“We Need Specific Program for Youth & Agriculture” : Seremaiah (#PWA2017)

by Jean-Baptiste CALO

“We need to have a specific program for youth and agri-entrepreneurship if we want to effectively entice our youth to play an active role in our economy”.

Minister of Agriculture of Vanuatu, Matai Seremaiah officially opening the Session of the Panls on Promotion Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship

This statement was made by the Minister of Agriculture of Vanuatu on Tuesday October 18th 2017, in his opening address at a side event of the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture 2017 that is currently taking place in Port-Vila.

The side-event of the #PWA 2017 is about Promoting Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship in the Pacific which took place on Tuesday at the National Convention Center in Port-Vila.

After inspiring presentations on success stories from young agri-entrepreneurs from the Pacific, the Caribbean and the African continent, and the interventions from the policy markers, developing partners and financiers, all have agreed that in the Pacific and elsewhere, the Youth represent the biggest portion of the population and they all agreed that there is a need for a specific program for youth in Agriculture and for Youth Entrepreneurship.

In their reaction to the presentations made by the young entrepreneurs of the Pacific and the three success stories from the Caribbean and Africa, the representative have admitted that the youth have a unique way of thinking.

Therefore governments, development partners and financiers have to consider a specific way to better approach them and cater for their innovations.

“According to the points raised during the two panels, we need to consider policy shifts”, a panel facilitator and CTA expert, Judith Ann Francis said while outlining the recommendations based on the main points which transpired from the presentations made during the two panels.

Youth entrepreneurs from the Pacific have had the opportunity to talk about their success stories, their creative innovations, their challenges, experiences, the lessons learned and their recommendations on what should be done in order to help them scale up their productivity or improve the livelihood of the farmers in rural areas.

Photo of the members of the Panel 1

In the course of this 4 hour session.  the Pacific Youth, policy makers, financiers and the different stakeholders involved with youth have had the opportunity to share their views about what each organization is doing in terms of youth and agriculture.

Thanks to the  Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Pacific Youth have had the opportunity to meet, to share their experience and to learn from the young successful agri-entrepreneurs from Africa and from the Caribbean who have been invited to that PWA 2017 side event.

They had also the opportunity to share their views and challenges with policy makers.

As an example of the positive impact of that meeting, the Minister of Agriculture of Vanuatu, Matai Seremaiah has announced at the end of the session that the Vanuatu government needs to have a specific approach of the youth and agriculture.

“The current government is engaged in reforming the agriculture sector in Vanuatu. A bill will be submitted to the national Parliament for adoption in November. But Vanuatu does not have a specific program for youth in relation with agriculture. There is a need for that, and the government must come up with a specific program for the youth and agriculture in order to stimulate or entice more young people to venture into agriculture and agri-Entrepreneurship”, Minister Seremaiah said.

Minister Seremaiah also admitted that the government of Vanuatu needs to have a cross sectorial approach in order to better stimulate the youth of Vanuatu to venture into agriculture and agri-Entrepreneurship.

The Director of CTA, Michael Hailu said that he was impressed by the success stories of the youth agri-entrepreneurs who have made their presentation during the first panel.

Director of CTA, Michael Hailu

Director of CTA, Michael Hailu was a member of the second panel on  the second panel of the session on Promoting Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship in the Pacific

“In the first panel we have had a lot of success stories. I think what we need to do is to find out how to scale them up, and how to make them even much bigger than what we have now. We need to find a way how the young people could be listened to by governments, by developing partners and by other stakeholders. One thing that CTA has always tried to do is to bring the voice of young people into policies in such a meeting like this where you have a minister, policy makers and decisions makers come and listen to the challenges that the youth have”, Mr Hailu said.

He also pointed out that the other point or question is how to facilitate the innovations of the young people to get the opportunity to get to the next level.

“It is important to identify those young innovative people who have managed to be successful in their small businesses with  small grants that we have given them to support them in their project. Many have become self-sufficient and have developed and grown their businesses. So this is an area where an organization like CTA can have role to play in scaling up those small successful businesses”, Mr Hailu concluded.

He also emphasized on the fact that there is big change in the role of the community today where there is more emphasis on working with the private sector, on putting more of the financial assistance or  aid money to leverage more of the private sector fund.

The Pacific Youth Entrepreneurs were put in the spotlight during a 4 hours session at the Port-Vila Convention Center, on the second day (Tuesday October 18th 2017) from 8h20am to 1h00pm of the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture 2017 that is currently taking place in Port-Vila Vanuatu.

Two (2) panels were organized during that session, and during the first panel, the panelists who consisted mainly of young successful agri-entrepreneurs and agricultural community projects facilitators who have had the opportunity to showcase their success stories, their challenges, their experiences.

