Benin: Young entrepreneurs touted as the future of agriculture (IPS)

| October 17, 2011

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In 2002, Samuel Agossou started his business with three female rabbits and one male. Now he employs ten young people and has bought a house for his family with the profits.

The young rabbit farmer is attending the Global Youth Innovation Workshop in Cotonou, Benin. The event brings together 60 youth entrepreneurs from around the world. They will share their ideas about entrepreneurship and innovation in the agricultural sector.  The theme of the fair is “Young Entrepreneurs − Agents of Change.”

Samuel Agossou believes that governments should build the capacity of young people, so that they can create their own jobs. He says this is especially important in rural areas where there are no schools or businesses.

Mr. Agossou has a stand at the workshop where he is exhibiting some of his rabbits in hutches. Seven years after starting with only four rabbits, his business had expanded to 700,000 rabbits. He reinvests some of his profits in the business. His ten young staff feed the rabbits, clean their cages, and give them medical care. Mr. Agossou pays his staff an average of 25 dollars per month.

Ratoejanahary Mirado is president of an association called Vonona, based in Madagascar. Her view is that youth do not need international action plans, especially if they are not getting support from their own governments. She adds, “I worked a whole year with my aunt in her studio making products from raffia. Every month I saved half of my salary.”

After a year, Ms. Mirado had saved 150 US dollars and decided to set out on her own. She continues, “Six years later, my raffia products are sold worldwide and I have capital of 3,300 US dollars.” She still runs the business and employs 10 young people.

Feridjini Charles is president of a delegation of youths from Benin who are attending the workshop. He believes it is possible to overcome poverty, if, in his words, “Our governments actually use the knowledge, expertise and ability to create that is held by young, especially in rural areas.”

Mr. Samuel Agossou and his rabbits are living proof of what young people can achieve. This workshop allows him and his young colleagues to share and learn.