I am Florence Wallemacq and I work as International Programme Coordinator for Y Care International. I manage various projects in West Africa and the Caribbean and I want to tell you about my recent trip to one of them in Senegal.
My colleague in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, Diletta, and I, went to Dakar and Ziguinchor to visit our common project “Ampa Awagna” (Creating the next generation of young rural entrepreneurs in Casamance, Senegal).
When we first landed, nightfall was coming and by the time we reached our accommodation, it was chilly and completely dark. The busy and traffic-jammed capital of Senegal, Dakar, was full of night-food stands smells and lights. Early the following day, we took another plane for less than one hour and reached the capital of Casamance.
The difference of climate between the cool and dry Dakar, and the warm and humid Ziguinchor is important. Casamance is therefore considered as the “wheat storehouse” of the country. Despite these favourable conditions, what struck me the most was the lack of motivation and incentives for young people to create their agricultural small businesses. A lot of young people prefer trying their chance in Dakar rather than staying unemployed in Casamance. Rural exodus is an important phenomenon in Senegal and Ampa Awagna is trying to tackle this situation. This is what Ampa Awagna is about: creating opportunities for these young people and giving them the tools they require to set up small agricultural businesses in Casamance.
I found the motivation of the project staff, the local authorities and the young people very encouraging. They have a lot of expectations and want the project to succeed and prove that young people can be successful in agriculture.
All the people we met want to see more young people taking an active part in developing further small-scale agriculture in Casamance, therefore creating business opportunities for their families and allowing themselves to take control of their lives.
Young people such as Assane, 29 years old, will apply to the agricultural training programme. He already holds a diploma in industrial electricity and has applied to several enterprises in Dakar but couldn’t find a job so far.
“Young people don’t get involved in agriculture because they have done studies and believe it is a disgrace to till the earth after university education. However we start to realize that development is also based on agriculture. I want to be able to support myself and my brothers and mother. I am not going to go anywhere else now.”*
The Casamance youth population presents a huge opportunity for the country, especially as they are all so determined and passionate. These young people deserve the right to food security, the opportunity to work, to earn money for their families and to be able to secure their future in a region which has so much potential.
Video: Demonstrating the challenges of agricultural industries in Senegal such as salinized land.