art01c-mag05-Agro-entrepreneurs
Challenges Publié le 02 juillet 2019

Agro-entrepreneurs: A bet on Africa

Nowadays, Africa is facing great challenges, but young people are ready to find ways out.

In most parts of the world, having plots of fertile land is a synonym of wealth as it allows countries to harvest enough to feed their inhabitants and even trade with other countries. If many nations were able to take advantage of crops grown in a medium-sized area, therefore, a region that has millions of hectares of fertile land, as in the case of Africa, should have great wealth.

This is how young innovators, such as Ansah-Amprofi, decided to make their knowledge and university education available to all people and take up the challenge of getting involved and make a difference. A few years ago, Ansah discovered in a local market that the onion he bought was imported. That made him wonder how it is possible that a continent of such great extension wastes its fertile land to the point of investing 35 billion dollars per year in food imports.

After a turbulent history, Africa has now poor infrastructure and weak governments, in addition to scarce market development. Therefore, it fails to feed its population and live off the exploitation of the land. But in the face of such a discouraging outlook, new agents of change appear in the scene: youth. There is a growing number of young people who obtain a college degree and, instead of travelling to big cities in search of work, despite the circumstances, they decide to stay in the countryside to change the reality of their families.

This phenomenon causes astonishment among African communities, since farming is one of the least valued jobs. According to some families, the fact that their children decide to study at university and end up dedicating themselves to agriculture is a total waste of time. But these are young people who see beyond that. They seek to apply their knowledge, being determined to change the reality of the African continent which, judging from its natural resources, should at least be capable of feeding its population.

Nowadays, most developed countries are using the best machinery and state-of-the-art technology to increase soil yield, which allows to harvest enough fruits, vegetables and cereals. This technique for agriculture, which is industrialized and highly productive, is far from being part of the African reality.

This is what Ansah-Amprofi was thinking about when he found out the onions he bought were imported: Africans needed to innovate in agriculture, with solid and efficient technologies, and thus help change a harsh reality that has been characteristic of the region for hundreds of years. His first step was to create his own farm, where he grew a variety of fruits and vegetables. Later, together with other passionate young people, he created Trotro Tractor a platform designed for farmers who do not have enough resources to buy plowing machines. These tools allow farmers to request, schedule and pay in advance for the services of a tractor unit, which is very helpful, as many farmers have difficulties in feeding their families and cannot afford to invest in business projects. Prices are accessible and the mechanization of manual labor allows them to improve productivity significantly.

 

What is more, women are not left behind. Their ideas and perspectives help find practical solutions to the problems faced by African farmers. Rose Funja is a specialist in communication and information technologies, a young entrepreneur who helps small farmers using drones with a geographic information system (GIS). By doing so, she manages to obtain useful data for farmers who aim at improving productivity and preserving their crops. At the same time, she inspires young people to get involved in the IT sector. Digital companies have great potential, but if there is no intelligent management and funds, they are useless. Her project presented one of the most promising technologies to improve the development of the region and got the attention of the High-Level African Panel on Emerging Technologies (AU), which sought to incorporate drones for precision agriculture.

Yenesew Mengiste Yihun is an Agricultural Engineer who tries to find solutions that help mitigate the problems of rural farmers, because she believes the increase in production will encourage self-sustained development and food security. For this reason, she works with small farmers to improve water management practices and she also teaches them how to use irrigation to make their efforts more fruitful.

The Nigerian Ayodele Odusola, chief economist of the UNDP Regional Office for Africa, in an interview explains that Africa should start developing local, national and regional value chains to create jobs for young people. Also, that they should focus on training them to become skilled workers and labor employers, find innovative solutions and let them participate in decision-making.

Fortunately, the efforts of young people are supported by other resources. Various NGOs collaborate to improve the situation, such as One Acre Fund, which provides financial and technical support to small farmers so they can plant and harvest food. ActionAid also offers microcredits to women so they can have an income that allows them to improve their quality of life, as well as providing them with knowledge they can apply in their plantations. Last but not least, Guzakuza, an organization for women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector decided to do something about low levels of empowerment and education in rural Ghana. They invested their efforts in the empowerment of women and agricultural development. Their main achievement was Ignite, an agribusiness incubator designed for women under 35 that offer financing, mentoring and training.

Undoubtedly, innovation makes it possible to create the conditions for Africa to make optimal use of science and technology and face major challenges. It is essential that young people continue to be involved in the process and that they are supported by a structure that makes their training possible, so that, from their point of view, and their knowledge and motivation for a change, they can make out of Africa a better place.

 

Photos: Guzakuza