In April, the six finalists in GFAR and YPARD’s Youth Agripreneur Project headed back to their homes in the four corners of the world after an intense week of orientation and skills building at the GCARD3 Global Event, to embark on their personal adventures–and tackle their particular challenges–in agricultural entrepreneurship. Over the last three months, Jax, Anil, Nikki, Lillian, Jony, and Kellyann have taken what they learned in the YAP induction workshop and used it to fine-tune their business plans and set realistic milestones for progress; they have channeled the excitement of the pitches they delivered at GCARD3 into campaigning for support through social media, crowdfunding, and getting their names out in their communities; and they have started forming relationships with their mentors who will support and challenge them during this year, and help them identify the resources they will need to make their businesses successful.
Now, with a little more experience under their belts, we asked the YAPpers to reflect on where they have come since GCARD3. Jony Girma had proposed a “Self-help Business Model in Harmony with Nature”, a plan to establish a demonstration site inside beekeepers’ villages in rural Ethipoia where beekeepers can receive training, share experience and put new technologies to the test before adopting them. By equiping beekeepers, especially youth, with the right skills and knowledge about seasonal activities and markets, Jony hopes to increase the contribution of the honey sub-sector. Here is what he has to say about where he has come thus far…
It is the middle of the long rainy season this time of the year in South West Ethiopia. It is dearth period for the bees since there is shortage of flowers and it is difficult to fly to collect nectar and pollen. However, as much as possible the bees try to keep their strength to survive and reach the active season in September. For beekeepers this time is allocated to keeping the bees feeding and building their capacity.
It has been three months since I implemented my project in organic honey production engaging rural unemployed youth in Kundi village of South West Ethiopia, under the Youth Agripreneurs Project organized by GFAR and YPARD. The first phase of this project started with establishing a learning center with a demonstration site. This site helps in continual capacity building of the youth in honey production and also serves as the collection center for their product. The land was rented from farmers who understand the project and employs three young boys who were looking for jobs. The learning center is constructed on a 32 square meter area which is used for training, product storage, mini library and other activities. This center will be equipped with training materials like posters, books, videos, bulletin boards and other research tools.
In the learning center there is also a model apiary site displayed to practically show the youth and surrounding beekeepers how an apiary site is established and functions. All seasonal colony management activities will be first checked and applied on this site before informing the youth beekeepers. Moreover, valuable apiculture-based research output will be tested on this site. The Apiary site has two hive sheds, constructed from iron sheets and grass, each with capacity to carry twenty beehives. This is to demonstrate both options for constructing hive sheds The specification of the hive stand, hive shade and distance between hives were applied based on the current scientific information and standard. Some modern beehives with bee colonies were placed on the site. The next step is forming bee colonies in transitional bee hives constructed from locally available materials. Finally this site will serve as a model apiary site so that ideally everybody will replicate it. It can be made with locally available materials; therefore; it has low cost but has big impact on the productivity of the bee colonies. The learning center will be ready for the first training which will be held in mid-August before the flowering season begins.
For the next main activity, training, the process has also been undertaken. A discussion was led along with the village leaders to inform the selection of the rural unemployed youths. . The village leaders were happy and interested to support the project, and promised to provide land for the organized unemployed youth after training. The selection was done based on predetermined criteria; the applicants are people that have no land, no job and have interest in beekeeping and others. Based on these criteria, 50 youth were selected for the first round and are ready for training in mid-August. The training handout was prepared in the local language for the youth.
As a result of this project, I have a mentor who is supporting me in implementing the project. Having a mentor is about feeling secure to share challenges and look for solutions. I have learned from his experience in working with rural community, and we had good discussion on marketing.
In addition to the project implementation in July, I got the opportunity to promote my project in an international event thanks to the YAP project. From 4th to 6th July 2016, the EU, AU and the Dutch government co-organized a major conference called “AU-EU investing in food secure future”. It had the objective of strengthening AU-EU cooperation on agriculture policy to achieve food security and improved nutrition. YAP finalist from Kenya, Mrs. Lillian Beauttah, and I were invited to present our projects. It was great opportunity since policy makers, delegates from different countries, NGOs, bank representatives and other relevant participants partook in the conference.
My presentation’s main focus was on how to stop rural youth migration and keep them engaged in agriculture, and the role of agribusiness in rural employment. My key message was to request policy makers to support and finance entrepreneurs with innovative and impactful project ideas. I received very positive feedback from banks and NGOS regarding my project “Unemployed youth inclusive export oriented organic honey production and marketing”. Due to this opportune event, I was able to visit a Dutch honey company and they have interest to buy my product.
My agribusiness model has three components. The first one is the development of the supply chain which I am working on with rural unemployed youth to ensure that the supply chain of organic honey is sustainable. The second and more challenging component is establishing the processing plant. To make this happen I have secured land from the government but I am still struggling to get a loan from the local bank. The challenge here is the unavailability of collateral that the banks require, not only for me but for many entrepreneurs in the developing world. The last part of my business plan is the marketing aspect, which I already have secured contracts for.
The intervention of the YAP project on my effort to develop a sustainable supply chain for organic honey by involving unemployed youth has already shown a promising impact on their future and the future of the apiculture sector of that area. In fact, it has shown more results than expected and I hope that this progress will multiply many fold in the near future.
Watch Jony introduce his project at the #GCARD3 conference:
Read the original YAP proposal here.
Blogpost by Jony Girma (jgmeshesha(at)gmail.com), 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.
Photo credits: Jony Girma