Transforming youth into agents of change

IFAD Asset Request Portlet

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Transforming youth into agents of change

It was just after midday, on a hot and rainy day in May, that we met with Emmanuel Abaysenga outside of the facilities of the Nyanza Milk Industries. This young man, aged 20, had travelled with his bicycle for more than ten kilometers to collect milk produced by farmers in Nyanza, a district in the Southern Province of Rwanda. Emmanuel is one of many young transporters who have been hired by Nyanza Industries to collect raw milk from six Milk Collection Centres that supply the factory.

The collection and distribution of milk by young people like Emmanuel is not a novelty in Rwanda. For many years, the ‘country of a thousand hills’ has witnessed the cadenced stroke of pedals of young people who saw the transporting business as a quick way out of poverty. Despite his young age, Emmanuel has been doing this job for almost five years. Only in 2016 his role in the dairy value chain received formal recognition. In Emmanuel’s own words, “For many years it was like we did not exist. We were collecting and distributing milk to farmers and to market, but we did not have a formal role or any kind of recognition”. This situation has changed dramatically since the adoption of the 2016 Ministerial Order on collection, preservation, transport and selling of milk, which, amongst other things, recognized milk collectors as part of the dairy value chain. Its implementation is supported by the IFAD-funded Rwanda Dairy Development Project (RDDP).

Thanks to a contract with the Nyanza Milk Industries and training on milk collection, facilitated by the project, Emmanuel is finally saving money. He now hopes to pay the enrollment fees for an engineering course. “My aim,” said Emmanuel “is to specialize in the construction and management of milk collection centres and other types of agricultural infrastructure. It is in these activities that I see my future”.

The story of Emmanuel is a clear example of how the private sector can play a crucial role in the empowerment of youth. This is key in a country like Rwanda, which has a very young population, with more than half aged under 20 and about 82 per cent under 40. Although the literacy of Rwandan youth is high, with 80 per cent being able to read and write, youth unemployment was 16.7 per cent in 2017. In order to transform the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, young people must be empowered not only through external interventions, but also through programmes designed by youth and for youth.

To get young people involved, the Rwanda Dairy Development Project is partnering with the Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF). The Forum is a member-based youth platform, which aims to create a critical mass of change agents. It is made up of 4,300 young women and men graduates who are involved in primary production, livestock keeping, value addition, technical advisory services or agriculture-oriented ICT. The partnership with the diary project has allowed the Forum to place 46 young consultants in as many Milk Collection Centres (MCC). The centres are being supported in a number of ways, such as provision of veterinary services, development of strategic and business plans, and group mobilization.

Jeannine Niyonzima, aged 29, was placed by the project to support the development of the Arusha Milk Collection Centre in the Nyabihu District (Western province of Rwanda). Jeanine is an agribusiness graduate, with previous experiences in micro-finance institutions and local NGOs. The Arusha MCC has a cooling capacity of 4,500 litres, supply contracts with different market partners and a bank account with the Unguka Microfinance institution.

Jeannine Niyonzima and Claude Gafasi   Photo: Stefano Consiglio, IFAD

Jeannine Niyonzima and Claude Gafasi   Photo: Stefano Consiglio, IFAD

Jeannine’s placement brought significant benefits to the smallholder farmers who are running the MCC, notably in terms of efficiency of milk collection processes, mobilization of farmers and the development of a strategic vision. In the words of the manager, Claude Gafasi, ''We received great support from RYAF. Before Jeannine arrived we were writing the names and information of our milk suppliers in a book, which was not very efficient and definitely time consuming. Jeannine has helped us to computerize this system, leading to a significant reduction in the collection time and a more efficient tracking process. She has also helped us to develop an action plan, which will allow us to strategize our investments''.

The stories of Emmanuel and Jeannine are a reflection of the overall strategy of the Rwandan Government to empower youth. Through their innovations they want to promote the transformation of Rwanda's agriculture from a subsistence sector to one that is knowledge-intensive and market-oriented. IFAD is supporting this transformation. Not only by directly targeting youth through its interventions, but also by partnering with others, especially the private sector, which is the real driver of Rwanda's agricultural revolution.