Rural youth empowerment through Farmers’ Hub
The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture recently launched one of its key rural youth empowerment programs in Senegal: the Farmers’ Hub, a “one-stop-shop”. The pilot phase began at the end of 2017 with three peri-urban Farmers’ Hubs (FH). Each FH is an independent business entity run by a young agripreneur willing to take on the challenge. Collaborating with young talent with an entrepreneurship mindset is key.
In Senegal, the horticulture sector plays an important role in food and nutrition security. It also offers good job opportunities for young men and women. The main challenges for this sector are the lack of equipment and training, and difficulties in selling quality produce to local consumers. Senegalese tend not to trust local produce because of limited enforcement of the quality regulations. They often associate imported products with higher quality. To help overcome these challenges, the Syngenta Foundation (SFSA) established pilot FH in Rufisque, Mboro, and Thilène. Each FH is fairly close to a city, either Dakar or Saint-Louis.
Our approach in Senegal is similar to the established model in Bangladesh. The young agripreneur running the FH offers a range of products and services to smallholders. These include advice, access to quality inputs such as seedlings, mechanization services and linkages to large buyers of produce. The goods and services on offer are designed to match local needs.
Digital tools support FH management, monitoring and evaluation. The mobile app ‘e-Hub’ helps agripreneurs to keep track of daily transactions. SFSA can monitor progress in real time via a web dashboard. This platform also enables the agripreneur to send crop management advice and market information to farmers’ mobiles.
The goals of our FH program include job creation for rural youth and increased productivity and income for smallholders. Following success on both points in Bangladesh, we are now adapting the business model to the Senegalese context. Unlike in Bangladesh, smallholders in Senegal are not familiar with growing seedlings from trays in greenhouses. FH managers need to show them higher quality achievable with this type of seedling.
The main features of the FH pilot from March to December 2018 were:
- 216 smallholders began using services from the three Farmers’ Hub
- Agripreneurs trained 175 farmers on Good Agricultural Practices
- Smallholders bought 278’425 seedlings of chili, bell pepper, tomato, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce and onion
- More than 80% of FH customers are primarily interested in seedlings
- Each Farmers’ Hub tested innovative, good value solutions such as new varieties, trays or substrate
- Agripreneurs established commercial relationships with several input and market aggregators
- Agripreneurs increased their income – a forthcoming impact study aims to measure the rise