Youth, Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Development - Why and How we created our own youth-friendly company
I had a vision to start a company when I graduated from the Njala University in 2009, in Sierra Leone. I shared this vision with three of my friends, they were positive about it and encouraged that I extend the invitation to the whole class of seven Agricultural Engineering students.
The problems was unemployment especially for agriculture graduates, it was a trend that graduates from this discipline would only secure an agricultural related job after six years. All the available employers in the country would ask for employees with a minimum of five years of experience. I was really disturbed with this truth but with the passion I had for the discipline, I rather get colleagues and myself doing something on our own.
We had to support ourselves through subscribing a minimum amount of 5 US dollars monthly. Our number dropped to three as the others could not afford to contribute or gained employment in non agriculture jobs and we lost communication.
In January 2010, we decided to invest our seed money in a 30 acre oil palm plantation in Port Loko District, Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Rice, cassava, vegetables and fruit trees like mangoes, oranges, and plums were also planted. The revenues obtained from these products were used for expansion of the business and as support for our post graduate studies. We managed to keep our operating cost very low through the adoption of Youth Support Strategy (YSS).
Youths were employed and were encouraged to take our activities very seriously as we aimed at improving their livelihood. The youths were trained on farming practices, and they were involved in the planning process of our proposed activities. Through this they felt a sense of belonging to our Organization and their optimum participation was enhanced.
During that year we started with twenty youths who were not payed on monthly bases because we had invested all we had on acquiring land and farming implement. We had an understanding that upon harvest and sales of products 60 per cent of the profit was for the employees and the remaining 40 per cent for the Organization. We were very happy to receive testimonies from some parents of our employees that they are grateful for our initiatives as the young people in the communities were being useful and were becoming a source of support to their homes. The YSS proved successful and is still our major strategy as we enter new communities.
Youths have an ego for participation in community development programs; they have the ability to do more than expected if given the adequate orientation, platform and freedom.
The Entrepreneurial spirit in the youth must be alive always, especially now when there are thousands of opportunities all around us. Youths must have an open and positive mind to be able to overcome the challenges they face in everyday life. There will always be a demand for agricultural activities because of the need for food to satisfy the ever growing population.
Our Organization is called the Movement for Sustainable Agricultural Development (MoSAD); our vision is to achieve sustainable food security and job creation for youths. The Mission of MoSAD is to contribute to achieving sustainable food security through crop and animal production, soil and water resources management, farm mechanization, post harvest and food processing, extension and marketing of agricultural produce at affordable prices to reduce poverty and hunger.