BAMAKO — The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), together with the Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, has launched a new project that will foster youth entrepreneurship, strengthen market ties, and enhance livelihoods in the rice sectors of Mali and Senegal.
In addition to 1 000 new jobs targeted, the project aims to increase revenues for up to 2 500 smallholder farmers in its two-year lifetime.
More than 15 000 rural youth will be targeted via ICT channels with information on opportunities for entrepreneurship in the sector.
The project, titled EMPRICE (Promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation in the West African rice value chain), was launched yesterday in Bamako, Mali.
“The targeting of young entrepreneurs and the institutions that support them is a strategic focus for CTA. This new project is one example of where we are giving entrepreneurs opportunities to leverage access to finance and markets; showcase best practices and innovative business models; and create pathways to the creation of job opportunities,” said Michael Hailu, CTA Director.
Youth employment remains a critical concern and priority for West African governments. The project will capitalise on a dynamic workforce to drive innovation and boost the rice sector which constitutes the largest supplier of calories in the region.
According to Simon Winter, Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation, “The entrepreneurial dynamism of young people is driving local level innovations to enhance the lives of smallholder farmers. EMPRICE will support young innovators to design successful business strategies and bring greater efficiencies to the critical rice value chain.”
Increasing rice production and upgrading the rice value chain will reduce reliance on imports, increase food security, reduce urban migration and give more of the regions’ youth valuable employment opportunities.
An example of the challenges faced by small-scale farmers is in accessing seed of recently released, high-yielding, climate-smart varieties, as well as agricultural machinery for cultivation, harvest and post-harvest operations.
“The rice market is now becoming a very important one in Africa. A project such as EMPRICE creates opportunities for rural youths through ICTs and digitalisation to exploit this lucrative and attractive market for entrepreneurship creation and youth employment,” stated Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice Director General. — CTA.