Stories tagged: STRYDE

Unleashing Innovation For East Africa’s Millennial Farmers

Awino Nyamolo from TechnoServe tells Farming First about how to harness the power of young people for Africa’s food future.

 

Growing up in Mbeya, Tanzania, Samson Makenda loved tomatoes, and when he took over a small plot of land as a young man, he thought he could make a living with the crop. He started growing tomatoes the way his neighbors always had, watering the plants by hand, and using the same seeds and fertilizers they did. But in the crowded local market, he struggled to sell what he harvested, earning just $40 per month.

Creating better economic opportunities for young people like Samson is of vital importance to Africa’s economies. Fewer than one-third of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa have a stable, wage-paying job, and the region will add 11 million new people to its workforce this year. Agriculture can play an important role in creating these opportunities, but only if young people are able to innovate, adopt new technologies, and test new models. To do that, they must be able to identify business opportunities, have confidence in themselves and their ideas, and access the finance and connections they need to put these ideas into practice.

The Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program, a partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and nonprofit organization TechnoServe, is helping to create those conditions. Through a combination of training on personal effectiveness, planning, and basic business skills, as well as tailored aftercare to provide young people with networks and practical skills, STRYDE is empowering thousands of young people across rural East Africa to find better economic opportunities.

Seeing the farm as a business

Many young people fail to recognize the business opportunities that surround them and are within reach, and to address this obstacle, the STRYDE program provides training to help rural youth see their family farms and other assets as a potential source of livelihood.

That lesson was transformational for Ndinagwe Mboya, another young person from Mbeya. Her family used to incubate chicken eggs for others, but the business was not particularly successful. After going through the STRYDE program, Ndinagwe came to recognize that there was an opportunity to build upon her family’s experience, however, and create something more successful. With $165 of seed funding she won through STRYDE’s business plan competition, she purchased eggs and started a business of raising chickens on her own.

“Before STRYDE nobody sought my advice on anything, not even my family. But today I am the go-to-person on matters poultry and incubation,” she said. With her earnings, Ndinagwe helps to pay her siblings’ school fees and is saving to attend university.

A toolbox for change

While young people are often familiar with new ideas and technologies, they face obstacles to adopting them. To take new ideas and make them a reality, as Ndinagwe did, young entrepreneurs need a toolbox for change: confidence, connections, and skills.  The STRYDE curriculum includes a section on personal effectiveness, which helps young people to chart their personal strengths and weaknesses, create a plan for their future, and practice interpersonal communication, generating confidence.

Mentorship and aftercare can help entrepreneurs to develop specialized agricultural skills and make important connections. Many ideas also require an investment—like Ndinagwe’s cash grant—to implement, so access to finance is an important factor.

After Samson graduated from the STRYDE program, he began to look around for opportunities to improve his tomato farm. He had noticed that someone had built a greenhouse in the region, and he began to study whether such a facility could help make his business more profitable. Many young people are constrained by a lack of land for farming, so greenhouses and vertical gardens can improve production. As Samson discovered, growing his tomatoes in controlled conditions could also help differentiate them from the other growers.

Samson went to work putting his plan into action. Even a low-cost greenhouse cost more money to build than he could finance himself, so he identified a successful local businessman who could become his partner in the venture. Samson was able to convince him to invest in the project, and together they built the greenhouse and implemented other technical improvements, like drip irrigation, the use of hybrid seeds, and a careful application of organic and chemical fertilizers. Samson’s tomato plants are more productive now, and the fruit has fewer defects and blemishes, so he is able to sell it easily to local markets, restaurants and hotels at premium prices. Now, he earns up to $300 per month.

“For people around here, this is new tech for them, so they want these tomatoes,” says Samson. He has diversified his earnings by launching a crop nursery business, as well.

Samson and Ndinagwe are just two of more than 48,000 young people benefiting from the STRYDE program. The program has shown that simple changes in how young people think about the opportunities around them and how to adopt innovation can make a big difference, and the average participant has seen their income increase by 133 percent.

But with Africa’s growing youth workforce, more work remains to be done. The STRYDE program has worked to build the capacity of vocational training centers, schools, prisons, and other institutions across East Africa to deliver the curriculum. Local partners like these will be critical in ensuring that more young people can recognize and seize opportunities for a better living.

 

How Young Women Can Find Opportunities in African Agriculture

By Dace Mahanay, Regional Program Director at STRYDE.

Jennifer, a young mother from Gulu, Uganda, faced bleak prospects after her husband passed away. She had been kicked out of her home by her in-laws and had no job with which to support her family. Without a high school education, she was not optimistic about finding opportunities. “Even casual jobs were not easy to come by, because…not many economically engaging activities were taking place within my village,” she said.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, millions of young women like Jennifer are sidelined from economic opportunities. The International Labor Organization found that one third of young women in the region are not working, studying or receiving training, more than double the rate of their male peers. With more than 6 million young women coming of working age every year, African economies must create more new jobs and business opportunities for them.

