For the unemployed youth in Kundi village of South west Ethiopia, migration is the last resort to survive.
When I went to Kundi village to carry out an informal survey of honey production, I was impressed with the potential of the area due to its natural forest coverage. I decided to pursue work in this area to collect honey and start developing the supply chain. This was when I met most of the unemployed youth in the village. I decided to take it upon myself to work with these young people to keep them from migrating to cities in search of higher paying jobs. There is a huge potential for honey production in the village, but there is a very high unemployment rate. The only way that I could support them was by helping them establish commercial bee farms that they could own and organize. What’s more, I would help them link their farms to sector-based technology and sustainable markets.
In the first week of March 2016, I read about the Young Agripreneurs Project (YAP) and the open call for business ideas proposed in the form of a blog of one and a half pages. I found that it was a good opportunity to promote my idea to work with the unemployed rural youth whom I had met during my informal survey.
I applied for the establishment of a well-organized model learning center in the village. This site will be a center of knowledge exchange, skills development and information resources for the young beekeepers. Since beekeeping activities are seasonal, it is important to make all season-specific information available at the right time. My idea is that beekeepers will be trained and share their experiences and practices before adopting improved technologies. The site will feature modern technologies, ideal apiary facilities, a training room, information resources like posters, videos and audio recordings, books, bulletins and any related information from the government, research centers and any other resources. My main goal was not to win the award, but to promote my idea of working with rural unemployed youth and keep them from migrating.
After I posted my idea on the GFAR Blog many people read and gave valuable comments. In mid-March, I was notified that my project was among the finalists and there was a program to further promote and develop it at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research Development (GCARD3) in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was amazing and surprising to see my project idea on the list of finalists. It was one step towards solving the unemployment challenge for the rural youth in the village. I got chance to discuss my idea and to hear the experience of others. This YAP project attracted 428 proposals for innovative, practical and applicable agricultural projects by young professionals in agriculture. Only the top six were selected due to the limited funds available to support these great ideas. Agricultural development needs such innovative ideas to make impacts on the ground. The development strategies need to include youth and support their ideas and provide mentoring. In developing countries, agriculture is not feasible for the youth due to lack of infrastructure like finance, information and support.
At GCARD3, including the youth was big on the agenda. Senior researchers from around the world had long discussions and made speeches about shaping the future of agriculture to be sustainable and beneficial to society. Shaping the future of agriculture is for whom and by whom. The youth should be part of the discussion, action and solution. This needs to critically include and keep the youth in agriculture.
Because just as the world needs engineers, managers, economists and other professionals in different fields, it also needs agricultural professionals and strong farmers. Today, especially in the developing world, agriculture is not able to attract the youth despite their dependency on agriculture. Why is it that agriculture is not improving despite all those published research papers, agricultural researchers and extension workers?
There should be youth-inclusive agricultural development projects and research. Innovative ideas should be supported and used as models for others. 428 project ideas are still struggling to obtain financial aid, not only as grants but even as loans without collateral. And there are millions of innovative agricultural ideas which have the capacity to solve some of our rural development challenges, but they have not had the chance to be promoted.
I think this is what we learn from this YAP program: Creating opportunities for the youth will attract such innovative and powerful ideas. I have ambition and hope that organic honey production in the natural forest area will be a big opportunity and solution to keep the rural unemployed youth in the promising field of agriculture. Conserving the forest, linking young agriculturists to sustainable organic markets, building their capacity and improving their livelihoods are what makes this project innovative. “No tree, No bee; No honey, No money”—this is my slogan for sustainability.
This blogpost by Jony Girma originally appeared on the GFAR blog. Jony Girma (jgmeshesha(at)gmail.com) is one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016.
Read the original YAP proposal here.