Agribusiness centre boosts youth employment in Sierra Leone

 agribusiness youth
Christian Tucker is helping to replicate effective agribusiness philosophy at the SABI Centre in Newton, near Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown (UNDP/C.Thomas)

Agriculture should be the mainstay of Sierra Leone’s economy, with the potential to sustainably employ about 75% of the population. However, the lack of a viable agricultural value chain and entrepreneurial activity has kept the sector at a largely subsistence level and failed to slow down efforts to reduce youth unemployment. The Sierra Leone Agri-Business Initiative (SABI) Centre is spearheading efforts to help equip young people to transform the agricultural sector and enhance economic growth.

“I participated in the training in Benin and am now seeing the benefits of the SABI Centre for the youth involved. We are training youth from all over the country, all 13 districts. They are learning how to improve their agricultural skills as well as how to use basic farming machinery, and more importantly, they are now moving away from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming meaning that they can live from agriculture.” said Christian Tucker, a Coordinator at the SABI Centre who received 12 weeks of training in Benin.

Highlights

  • In 2011, 15 candidates were trained for three months in Benin on the Songhai Model and provided with the technical skills required to kick-off agricultural production activities at the SABI Centre in Newton.
  • The Centre provided training on the operation and maintenance of farming machinery and equipment to 96 youth in various Agricultural Business Centres supported by the Government of Sierra Leone’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme.
  • In 2012, a total of 120 farmers from across the country were trained, including on how to utilize machinery to improve their agricultural production.

Through support to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, UNDP set up the agribusiness training centre, modeled after the Songhai Centre in Benin. The SABI Centre seeks the transform the agricultural value chain, boost the attractiveness of the agricultural sector to youth entrepreneurs in urban and rural communities and create greater employment opportunities nationwide. The SABI model integrates training and technological innovations with production, mechanization, agro-processing, marketing, recycling, value chain improvement and other related services.

In 2011, 15 candidates were trained for three months in Benin on the Songhai Model and provided with the technical skills required to kick-off agricultural production activities at the Centre in Newton. UNDP supported vital infrastructure including an administrative centre, student hostel, canteen, telecentre and internet café, mechanical workshop, piggery and poultry farm, inland valley services unit, market garden unit, maize farm, cassava farm, pineapple farm and palm oil processing unit. The Centre provides training on the operation and maintenance of farming machinery and equipment to 96 youth in various Agricultural Business Centres supported by the Government of Sierra Leone’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme.

The SABI Centre officially began agricultural production in June 2012, generating revenues to ensure its sustainability. In the third quarter of 2012, the SABI palm oil processing unit produced 2,250 litres of palm oil and six hectares of maize was harvested. The Centre also cultivated one hectare of pineapples in 2012. Proceeds from sales of the products have contributed to the sustainability of the SABI Centre, and its continued operations.

Communities are already benefiting from the services at the SABI Centre. Furthermore, it has become a centre of excellence in cultivating sustainable agribusinesses and agricultural practices in Sierra Leone, linked to the Government’s agricultural commercialization efforts around the country. This is contributing significantly to the creation of employment for youth and women, improving self-reliance and food security.

Francis Kuyembeh, the Processing Coordinator at the SABI Centre, noted that “The trainees from the Agricultural Business Centres set up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security that were trained in agro-processing and agro-machinery are experiencing the benefits, as many are now self-employed business people. In 2012, a total of 120 farmers from across the country were trained, including on how to utilize machinery to improve their agricultural production.”

The success of the SABI Centre will only be possible with the support from a broad range of partners, particularly the private sector, the commitment of the Songhai trainees and the extent to which it is owned by the youth and community. The Songhai Centre in Benin is globally recognized as a world leader in innovative and ecologically sustainable agri-enterprise. The Model adopts a holistic approach to agri-business and entrepreneurship development, which involves comprehensive training, the provision of support services, and linkages to credit and market through networking between training graduates.