Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship in West Africa’s Rice Value Chain(PEJERIZ)
Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in West Africa’s Rice Value Chain (PEJERIZ) is a project which aims to combat unemployment of rural youth by actively engaging them in the West African rice value chain through training them with entrepreneurial skills. As rice is the largest food source in the region, there are many growing opportunities for youth employment. This project is a partnership between Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural (CTA), AfricaRice and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) to promote sustainable employment and economic growth in the main rice farming areas of Mali and Senegal through the development of ICT-based (Information and Communication Technology) extension services and mechanization services.
In West Africa, many rural youths are migrating to cities because of the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas. Around 200,000 – 300,000 young people join the employment market in Senegal and Mali each year; 60% of whom live in a rural environment. Only a productive agricultural sector can reduce youth unemployment and stimulate the demand for off-farm jobs. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rice value chain has considerable potential for productivity and job creation, yet young people in rural areas struggle to access these opportunities due to a lack of adequate integration models, focused trainings, support and concrete openings. In view of this, the Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in West Africa’s Rice Value Chain (PEJERIZ) project has been created in Senegal and Mali to empower rural youth in innovative rice development business models, which then help to increase incomes for smallholders through the innovative services provided by the youth-led small enterprises.
Historically, SFSA and its partners have already been working in the Senegal River Valley (SAED zone) and in the Office du Niger (ON zone) on initiatives aimed at promoting agribusiness models where young entrepreneurs provide mechanized services (e.g. soil preparation, harvesting) and use digital applications to provide agricultural advice, or to manage machines and equipment, storage and processing. As a result of consultations: CTA, AfricaRice and the Syngenta Foundation decided to form a partnership along with national partners such as business incubators and micro-finance institutions.
The PEJERIZ project aims to achieve their goals through the benefits of using the RiceAdvice app and the development of Centers for Mechanized Services (CEMA). RiceAdvice is a mobile application developed by AfricaRice and Co-Capacity to help farmers to make the best use of fertilizers to improve yields in a sustainable way for the environment. Through PEJERIZ, youths are being trained to use the app and provide consulting services to farmers. The CEMA model, developed by SFSA, is a microenterprise managed independently to provide mechanization services such as soil preparation and harvesting, along with storage services. Through PEJERIZ, new youth employment opportunities are created to fill the range of jobs in a CEMA like a manager, drivers, tally clerks, mechanics watchmen and occasional labor.
PEJERIZ is currently ongoing. It has a timespan of two years and is due to end in March 2020. Through PEJERIZ, 10 CEMAs will be created (5 per country). The project aims to train more than 300 youth in entrepreneurship, business management, technical skills related to rice businesses and ICT. It also will select, incubate and accelerate 80 promising youth-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with innovative ideas for rice businesses (40 per country).
The goal of the project is to create youth employment in innovative rice development business models. Addressing the issue of youth unemployment in West Africa may prevent urban migration, thus allowing regions to develop from a bottom-up approach. This will in turn help to increase the revenue for smallholders.