Youth employment has become a global challenge. In this context as a result, there is a need for the development practitioners to consider how to create self-employment opportunities for youth that are relevant and sustainable for them to strive in the current contexts of stiff competition.
To achieve this, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have a responsibility to work with the government to empower young people in livelihood activities.
Bridge for Change (BFC)which is an NGO that empowers youth to utilize their potentials for inclusive development, is one of the few NGOs that has committed itself to improving the livelihood of youth through its AjiraPlus Project under the support of Vi Agroforestry Tanzania.
Ajira Plus is a project aimed at strengthening the participation of youth in sustainable agriculture for job creation and improved livelihood.
The project is also based on the idea of improving the livelihood of youth engaged in agricultural value chains in Iringa, Lake Zone and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, through training, dialogues, capacity building for farmers’ organisations on promising practices of working with youth. BFC Executive Director, OchekMsuva while speaking about what the organization does since its establishment in mainland Tanzania in 2015, he pointed out the thematic areas BFC work on and its uniqueness in working with youth.
“BFC works on education, livelihood and participation of youth in civic space. In carrying out our programs, we mobilise and engage youth as our primary partners, by empowering them to identify their needs and utilise their potentials to address those needs with the help of development agencies, thereby ensuring youth ownership of the development process,” said MrMsuva.
He said that BFC empowers youth to be drivers for development, positive change-makers through shaping, inspiring and mentoring them to use the available resources to engage in resilient income generating activities, take ownership of their great future foundation. Speaking about livelihood interventions, Program Officer for BFC responsible for overseeing Livelihood Program, Mr. Yared Bagambilana, highlighted that livelihood thematic area focuses on strengthening tangible and intangible assets of youth that enable them to build the capacity necessary for improving engagement in resilient income generating activities that are decent and environmental friendly.
“It seeks to promote the capacity for youth to meaningfully engage in livelihood activities, to work alongside relevant stakeholders to explore income-generating activities for youth and promote equal access to socio-economic opportunities among youth,” said Mr. Bagambilana.
Mr. Msuva added that the livelihood thematic area empowers youth on opportunities posed by climate change by stirring them to be at the forefront of addressing climate change while increasing their income.
Ajira plus project and its rationale considering the fact that agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and employs the majority of Tanzanians, agricultural activities have a huge impact in people’s lives and national development at large. Despite the contribution of the sector, agriculture is dominated by older generations, leaving behind younger generations, hence making the practice to lack a plan of sustaining the already high agricultural activities in the future. Multiple factors such as limited technical know-how, high opportunity costs, and barriers to entry, low-returns, and limited promising practices for improving young people’s living conditions towards agriculture have led tyouth to remain behind in effective participation in the agriculture sector.
To address this, Mr. Msuva said to change the attitude of young people towards agriculture as well as putting in place strategies to enable existing agricultural organisations to build skills necessary to work with youth will strengthen their participation in the agricultural value chain. He said that one of the activities undertaken in this project is to empower young people to identify and utilise the opportunities available in the agriculture value chain.
To get the actual status of participation of youth in agriculture in the project area, Mr. Bagambilana highlighted that “The project began with stakeholders meetings and baseline study, something that helped to design subsequent project interventions that are community-driven to respond to their needs in cultural contexts.
Besides, Mr. Msuva pointed out that, the Ajira Plus Project interventions focus on strengthening the capacities of urban-based youth in carrying out advocacy on participation of youth in agriculture and its value chain through different platforms through sparking conversations via Kijana Cafe, which is a platform that use arts, storytelling and games to amplify youth voice on contentious issues such as employment, gig economy sexual harassment, decent work and effects of technology on youth.
Upon the completion of the Ajira plus Project by December 2022, it is expected that youth will have acquired skills and knowledge and be able to navigate sustainable agriculture and its value chain. Over 600 youth will be equipped with capacities to engage in agriculture through increased access to financial services, value addition and markets; and improved competencies among farmers’ organisations supported by Vi Agroforestry to engage youth in agriculture for job creation and improved livelihood.
In order to ensure project sustainability, Mr. Bagambilana said that project team plans to create networks reached by the project, whereby each network will have 30 youth. Exchange learning visits will be done among themselves as well connecting them to support service, including youth agricultural cooperative unions (AMCOS) and other existing formalized community and state structures from districts, to ward and village level.