But it’s a steep challenge. Across Africa, women generally have less access to education, training, financial services, and assets than men do. In Jennifer’s home country of Uganda, for instance, women own just 5 percent of the land, though they perform much of the labor on family farms. Cultural and traditional views of gender roles can also limit women’s opportunities. Addressing the problem, therefore, requires not only building individual capacity, but also changing the mindsets of families and communities and forging inclusive networks.

That is the mindset behind an entrepreneurship program that has trained tens of thousands of young people across Africa and is now helping local institutions adopt this approach: the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program. Since 2011, Mastercard Foundation and TechnoServe have partnered on STRYDE to equip young people in rural communities across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda with the business and personal skills they need to develop economic opportunities in their communities.

The results of the first phase of the project were striking: the 15,000 STRYDE graduates had achieved average income increases of 133 percent, with 96 percent of participants reporting increased savings. The percentage of “idle” youth (those neither working nor studying) fell by 80 percent. A second phase of the project, which will reach 48,000 additional young people by the time it is completed, is also showing positive results.

Importantly, both female and male graduates have exhibited significant gains. The success of women in the STRYDE program can be attributed to three main factors:

Building skills and personal effectiveness

STRYDE participants receive three months of training on business skills, like saving and managing finances, but also on “soft skills”, like personal effectiveness and goal-setting. The participants also receive nine months of tailored “aftercare” and mentorship support to reinforce the content of the training and support youth in opportunity identification. This focus on both hard and soft skills is especially important for women, who typically receive little encouragement to think entrepreneurially.

Jennifer moved back with her parents and enrolled in the STRYDE program. She soon began to see economic opportunities all around her.

“As a family, we had a chunk of land. But I had never thought of agriculture as business, but for only growing food for household consumption,” Jennifer said. After receiving training, she asked to use an acre of her brother’s idle land to try her hand at commercial farming. Now, she earns more than $800 per harvest season from her eggplants, okra, and tomatoes, and she can pay for her children’s school fees. “My children are now assured of a better future thanks to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the training,” she said.

Engaging families

In some households, husbands, parents, and in-laws view women’s roles as primarily domestic, and do not see why young women should attend training, work outside the home, or access family resources for a business. In many cases, these family members exercise a sort of veto power over the ambitions of women.

As a result, STRYDE has worked to engage both men and women on the issue of gender. A training module – “We Can Fly” –  helps participants understand the impact of gender norms and highlights concrete benefits of women and men both contributing economically and making decisions together.

In Rwanda, for instance, a STRYDE participant named Philippe decided to start a new business growing and selling vegetables alongside his wife. He asked her to go into business with him, he explained, because of how the program had changed his ideas around gender. Previously, he thought a woman’s role was at home. After seeing the success that female STRYDE participants were achieving in their businesses, however, he realized that his wife could also contribute to the family’s income.

Building strong networks and access to markets

Farmers and entrepreneurs need access to customers and suppliers, as well as mentors and peers who can offer advice. Unfortunately, in rural Africa, women tend to have fewer of these linkages.

The STRYDE program takes several steps to address this. First, the mixed-gender training encourages male and female participants to build connections. Because men tend to have larger business networks at the beginning, the female STRYDE participants can take advantage of those linkages. The program’s aftercare component is also designed to improve access to networks and markets–for example, by providing young women with tradeskills training from established entrepreneurs or introducing participants to outgrower schemes.

Networks were key to the success of Rose, a STRYDE graduate in Kenya. Before joining the program, Rose worked in her uncle’s agrovet shop. But after going through the training, she decided to go into business herself.

With her new business skills, Rose was able to successfully apply for a small loan to start her own agrovet store. She credits the program with strengthening her communication and negotiation skills, which helped her attract customers. She now supplies animal feeds to two cooperatives, an important source of income for her. ““I am now able to pay school fees for my   three siblings, who are still in school. I am happy to have lessened the burden of raising my young brothers and sisters on my mother, a single mother who really struggled to put us through school,” she said.

The impact of gender equality

Women entrepreneurs like Rose are not only helping themselves and their families; they are also providing essential services for others. This proves an essential point: empowering women economically not only benefits individuals and communities, but society as a whole. According to a UNDP report, closing the gender gap in pay and access to paid work would add an extra $95 billion to the economies of sub-Saharan Africa every year.

By equipping women with the right skills and mindset, addressing gender norms in households and communities, and ensuring that women have access to networks and markets, we can help close that gap.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Food for Thought blog.