My name is Nawsheen Hosenally, co-Founder of Agribusiness TV and Managing Director of Agribusiness Shop, based in Burkina Faso. Many thanks to FAO and partners for this online consultation to hear from us. Below are my responses to the questions set for this discussion.
1. Experience as a Youth in the Agriculture Sector
How would you describe your experience as an Africa youth engaged in the agriculture sector in your country? What motivated you to engage into the agriculture sector?
My first contact with agriculture was at University for my undergraduate degree in Mauritius. Like many other youth, I did not plan to get into this sector or had a vision that I want to be a researcher, extension officer or agripreneur someday – I did not even know about these jobs, since they were not enough promoted or valorized at that time. I just wanted to do something different and chose to study agriculture. My passion for agriculture grew during my practical classes, internships and jobs in different areas: research, extension, sales, marketing, facilitation etc. In the process, I got interested in ICTs and their application in the agricultural sector. I started a blog and was writing about the agricultural sector and my field trips in Mauritius. Then I won essay and blog competitions on youth in agriculture organized by CTA from 2010-2012. From that point, I knew that I have a passion in digital communications in agriculture and have been working in this area in different capacities since my graduation in 2011. My contribution for this consultation is focused on my experience with Agribusiness TV and Agribusiness Shop in Burkina Faso.
Agribusiness TV is a web TV which aims at using videos as a promotion tool to (re)valorise agriculture and make the sector more attractive to youth by showcasing success stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs and their innovations in Africa. The media was launched in May 2016, with the support of CTA. Agribusiness TV is available on its web and mobile applications in English and French versions.
Two years later, we created Agribusiness Shop, a physical and online shop whereby we market locally transformed agricultural products from young entrepreneurs and women associations from Burkina Faso, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
2. Major Achievements and Success Stories
What have been your major achievements? Do you have any experience or innovative ways that have helped you in your work that you would want to share? Do you have a success story – either your own or any other that you are aware of - of youth engaged in agriculture in your country? What is the story?
Major achievements for Agribusiness TV:
- Production of over 100 videos since its launch from 12 African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Success stories of these entrepreneurs can be viewed on our website (http://agribusinesstv.info/en/) or YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/AgribusinessTV).
- The videos produced and disseminated have been viewed over 7 million times.
- Our network of young entrepreneurs and youth in agriculture is constantly growing. Currently, we have 174,000 fans on Facebook, 13,000 subscribers on YouTube, and our mobile apps have had over 7,000 downloads.
- Agribusiness TV also won several awards and distinctions including the WSIS project prize in the media category organized by ITU in 2017, and the First Prize of the Francophone Media Innovation Award organised by the International Francophone Organisation (OIF), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) to “encourage new forms of media” in the Frenchspeaking world.
- After 2 years of operation, Agribusiness TV is no more running on grants, but rather working as a service provider in video production on agriculture in Africa.
- We have recently partnered with a local TV station in Burkina Faso, whereby a bimonthly TV magazine called “Voir c’est croire” (seeing is believing) will be broadcasted as from October 2018. This will enable us to reach out to youth who are not connected to the Internet from the different countries that have Canal+ cable television channel
Another achievement was been the setting up of Agribusiness Shop through self-funding which is operational since April 2018. The initial products sold in the shop were from entrepreneurs that were showcased in videos produced by Agribusiness TV. The shop represents a new marketing channel for young entrepreneurs and women associations. It also brings locally transformed products closer to the consumers, who before had access to these products only during fairs and expos. Over 60 products are available currently at Agribusiness Shop and we are gradually increasing the number of products and suppliers.
3. What the Rwanda Youth Conference Should Address
If given an opportunity, what question would you ask the experts at the Rwanda Youth conference on each of the three sub-themes –
a). Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship,
With efforts from different stakeholders over the years, the issue of making agriculture more attractive to youth is slowly being addressed. From my own observation and experience, I see every day that youth have an interest to venture in agribusiness/agricultural entrepreneurship, but many of them don’t know where to start from and in which sub-sector to venture. How do we move from awareness raising to actually have enterprises created and upscaled in a sustainable manner? In my opinion, rather than aiming to support many small initiatives to get youth involved in agribusiness, it will be better to identify existing enterprises that have proved to be working and support these entrepreneurs to scale-up their business. In-turn, these entrepreneurs can mentor the new ones venturing in the sector. All these would require good coordination and collaboration among different stakeholders.
b). Digital Innovation to Overcome Agriculture Value-Chain Constraints
ICTs have huge potential to make agriculture more productive and profitable. However, over the years, many applications are being or have been developed through hackathons and other competitions, but very few of them are actually able to go beyond break-even point because their business models are flawed. How do we measure success from the ICT4Ag initiatives that currently exist? What should be the indicators? Who are those who are still operating without grants and funds from competitions? How did they make it? When it comes to digital solutions, we have to be careful about sustainability, which is currently a huge problem.
c). Future of Work in Rural Economy.
Rural areas have their own reality, but challenges exist even in cities. In entrepreneurship, it’s important to have a good business environment. When deprived from access to good roads, electricity, Internet, and services such as banks, you cannot be competitive on the market. Hence, these must be taken into account when the roadmap is made during the conference.
I'll end by thanking CTA and FAO for inviting Agribusiness TV to the conference. We'll contribute more at the event.
