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A great end for a new beginning

In March 2016, six young entrepreneurs received exciting news. They had been selected from over 428 proposals posted on the GFAR blog as outstanding young people with innovative ideas, and would join the first group of the GFAR Young Agripreneurs Pilot Project (YAP).

The YAP project was developed by GFAR in response to a renewed focus on youth in agriculture and to address the lack of opportunities and access for youth in the agri-food sector. YAP was a platform for young agripreneurs to showcase the eagerness of youth to engage in agricultural projects and provide an online platform for youth to promote their innovative agricultural enterprises. More broadly, the YAP Project contributes to the mission and objectives of GFAR articulated in the 2014-2017 Medium Term Plan and delivers on the GCARD3 towards transforming and strengthening agricultural research for development around the world.

Under the management of GFAR and YPARD and with the support of AgropolisECFAO (Caribbean Regional Office), IFAD and some private donors, the six young agripreneurs, from six different countries (Philippines, Nepal, India, Ethiopia, Kenya and Barbados) each received US$5,000 seed funding. They also got the opportunity to pitch their agribusiness ideas at GCARD3, and received on-going mentoring support, business development training, and coaching in new ways to network, advocate and progress their ideas. This is where the YAP pilot was so innovative: very few other comparable youth investment projects combine seed funding with a complete set of skills training.

Tracking progress

YAP was designed by GFAR and YPARD as a pilot project and included ongoing monitoring. The young agripreneurs were required to write blog posts regularly to report on their progress, learnings and challenges (read all the blog posts here) and a final, independent evaluation was carried out at the end of the pilot. The evaluation, done by Storyscape, was a reflection and learning exercise as well as providing an independent evidence base for future iteration of the YAP project.

The YAP pilot Project evaluation report is now published and shows some interesting findings. Clearly, for the young agripreneurs, it was a year of enlightenment, challenges, excitement, growth and empowerment. Here are some of their thoughts on how they felt about the project …

“YAP helped me adjust my vision and re-design my plan in order to fulfill my dream. I learned that it is possible to start small even if you dream big…The YAP intervention made it possible for me to start the development of such a sustainable supply chain.”

“Now that the groundwork is done and the foundation is laid, the future is waiting for me. During this past year, I have interacted with multiple organisations and individuals. In the process, I have learned a lot more about breeding and dairying, and I feel a lot more confident about where to take the Project next.”

“I feel that my experience with YAP has made an even more significant contribution to my growth as a person, because through continuous coaching and mentoring with the YPARD and GFAR professionals, I learned so many valuable things that I would never have picked up in a classroom setting.”

Mentoring was a key aspect of the support provided to the young agripreneurs. The mentors were surveyed as part of the final evaluation and all noted the value of the YAP project to support young people in agriculture. All mentors, who gave their time and expertise voluntarily, were genuinely interested and excited to see their mentee progress their enterprise, to learn about their innovation and to support them in the process.

Looking beyond the immediate impact

The evaluation demonstrated that there is evidence to show that the YAP Project has had influence beyond the young agripreneurs that were directly supported in the pilot Project. The Project enabled progression of youth innovations at a local scale and has shown emerging evidence of influence and scaling out within the young agripreneurs’ communities and countries. There were examples arising from the young agripreneurs innovations in creating employment to previously unemployed rural youth, new connections to government agencies and NGOs, and local farmers given encouragement and support to diversity and increase their income streams.

The young agripreneurs pilot Project met the objectives as originally laid out by GFAR and YPARD. The six young agripreneurs involved in the YAP project gained skills, confidence and knowledge for their professional development, business development and personal development and there is evidence that their projects are likely to continue and scale out further.

The innovative application and selection process, seed funding, sustained coaching, training, mentoring guidance and support in professional and personal growth, and exposure of young agripreneurs to wider networks and opportunities all were important elements of the YAP Project. However it was the combined approach that seems to have contributed to the Project’s success and the success of the young agripreneurs.

The pilot Project made the pursuits of young people, who are operating at a local scale, visible at the global level. It has linked innovators and experts across the globe, leveraging the GFAR and YPARD network, and showcases the potential for young people to succeed in the agricultural sector. At GFAR, there is confidence that the YAP pilot Project provided the opportunity to learn that such a model can be scaled out and support even more young people in progressing their innovative agricultural enterprises.

We give the final word in this blog to one of the young agripreneurs on the value of the YAP project…

I became a very confident person… Participating in GCARD3, mentoring, and seed funding made me feel more empowered… Being confident is very important for it decides how much one achieves in life, how much one is able to contribute in society and it also has impact on one’s happiness.  Gained confidence at such a young age will help me able to positively grow the work in Agriculture and hence contribute a lot to society, which I always wanted. 

You are invited to read more details on the YAP project and its evaluation here.

Find the original post by Fiona Chandler, Coordinator, GFAR Partners’ Community on the GFAR blog