Youth in Agricultural Entrepreneurship
Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
COTONOU — To participate in development and change their society, young people in Benin, in West Africa, must increasingly become entrepreneurs, particularly in the agricultural domain.
Laurette Dossou-Yovo, a 24-year-old woman from Benin, is the coordinator of the Provendrie Laura et Fils (PLF), a centre for the production of livestock fodder in Djougou, a city in the northwest of Benin. According to her, the business produces between 10 and 15 tonnes of food for livestock sold to several dozen livestock rearers in the sub-region.
Dieudonné Aladjodjo, about 40, is the director of Promo-fruits Benin (PFB) which promotes consumption of fruit, particularly pineapples. “Presently, we are capable of producing 2,000 cartons of 24 cans of pineapple juice, becuase we equipment for processing pineapples,” he told IPS.
He is attending the young entrepreneurs’ fair, organised jointly from Oct. 10-13 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of Benin in Cotonou, the economic capital of the country. Aladjodjo says his relatively new business venture, which he started in 2003 with the modest sum of 20 dollars from IFAD, today employs 88 people including 15 permanent employees as well as casual workers, all of them youth. His business exports pineapple juice to several African countries.
“These permanent and casual workers have escaped unemployment and fight against poverty through their work,” he told IPS.
The Songhai Centre in the southeastern city of Porto Novo, recognised by the United Nations as a regional centre for excellence, is building expertise in various forms of agricultural production and transforming the lives of thousands of young Africans with skills that turn them into good entrepreneurs. The centre was created in 1985 by a priest, Father Godfrey Nzamujo.
Promoting entrepreneurship among Beninois youth is at the heart of the vision of the Global Youth Initiative Network, which has been launched at the Cotonou Forum, supported by IFAD and several other international partners.
During the offical launch of the workshop-exposition, under the theme “Young entrepreneurs – agents of change”, Mohamed Béavogui, director of IFAD for West and Central Africa, recognised that “youth constitute a target group and a very important resource in the sub-region”. Youth, he said, “will continue to play a proactive role in the promotion, support and investment in programmes that can improve agro-empowerment and entrepreneurship by the youth”.
To invest in young innovators will permit one to confront unemployment which is truly a problem in the rural zones of developing countries, he said.
“The problem of unemployment of the youth has as its corollaries hunger, poverty, rural exodus, juvenile delinquence, drug abuse, insecurity and rising criminality…” stressed Issifou Kogui N’douro, state minister for National Defence in Benin, who opened the meeting in the name of the head of state.