First of all, I would like to thank FAO and partners for taking this initiative to organise this e-discussion which touches the critical component of post-capacity development support. As a youth, I have myself been involved in some capacity development initiatives that have improved my skills and enabled me to see opportunities, grab them and make a change. I am very glad to be one of the subject matter experts and would like to respond to the questions of the debate based on my experience.
What are the biggest challenges youth in Africa face after going through youth-specific capacity development initiatives in agriculture?
I think the biggest challenge in post capacity development initiatives for youth is the reality on the ground and also lack of follow-up from the initiator/organiser of the training. For example, suppose the young participants have been trained on packaging, branding and marketing, then coming back home, the person realizes that the materials that they need for packaging is not easily available at an affordable price where they are based. Or online marketing is challenging because of the poor Internet connection, which is still a big challenge in many African countries. And of course, access to finance is another issue. These are just few examples, but there are so many examples on training v/s reality gap. Moreover, when a training is organised, its viability and long-term impact should be thought of by the organiser. Then, there is the issue of follow-up from the organisers. Once the youth go back home, if there is no follow-up in terms of communication or activity, it is rare that the youth will actually use the knowledge/skills gained from the training, unless the person has clearly had prior motivation and plans on how to use the knowledge gained from the training in his/her activity.
What are the examples of existing post-capacity development sustainability initiatives for youth in agriculture in Africa? What works and what does not? Are there any success stories and good practices that can be shared?
For me, I was already into agriculture as a student, but it’s such a broad subject that you don’t really know in which segment of the value chain you should be in and what to do after your studies. I was lucky that I came across an essay competition organised by CTA on youth finding ICT solutions that can address agriculture challenges in their country. I wanted to participate and started to do some research and read on the use of ICTs in agriculture. I was really amazed to see how mobile phones were being used to share market or weather information to farmers, something that did not exist in Mauritius back in 2010. I got inspired and submitted an entry for the competition. It was shortlisted and the next step was a Web 2.0 and social media training for development. Following that, CTA launched a blog competition a year later and I won the first prize in the individual category. This opened many opportunities to me, including job opportunities. If I am working in the area of youth, agriculture and ICT today, it’s the result of this programme. My point here is that what made it work is that it was a series of activities that was linked to each other, and over time, I grabbed all opportunities that came to me. In addition, we were added to an online network (mailing list) which, after 7 years is still active. Today, this programme is no longer here in the same format, but there are still opportunities for youth through other programmes. Recently, what has also worked has been the introduction of incubation programmes that help youth in different aspects of their business and which takes place over a certain period of time. What certainly does not work is one-time activities with no communication or follow-up after the training.
What post-capacity development support do the youth need? What can the youth do to support each other in developing their skills and capacities?
In my experience, youth networks are very useful and many of these are very often online networks. Sometimes they are not directly agriculture related, but broadly on business/entrepreneurship. I would take a recent example, which is the YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) Network. I left my job to start a business in 2015 and during that time, I came across the YALI Network and joined. On its online platform itself, they offer many online courses on various topics (environment, business, leadership etc). In addition, the members in the network are all across Africa and have the possibility to exchange with them. This year, I was selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is part of the YALI initiative and I was placed at the University of Iowa for 6 weeks, whereby we studied business and entrepreneurship. We were 25 fellows from 18 countries and most of us already had a business. Apart from the training itself, it was a great opportunity to learn from each other and share experiences. Even now after the programme, we are still in touch through our Whatsapp group and other communication channels. When we need a contact or information where the other fellows are, it’s easier and sometimes, we even collaborate with each other. What happens also is that when we come back to our countries, we have the possibility to become a mentor for some programmes and mentor other youth. In this way, we share our experiences and also create other leaders.
What enabling environment is needed to ensure sustainability of youth in agriculture capacity development initiatives?
- Tailor capacity development programme based on the needs of the youth and their context.
- Link with various institutions while designing the programme so that when it is completed, they can support the youth in terms of finance, technical skills etc.
- Collaboration among institutions at national, regional, International levels is also needed to avoid conducting the same activities in isolation.
Is there a role for modern technologies, including Information and Communication Technologies, in sustaining capacity development initiatives?
Yes, certainly. Training programmes are often organised in another region/country than where the young person in based and it’s not always practical to meet physically on a regular basis. From the examples I have shared for the previous questions, online platforms have been very useful in sustaining capacity development initiatives. Online platforms can be in the form of mailing lists, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups etc.
To sum up, the following are my recommendations on post-capacity development support:
- Youth is a heterogeneous group. We cannot put all of them in the same basket – urban/rural youth, education level of the youth, their interest (production, processing, marketing, services etc.). Hence the youth group targeted must be properly identified.
- Tailor training/capacity building programmes based on the needs of the identified youth.
- Select the youth to be trained on a competitive basis. If they have to strive to get it, they will understand its value and make the most of it.
- Seek feedback on the capacity development initiative and always improve the programme, based on the responses.
- Follow up with the youth who have been trained and link them with partners and other opportunities.
- Avoid one-time activities.
- Encourage youth to get into networks. But too many networks with same activity is also exhaustive, and the youth lose interest. Hence, various institutions should work in collaboration.
I will stop here for now.
Thanks for reading!