What you need to know:
- Pursing employment and business opportunities in the agricultural industry is believed to be the best way for the youth. This is why several initiatives have been made to encourage the involvement of youths in agriculture to overcome the burden of poverty. Many point to to its ability to reduce unemployment in the country.
Agriculture has been the mainstay of many economies. With more than fifty per cent of employment in Africa coming from the agriculture sector, youth are expected to have a strong role to play in agricultural development.
Pursing employment and business opportunities in the agricultural industry is believed to be the best way for the youth. This is why several initiatives have been made to encourage the involvement of youths in agriculture to overcome the burden of poverty. Many point to to its ability to reduce unemployment in the country.
In Tanzania for instance, many university graduates are now joining farming and agribusiness programmes to earn livelihood and are also adopting and using knowledge gained from their various courses to form innovative and different ways of adding value to their crops.
Programmes such as Young Agropreneur has been established to attract the young generation towards agriculture sector. It also helps them develop as high income young agriculture entrepreneurs.
Edwin Ndibalema a political scientist by training and his team is one among many graduates who had the opportunity to explore agriculture. And today he and his team are one of the many young agropreneurs who can testify that youth can make it big in agriculture.
Edwin, a graduate from University of Dar es Salaam is young agriculture entrepreneurs. Who got introduced into a programme at The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) under the unit Youth Agripreneurs which conduct agribusiness incubations. Edwin and his team of 24 youth were the first batch to be offered a training and mentorship.
“The scope of the Agripreneur-Programme is to pursue and support opportunities in Agriculture”, explains Edwin. This is necessary, because often, agriculture is seen as something for older people. Edwin thought the same way, before he started to participate in the programme.
Being confronted with the many fold challenges, farmers may face, Edwin and also his teammates had to change their mind. “In this programme, you are kind of brainwashed,” says the tall and slim guy with a big smile on his face.
In the last months, he attended training-courses to learn everything about agriculture. “We learnt, how to grow cassava, corn, tomatoes, ladyfingers, and other vegetables. And we understood, that there are many factors to consider, if you want to be a successful agribusiness person,” he says.
He is now standing between tomato-plants in a greenhouse instead of pursuing other interests in the field of political sciences. After some 12 months of training, he can now explain the interdependence between the heat in the greenhouse and the colour of the leaves of the tomato shrub.
“We had too much heat in the recent days, this is why the leaves are turning brown,” he says. And keeps on explaining about fertilizer used, the drop irrigation system and the yield of the whole field. “It will be an average of about 1.3 tonnes,” he says with a slight smile on his face.
He seems to be very proud, that he and his fellow teammates were able to take care of the plants. While while he is talking, the others are looking at the plant, having a chat about the fruits, and possibly about the next steps within the project.
But the programme does not end with good agricultural practices. “It is also about the marketing. This is, why it is called Agripreneur,” he says adding that if you are part of the programme, you not only have to think about farming, but also about selling. Edwin and his colleagues got this point very quickly. “This part of being an Agripreneur is also one feature of the programme,” Edwin explains.
“This involves not only to finding markets to sell the product, but also value-addition-activities,” he says.
This is crucial in agricultural markets, as supply and demand may differ. “We learnt, that we have to be able to transform or store products, in order to profit from raising prices in off-season periods,” Edwin states.
To do so, Edwin and his team heavily invested time and some money in the development of a cassava-transformation-plant. He and his teammates do not only produce cassava-flour, but also the production of cassava/chips and so called “Chin Chin”, which are small, fried cassava-pieces.
“The programme completely switched my mind. And the thoughts of my colleagues too,” he says.
He sees the “brainwash” he was referring to as something good. “Now, I want to become a successful agribusiness man in the near future.”
His colleagues couldn’t agree more. “Agriculture offers so many opportunities, and it will have a future,” says Bupe Gwasa, a sociologist by training who is part of Edwin’s team. And besides the fact, that there are many young people who still believe agriculture is only for the old people in the countryside, there are others who thinks differently.
In addition, Edwin and his friends does not only see their future bright, but also the way, they eat and the way they look at food is different. Pesticides are very important to protect farmers yield. Yet they can harm consumers health if not used appropriately.
“If we apply pesticides to the tomatoes, we have to wait for seven days, until we can sell them on the market or to the staff of the institute,” Edwin explains.
Having been taught of how to use the pesticides properly, Edwin can now recognise tomatoes which , haven’t been handled well. “Nowadays, I am looking differently on my food.” “It makes me kind of proud to know, how to transform cassava into cassava-flour,” a teammate adds. The programme is not only changing the view of agriculture. Apparently it does also enhance the understanding of the manifold relationships between food, its production, transformation and distribution and consumer health.
Currently they have two stations one is at IITA centre which they call campus and another a plot which is located in Kwembe where they have set their cassava processing machine and are also currently working on establishing a fish pond.