Supporting Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI)

FAO supports 18 young Tunisians to improve their responsible investment projects in agriculture


More than 75 people including young agro-entrepreneurs, financial institutions, government institutions and development organizations gathered on November 24 in Tunis to celebrate the closing of the program to support responsible youth investment launched by FAO and the Agricultural Investment Promotion Agency (APIA) in collaboration with the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Tunisia (INRAT) and with the financial support of FAO's Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism.

The strategic partnership between FAO, INRAT and APIA started in 2019 with the aim of addressing two urgent issues related to food security and sustainable development in the country. First, the alarming levels of youth unemployment, especially among the most educated youth, and second, the neglect of the rural and agricultural areas in the hinterland, which are the most backward in terms of economic development.

By encouraging youth investment in high-potential agricultural sectors, the program aims to make a significant contribution to supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth in these areas, and to create decent employment opportunities in the agricultural sector for youth.

A multi-stakeholder platform for innovative solutions

One of the main achievements of this program was the creation of the multi-stakeholder platform "Pôle de réflexion sur l'investissement des jeunes agri-entrepreneurs dans les systèmes agricoles et alimentaires" (PRIJA), whose mission is to improve the policy environment in order to stimulate responsible investment of young people in agriculture and find concrete solutions to the problems identified.

"The analysis conducted by PRIJA has identified that in the region of Beja, eminently rural and with a higher unemployment rate than other regions of the country, some value chains such as olive oil and sheep's milk have great entrepreneurial potential and can help create opportunities for young people, thus stimulating the economy of the area, "said Mohamed Elloumi, Director of the Laboratory of Rural Economics at INRAT and facilitator of PRIJA.

It is on the basis of this diagnosis that was launched the "Pole agri-accelerator", a pilot incubation program to support responsible investment projects of young people in the region and in two sectors with high potential in the governorate of Beja. During this year, the Pole has supported 18 young agri-entrepreneurs in the ideation, realization and implementation of their projects.

Helping young Tunisians thrive in the agricultural sector

For 4 months, the young people were supported by trainers specialized in supporting this type of project. "The training with the other participants and the trainers helped us refine our project ideas and make them more feasible," said Ahmed Gharbi, one of the young entrepreneurs participating in the program.

"Thanks to this program, many things have changed in me and I went from being a dreamer to a realist and future entrepreneur," explained Iness Messaoudi, another young agro-entrepreneur who benefited from the program.

After this training period, a "pitching" session was organized so that the youth could present their projects to financial institutions and try to obtain the funds they need to launch or develop their projects.

10 promising and "responsible" investment projects selected

Of the 18 young people who participated in the "Pôle agri-accélérateur", 10 were selected and received funding of 8,000 TND.

"In selecting the winning projects, we have integrated responsible investment criteria to ensure that the investment is profitable, both economically for the youth and socially and environmentally," said Yannick Fiedler, program officer at FAO.

An example of this commitment to social and environmental sustainability is the project of Amal Mekni, one of the nominees. Her project involves raising black Thibar sheep, a typical local breed, to produce high-quality cheese.

"My project is an opportunity for the region of North Beja, because I value mainly local and typical products of rural women. My medium and long term perspective is to have a pilot farm that values all the products of our region, "she said.

For her part, Nada Soltani, one of the youngest participants who recently completed her studies, explained: "My project is ecologically sustainable. I will use probiotic additives and I will try to get organic certification. This way, I will have the guarantee of offering a healthy and organic product and consumer confidence will be strengthened.

Youth who are not selected will continue to receive support until their business plan is complete. This will be followed by matchmaking sessions with financial institutions and banks for financing. "All of our youth are winners, but some will receive financial support and others will not," concluded Monia Ben Romdhane, Director of APIA's Business Development Assistance Department.