Over 150 rural youth in Niger joined an entrepreneur incubation program, participating in their first practical training in integrated pest management (e.g. insect rearing), market gardening, fruit tree nurseries and smart compost production. Equipped with these different options of engaging in farm work and supported by resources and information, the young women and men are now ready to embark on income-generating agricultural enterprises for a better future.
With 50% of its population under the age of 15 and 70% under 25, Niger has one of the youngest populations in the world. Young people have great potential as an engine of economic growth through their participation in labor markets and also as consumers. However, their participation in agricultural production has suffered in recent years, especially in rural areas. Despite the opportunities for rapid growth in this sector (more people to feed), many rural youth migrate to cities and neighboring countries in search of jobs.
In 2019, a USAID-funded project, the Development Food Security Assistance program (DFSA/GIRMA) of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), was initiated to improve and sustain food and nutrition security and resilience among poor households. Also, it aimed to develop youth agricultural entrepreneurship in the region of Zinder in Niger. A consortium was established with different partners such as ICRISAT, the NGO Education Development Center (EDC), and Community Development Assistance (ADC). While EDC and ADC selected youth and trained them on agricultural business management, ICRISAT was in charge of providing them professional qualification.
This year, during 2 – 17 July, and 29 August – 1 September, 39 youth were trained on different aspects of agrobusiness at ICRISAT’s incubation center in Sadoré.
- Fruit trees nursery: Nine participants got trained on how to set up and maintain a fruit tree nursery, including nursery implementation, preparation of substrate, pre-treatment of seeds, production of rootstocks, tree grafts collection, in situ grafting of adult plants and more. After the training session they were provided kits consisting of shovels, logs, gloves, shears etc. ICRISAT has constructed a 100 m2 nursery unit with 10,000 fruit trees capacity in each of the nine villages (Doungas 1 and 2, Bangaza, Katchibare, Gayi, Wacha, Bekori, Bandé and Maidamoussa) respectively for the nine participants.
- Integrated Pest Management: Five participants were trained on rearing beneficial insects as part of a biological control business to supply farmers with parasitoid wasps to control pearl millet insect pests in the region. They also learnt about producing biopesticides from neem leaves and grains, and spraying techniques for protection of legumes and vegetable crops. After the training session, each of the participants received equipment to help them start the business.
- Smart compost production: In another session, 14 youth gained knowledge of traditional and modern composting practices. The training on traditional composting covered the different types of pit dimensions, inputs (biomass, ash, water etc.) and mixing and turning methods. Training on the modern composting practices (aerobic water vapor composting) focused on installation and operation methods. The kit for participants of this training included a wheelbarrow, shovels, fork etc. In addition, an aerobic water vapor composting unit was installed in each of the 14 villages of the participants.
- Market gardening: Six young women and five men were trained in ‘market gardening’. Their training entailed nursery preparation, seed collection, germination tests, sowing techniques, neem-based biopesticide preparation etc. They also received starter kits for their business ventures.
- In addition to these sessions at Sadoré, ICRISAT also trained and equipped 80 youth as phytosanitary brigadiers and 40 youth as traditional compost producers. At the end of the training sessions, participants of the training were presented official certificates and kits for their new activities.
- Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative, Niger; representatives from USAID, CRS, ADC, EDC, and the Ministry of Regional Planning and Community Development, and Chair of the GIRMA steering committee; were all present to encourage the youth and present them with their credentials.
- Ms Mariama Diallo Aïtchedji, USAID representative, mentioned that GIRMA was part of USAID-funded food security development programs in Niger through its Humanitarian Assistance Office (BHA).
- Mr Chris Hennemeyer, CRS Resident Representative, said, “This training fits perfectly with the objectives of the Project which aims to ensure food security through the empowerment of women and youth.”
Mr Elhadji Ibrahim Adamou, General Secretary, Ministry of Regional Planning and Community Development thanked the GIRMA project and its partners for providing effective professional assistance to the youth, and promoting rural entrepreneurship under the 3N initiative (Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens) of the Republic of Niger.
About the authors:
Dr Bouba Traore
Research Program West and Central Africa (RP-WCA)
Mr Abdoussalam Ibrahima
Dr Malick Ba