Serve Africa is providing employment training in agriculture and agribusiness to young adults residing in the Casamance region of Senegal through the organization’s signature programme, the Casamance Youth Agricultural Project (CYAP).
Our activities target young adults between ages 20 and 35 years who demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit. Our interventions are three-fold:
- Agricultural Training Modules—Serve Africa provides 250 hours of agricultural training during a 10-month period. The participants learn agricultural techniques that include organic agriculture and irrigation systems; maintenance of soil fertility; horticulture; compost techniques; crop protection; climate change resilience; and agro-forestry.
- Business Mentorship Programme—Participants take part in weekly management and agribusiness trainings facilitated by entrepreneurs operating in the Casamance region and business professors from local universities.
- Youth-Led Farming Cooperative—The cooperative facilitates access to and management of natural resources such as land and water. It also helps farmers to have more leverage when negotiating with agricultural merchants and wholesalers on seeds, fertilizers, and agricultural equipment.
The Casamance region of Senegal, with its rich soil and long history of small-scale agriculture, has the potential to become the breadbasket of the country, providing food and economic opportunities within the region and beyond.
However, the continuation of a 30-year-long conflict in the Casamance Region has restricted economic and infrastructure investments, which has led to a high unemployment rate, especially among the region’s young adults.
In response to this crisis, Serve Africa’s leadership team, in partnership with Senegalese funders and public officials, launched CYAP and welcomed the 30 participants of its inaugural class in 2014.
The organization targets young adults who come from rural villages within two hours of Ziguinchor and are at high risk for rebel recruitment in the ongoing civil conflict in the Casamance.
When they are presented with the opportunity to have gainful, legal employment that would use their skills and improve rather than detract from their communities, Casamance youth, when surveyed, universally stated they would prefer to work rather than fight.
Serve Africa is the brainchild of Haitian-American Social Entrepreneur, Kody Emmanuel. Mr Emmanuel first visited Senegal in the fall of 1998. It was a time of increased economic panic in the country that saw thousands of young Senegalese farmers abandon their family farms to explore more viable economic opportunities in the Senegalese capital of Dakar and in Western Europe.
The economic situation for young Senegalese farmers has only gotten more precarious in recent years with the encroachment of the Sahara Desert in the north of the country, unpredictable rain patterns all over the country, and a low-level civil conflict in the Casamance.
All of these constraints discourage many young southerners from exploring careers in agriculture.
But the young Senegalese adults who Mr Emmanuel has met during the 17 years he has spent travelling to Senegal have inspired him to contribute his expertise in management and youth development to their cause. He is working to help them improve their agricultural prospects by using their cooperative energy, which young Senegalese adults are famous for in West Africa.
To date, the biggest impact that our work has had is to demonstrate to youth, private institutions and government officials in the Casamance region that investing in agriculture and business training is one of the most effective ways of addressing youth unemployment.
The participants of our inaugural class have already started to reinvest their earnings from the previous two rainy seasons, expanding their farm capacity from two acres in 2014 to four acres in 2016.
With financial support from the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the participants plan to purchase cost-effective solar and drip irrigation equipment to farm on four acres of land during the 2016-planting season.
The irrigation equipment will reduce labour, help them accurately deliver fertilizers and provide water savings of 40–60%. We estimate that by adopting drip irrigation technology, the project will benefit 75 participants directly and 300 produce vendors indirectly.
- 3 Solar panels: USD 2,500 (50% of overall budget)
- Sprinkler-irrigation system: USD 1,000 (50% of overall budget
- Purchase of seeds and fertilizers: USD 1,000 (50% of overall budget)
- Transportation costs: USD 500 (100% of budget)
Monitoring and Evaluation Plan
Serve Africa will use the Internal Communication System (ICS), a text messaging and online platform to disseminate and record relevant information tome participants. Serve Africa will use the following indicators to measure project progress:
- Number of participants who successfully complete the 20-hour training on water management;
- Total yield produced during the 2016–2017 planting season.
The results of the evaluation will help us fine-tune the programme and improve phase II.
Serve Africa has proven thatthe region’s young adults are open to staying and investing in the Casamance when they are provided with quality training and access to technical and financial assistance,. With the support of GFAR and other financial partners, we will begin the work of scaling up the project from 30 participants in 2014 to 75 participants in 2016.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Kody Emmanuel (Senegal): kemmanuel[at]serveafrica.org
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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