For those who have succeeded with their innovative respective project, they had  the opportunity to also submit their recommendations about what needs to be done in order get their business to the next level.

Foror those who are engaged in agriculture community based projects, it was an opportunity to discuss with policy makers and financial institutions such as IFAD to find out how if there is some possible funding to help better the work that they are doing with the communities of rural farmers in the Pacific region.

The story of Fou Feofaaki, the young successful woman from the Polynesian island of Niue who has decided in 2012 to quit her full time job as nurse to take over her mother’s small scale banana chips processing business.

“LupeNiue started in our kitchen where my mother was frying banana chips to sale it a the market stall. In 2012 my mother was not feeling well, she was sick and  so I took over her small business.  I couldn’t believe the amount money I was making at the market stall everyday. It was far better that what I was earning from my fulltime job as a nurse”, Feofaaki said.

She has registered her label “LupeNiue Banana Processing Chip Processing in 2013 and has become today a respected young Niuean entrepreneur and an inspiration to the youth in Niue and in the Pacific.

Hopefully this success stories would help to change the wrong perception of youth in the Pacific who regard agriculture as being a “dirty job that is only good for old people” as the Solomon Youth @ Work Group Leader, Hinima Charles stated in her presentation during the first panel discussion.

As part of the South-South Cooperation and sharing of expertise, the CTA has invited and funded the participation of 3 promising young entrepreneurs, including one from the Caribbean and two from the African continent to share their success stories with the young entrepreneurs from the Pacific region.

Nawsheen Hosenally a former CTA Social Media expert originally from Mauritius who is based today in Ouagadougou- Burkina Faso, has made an interesting presentation about her success story in setting up a web TV  (www.agribusinesstv.info) which aims to (re)valorize agriculture and make the sector more attractive to youth by showcasing success practices and agribusiness stories online.

The participants were also inspired by the success story of a youth from Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, David Thomas.

That creative young Trinidadian who has taken the drastic decision to quit his well paid job as a bank employee in 2009 to start his own company called d’Market Movers has pioneered online shopping of prime Trinidadian agricultural produce.

“When we started we had a bit of resistance, at that time online shopping of produce was not popular in Trinidad. People are more use to go themselves to the market and see for themselves, touch and feel the produce. We started with only 10 customers, mostly family and friends. Since it has grown, in 2013-12016 we’ve had 500 000 unique visitors on our website, we’ve had something like 2000 orders placed

Today his online shopping business has blossomed to become a successful enterprise.

The presentation Elvis Ouma. a young promising Kenyan entrepreneur and Co-director of a small holder livestock farmer-friendly hydroponic information system designed to enable farmers to acquire fodder by just sending an SMS. The company is called M-Fodder (‘m’ stands for mobile) for was also inspiring for the participants from the Pacific hear his success story and how the enabling environment created a facilitated by the government and other stakeholders.

“Kenya has become the Silicone valley of Africa, the government is playing his part and other organizations are ready to fund the innovations of the youth. There is an incubation of the innovation in Kenya. You’ll find that most of the youth are  creative because we are living in an enabling environment the youths in Kenya to venture in all kind of innovations in every development sectors The government has a budget specifically for the innovations of the youth”

The second panel focus on policy institutions and investment to promote Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship.

The panel was moderated by the Regional Director Melanesia of the Pacific Community (SPC) Mia Rimon and it was comprised of policymakers, representatives of Developing Partners and Financiers.

The side event on Promoting Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship in the Pacific was funded by CTA in collaboration with IFAD, the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization) PISPSO.

Promoting  Nutritious Food Systems

After attending the Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship in the Pacific, all the youth panelists from the Pacific, the Caribbean and from Kenya Africa attended the side event of the Pacific Week of Agriculture “Promoting Nutritious Food Systems which took place from 2h00pm to 6h00pm at the Melanesian Hotel Conference room.

 As the name of the workshop clearly indicates, all the talks were focused on the importance of setting value chains that Promote Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific island countries, a region where more than 70 % of deaths are caused by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, heart related diseases and other pathologies mainly related to an unhealthy eating lifestyle.

The session was chaired by the Director for CTA, Michael Hailu who came directly from the Netherlands in Europe.

The Programme manager of the Pacific Islands Farmers Organization Network (PIFON), Lavinia Kaumaitotoya has emphasized during her presentation the importance of creating value chains that will promote nutritious food.

She said that there is a need to change the wrong perception of Pacific islanders on the island local crops and food.

“More and more islanders are overweight. Obesity has become a serious issue for the Pacific because we tend to prefer imported food over our healthy local food. PIFON has a series of programs specifically that addresses this problem in the countries that are members of the regional organization”..


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