Blog by Emily Ongus, Kenya

The field trip title was: Agroforestry and Conservation agriculture, with a special focus on training needs for youth and the role of large agribusinesses in training small enterprises and where rural advisory services (RAS) can come in.  The trip took off with participants ranging from extension officers, donors, farmers, researchers all ready for an informative day. The trip took us about 2 hours to Njombe which is 105.5 km from Limbe and then to Penja which was just about 15 minutes away from Njombe.  

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Participants all ready to get going. Rin Po pictured ready to facilitate.                             Mt. Cameroon 

CIMAR- Centre for Youth Insertion in Agricultural and Rural Business

Our first stop was at CIMAR which stands for Centre for Youth Insertion in Agricultural and Rural Business. We were received by Tchetche Elias the director of CIMAR.  CIMAR is part of a project being implemented in four regions in Cameroon. The project is funded by IFAD and targets youth between the ages of 18-35 years. The programme is to run from 2015-2021. There are 12 targeted crops in the project. 5040, entrepreneurs are selected by the government via the ministry of agriculture who then hand them over to CIMAR.

The part that CIMAR plays in the project is that of a trainer, it trains youth recruited from Moungo Division specifically. They work with the youth groups and help them with business planning, management, market access and linkages.  This includes following up with the groups once they’ve secured funding to ensure proper fund utilization. Simple techniques are used in a practical class room set up followed by in the field training.

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Field Visit to the banana plantation on the benefits of agroforestry and advantages on crop nutrition.

                           

Simple learning tools, board showcasing lessons on planning at CIMAR

Within the plantation where CIMAR is located you realise that they devise several plant management strategies through agroforestry by intercropping the plantation with beneficial tree species. There are several woodlots within the plantation just as well as several varieties of cocoa and pawpaw.

CIMAR in its own mandate works as a training centre for farmers by providing suitable planting material form their nurseries.  They give free advice on enterprise development as long as the agripreneurs get the planting material from the centre.  They have regular farmer field schools where they take technologies from the centre.  They also have a program where they provide training on poultry production, and the production of livestock feed specifically for pigs from locally available material i.e. dried cocoa husks, immature bananas etc.

Société des Plantations Metomo (AFIDI), in Penja

Our next stop was AFIDI. AFIDI works with small scale farmers by bulking their products for export.  They also have a 40 hectare plantation where they mostly grow pepper. It was quite interesting to learn about the differences of black pepper and white pepper and that this is determined by processing and drying.

Black Pepper is harvested when almost ripe and dried with the cover where as white pepper is run through water longer and dried after the outer layer has been removed.  Sun drying is applied for both types of peppers.

AFIDI is training the small-scale farmers they work with on good agricultural practices and on acquiring global GAP certification.

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Pepper plant                           

One of the managers explains to us their process in Penja.

 ‘’It is very important that we maintain our standards as a large enterprise if we want to engage all this small scale farmers and buy from them’’ our guide said. ‘’This is why we must go into the field and advise them on good agricultural practices in order to get a good market.’’

Currently they are also working with youth from the community to collect guavas which are readily available. They process the guavas into juice for the local market.

Conclusions

 It came up that charging for some type of RAS services leads to ownership by the recipient and increase chances of success. There was also a need to turn from a project mind-set to a business one for sustainability. CIMAR for example sells out proper and suitable planting stock; in return there is a walk in policy for any agripreneur who purchases the stock. This means that they are then eligible to attend any of the trainings that the institute offers. AFIDI as an exporting company is working as a business however there are certain standards that the farmers have to meet in order to secure a better market and AFIDI then provides the advice that is needed for this. This is where AFIDI can then be clustered loosely as a RAS organisation. 

There is need for RAS organisations to increase their capacities in co-ordination of the activities. CIMAR, for example works with the ministry of agriculture and IFAD as a donor to train youth in agripreneurship. CIMAR becomes a very important link within the whole process as implementers and actually work as an incubation centre.

RAS organisations need to take into account target groups. Youth are more likely to engage in agriculture where agripreneurship is a factor. RAS organisations should therefore focus on target groups such as women, men and youth and put into consideration to their different needs. 

What are the most particular learnings that you take with you?

My particular learning from the trip is especially on what we experienced at CIMAR. RAS organisations are suitable to work as incubators. Those RAS organisations can act as facilitators and/or brokers of information.  This can be done through providing advice on production and productivity, market access and linkages and training on business planning and management. Youth in particular have the drive and innovation to move forward as agripreneurs but mentorship and guidance are important to ensure success of the enterprises. Youth need information to bring into life all the brilliant innovations that they have; they also need funding and guidance on how to manage their businesses. RAS organisations through their networks and capacities are well placed to provide such support.

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Which experiences of the trip would I share with the world?

First and foremost, that youth need guidance and mentoring for their enterprises and just like Shaun Ferris of Catholic Relief mentioned during the meeting ‘’not everyone can be an entrepreneur, success is about failing and pulling yourself up again fast’’. The fact that the project CIMAR is working with limited space for the 5040 people means that it is competitive and that only those who have the drive will get through.  Those youths who do then are very likely to take on an innovative revolution in agriculture.  AFIDI has also recognised the importance of not only working as a business but also giving advice on good agricultural practise to ensure synergy of the company and the farmers. Extension needs to move from an advising role to a more facilitating role. Professionalization of extension in my opinion is one of the ways that this can be achieved.

 So as the narrative of increasing the participation of youth in agriculture continues let’s not forget the important role that agripreneurship plays in attracting rural youth in agriculture. We therefore need to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to ensure this i.e. mentorship and incubation centres as just one of the key things that need to be available and yes, RAS organisations are potentially instrumental in this as demonstrated by CIMAR and AFIDI.

PS: Cameroon has a beautiful landscape, stretches of hills, with the ocean mirroring the lush green terrain. It is definitely worth a visit 

 

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