The first phase of the Fondacio Congress in Africa was held from February 26 to 2 March 2022, in Togo. Social entrepreneurship workers, teachers, Fondacio members and young entrepreneurs in agriculture shared their experience of the job market. They told their stories, stories of passion, courage, difficulties, encounters and successes.
Agriculture, a promised land
Until 2030, approximately 29 million young people will be joining the job market in Africa each year. In 2022, the continent will have a total of 1.4 billion inhabitants. It is expected to rise to nearly 1.7 billion by 2030, according to the United Nations. "But the economy is not going at the same pace," underlines Christian T. Helim, a participant at the forum who talked about financing business start-ups in Africa. "This causes a serious problem of unemployment.”
Another challenge is "the lack of sustainable and decent jobs," according to Gabriel Amouzou, Fondacio's coordinator in Central Africa and member of the Fondacio Council. "African young people are confused. They lack references and guidance in promising sectors, such as agriculture. Fondacio in Africa quickly understood the issue. That is why we are committed to the entrepreneurial training of young people.”
Guiding actors of change
The Institut de formation Fondacio (IFF) in Africa and Sichem opened a course in agricultural entrepreneurship, in January 2016. "Agriculture is very dynamic. It drives economic development in most of the third world countries," explains Ferdinand Adindjita, director of IFF Africa. "Our goal is to professionalize this sector. Indeed, the development of rural areas helps fight unemployment. We shape real actors of change who create viable social microenterprises."
In six years, 127 young people have been trained to become agricultural technicians or entrepreneurs (9 and 18-month training courses). 382 have taken reinforcement modules and internships to reorient themselves. The insertion rate is 60%. According to Gabriel Amouzou, "the positive impact for them is considerable. They shine in their local areas," whether it be the production of tropical strawberries, mushrooms, bissap wine, juice, chicken farming or the sale of agricultural equipment.
From idea to creation
"Our course has three dimensions," says Ferdinand Adindjita. First, the human dimension. "The young people who come here are disoriented. They do not know who they are, what they want. We work together to develop their human capital. We identify their skills and connect them to a job in agriculture. Students can choose between different promising fields: plant production (market gardening, nurseries, artemisia); food processing (fruit, vegetables); animal production (rabbits, chickens); agroecological inputs (compost, digestate).
Secondly, the agropastoral dimension. It provides tools to develop an economic project, with "30% theory and 70% practice, in incubation mode". Thirdly, the entrepreneurial dimension. It provides tools to "promote sustainable socio-economic development respectful of the environment. The course allows students to go from the idea to the creation of a farm business. They write the operating account, receive mentoring and start networking."
"To find meaning in my life”
Five entrepreneurs shared their field experiences at the forum. Among them is Christine Kolani, 32. Trained at IFF Afrique, she is now the director of Germe-Afrique, in Togo. Her business produces mushrooms and tropical strawberries.
"My dream was to take the competitive exam to become a magistrate. After I graduated, the exam was blocked. I waited three years, but nothing. The legal market is saturated in Togo. So, I decided to reorient myself and find meaning to my life. That is how I got into entrepreneurship. I first followed short courses in market gardening. Then I looked for a complete course. That is when I came to IFF Afrique for a year. I had never practiced agriculture in my life!"
"After the training, I went into organic production, agri-food processing and teaching. Today, I have three full-time employees and ten part-time employees. We encountered a number of difficulties. Market gardening is a growing sector, but there are many challenges with few resources. This year and the last one, we had drought. We lost almost 2 hectares of production because we did not have a well on the site. This is a very hard blow. We are going to benefit from a drilling donation that is currently under construction."
Christine Kolani concludes: "It is not easy to move from one dream to another. But there are other opportunities to earn a living and find meaning in it."
Farmers who care for the planet
Charles Tsevi, a young agricultural entrepreneur, was a student at IFF Africa in 2019. "There were ups and downs," he recalls. "I like to do things at my own pace. I had a hard time getting into the rhythm of Sichem. Fortunately, thanks to the trainers, everything went well." After the training, Charles Tsevi returned home to Danyi, north of Lomé. There, he started a production of organic artemisia, green beans and green peppers. "It was not easy because of the locusts. They ate all of my beans and peppers. So, we put up nets. That allowed me to do lettuce last November and December."
Since 2020, he is processing fresh avocados into dried avocados, which are exported to France. The young man also trained in beekeeping. "My father is the president of the beekeepers in Togo," he explains. Charles Tsevi plants melliferous trees, whose nectar is collected by bees to make honey. "That way, we participate in the resolution of the climate problem. Beekeeping requires us to protect our hives and, therefore, the environment around them. Thus, we protect the classified forests or public areas where we install our hives. We also go to the villages where they cut down a lot of trees to raise awareness among the population."
After Lomé, Bogota!
After the forum, about thirty African delegates and several members of the Fondacio Council worked in groups. They reviewed the past four years, since the last Congress in the Philippines, in 2018.
For the first time, the Fondacio Congress will take place in three phases. The first one will be held on the four continents, from February to June 2022. After Lomé, it will take place in Bogota, Colombia, from 2 to 6 April. The theme that will be discussed during the Latin-American forum will be: "Engaging young people in integral ecology and social justice".
Watch the testimonies of entrepreneurs in Africa (first video, above) and of Ferdinand Adindjita, director of IFF Africa (second video, below).