Empowering Young People to be Entrepreneurs

September 10, 2018


Young female farmer in rice field. Photo by IFDC/FDP MD Project.
Young female farmer in rice field. Photo by IFDC/FDP MD Project.

In West Africa, young people are struggling to find viable jobs in their communities. myAgro encourages young people to become entrepreneurs by employing them to work with farmers and savings groups, giving them the skills they need to excel in their work and start other businesses.

It’s 6am and all is quiet in the village of Mbelkhaoul, Thiadiaye, except for the sound of a rooster crowing. Samba wakes up, washes his face, and immediately gets to work. He starts the day cleaning out his cow pen and chicken coop before fetching some wheat and millet to feed the animals. Once he’s done the morning house chores, Samba grabs his phone to call the presidents of the four savings groups he will visit this day, confirming their meetings. He records their confirmations in his notebook. As a busy entrepreneur, it’s important for Samba to plan out each day so he can work as efficiently as possible.

Samba is a Private Service Provider (PSP) for myAgro’s partner organization, Catholic Relief Services (CRS). As a PSP, Samba earns income by forming saving and internal lending communities, known as SILC groups. SILC is a CRS savings groups model that offers training and support services to members, who are mostly women. The CRS PSP approach leads to sustainable SILC groups and self-sufficient agents with the capacity to maintain and spread the savings-group model. To ensure that the offered SILC training fully addresses group members’ financial and business needs, CRS has moved to a SILC Plus approach, which is delivered by PSPs and designed to enhance specific project outcomes among members.

Starting last year with the myAgro-CRS partnership, Samba has started to sell high quality seeds and fertilizer packages to SILC group members, while helping them manage their money to pay on layaway for the myAgro packages.

Since then, women have been purchasing quality inputs and agricultural trainings that increase the harvests and income of their entire group. Women no longer leave for the city to find other jobs, because now they can stay in their villages, run their businesses, and care for their families.

“I was interested to work in the myAgro program because here in the village, we have two main priorities—that farmers have inputs, and that they have them on time,” explains Samba, “Since myAgro delivers high-quality inputs close by, on time, and then trains farmers, I knew the program would help the community.”

According to the African Development Bank Group, the percentage of young people in Senegal who are not in education, employment, or training exceeds 50 percent in rural areas. Rural poverty is widespread, causing young people to migrate to the cities in search of jobs, leading to unforeseen challenges and uncertain futures.

“As soon as I finished school, I was searching for work. It feels frustrating when there are just no opportunities,” says Samba. “Many of my friends are currently struggling with unemployment. If they do find jobs here in the village, it’s just day labor without a contract, so it’s unreliable. The majority of them are in Dakar looking for work, but that means leaving the village and leaving their families.” 

myAgro recognizes that young people need viable jobs that will keep them in their communities and encourages them to be entrepreneurs with myAgro. In Mali and Senegal, myAgro currently employs over 700 field team members, the majority of whom are young people below the age of 30. As entrepreneurs, their incomes rely on their ability to independently create groups and help those groups to thrive. While their myAgro earnings vary based on the number of farmers they enroll and scratch cards they sell, hard-working PSPs like Samba earn over 800,000 CFA ($1,443 USD) per year working with myAgro and CRS, 26 percent more than the average farm income in Senegal.

“It’s important for young people to be entrepreneurs, because that’s what brings about change in the villages,” says Samba, “but it’s not easy. You need to have willingness, commitment, knowledge, and you need to be organized.”

CRS and myAgro give trainings to PSPs that push them to excel at their work. In addition to learning how to form savings groups and facilitate payments, PSPs with myAgro learn how to communicate effectively with savings group members, navigate smartphones, and conduct financial planning. In addition to making their work more efficient, grasping these skills empowers them to start businesses of their own, which many of them do.

“Since working with CRS and myAgro, I’ve been able to start my business raising chickens and cows. I plan on re-selling them to make profit, which will help the village economy as well as my family. I currently have 60 chickens, but my dream is to expand the business, purchase more animals to sell, and eventually build a house. I really enjoy my work with CRS and myAgro.”