Micro-Enterprises that Change a Country
July 15, 2022
Like the bees in the hives they tend, the six young people in the GRUJOTEF group are perfectly organised so that each one of them fulfils his role and the wheels of their fledgling micro-enterprise do not stop turning. Theirs is one of twelve entrepreneurial initiatives that our blue economy and financial inclusion projects are supporting in the Biombo region, but their entrepreneurial experience goes back a little further. "We started in 2019 working in horticulture, with the cultivation and processing of fruits such as mangos, papayas, oranges and tomatoes," explains Serifo Indjai, 33. Then they moved on to honey production, to apply in practice the theoretical knowledge acquired during their training as agricultural technicians, which they did together. "In the Cumura area [Biombo region, where the project is located] there are many mango and cashew trees, so we thought that building hives to produce honey could be a good idea," adds his partner Jean Sonco, 27.
What started with rudimentary cement hives soon turned into a first batch of wooden hives that facilitated the production process and improved the quality of the honey. "With the first honey sales we were able to buy ten hives, which allowed us to produce a minimum of twenty litres of honey per harvest”. They are now awaiting the arrival of the materials provided by the project. "There will be ten more hives, suits, gloves, and special footwear for working with the bees, fumigators and a press for extracting the honey. This will double our production and improve our working conditions," says Serifo proudly. This is how, little by little, they are overcoming the difficulties faced by young people in Guinea-Bissau. "The fact that there are many unemployed young people does not mean that they are not capable or that they do not have good training", he reflects, "because we young people want to work and what happens is that there are no opportunities. We must fight and organise ourselves to get ahead", Jean adds.
Marcelino Nhasse is no longer as young as the boys of GRUJOTEF, but he has boundless energy. At 38 years old and despite the limitations that albinism imposes on his daily life, his determination to grow his freight forwarding business is unwavering. "I would like to multiply my activity and get more motorbikes like the one UNDP has given me so that I can have a fleet and boost my business", he says, "because it means a better future for my family”. He transports fish and other local products and works in collaboration with the rest of beneficiaries of the project. "We wanted to promote synergies between the entrepreneurs so that their micro-enterprises work in a network format and so that they can feed back and work together, in addition to other suppliers they may have", explains Samoel Simões, Business Specialist and responsible for the training of the project's beneficiaries.
Marcelino's and that of the young honey producers are two of the 94 applications that AIFO, the project's local implementer, received in the field. Another is that of the Deaf Women's Co-operative. Nanina da Silva is 32 years old and the organisation's president. Before the project, she worked as a teacher at the National School for the Deaf and Dumb, and now she and her colleagues sell fish and seafood. "Each group within the co-operative is dedicated to one thing, so we diversify the activities so that all the women have an occupation", she says. Her colleague Siro Sonco, 46, used to see people in the port buying and selling seafood and thought that one day she could do the same. Today, this activity has a huge impact on the organisation of her family structure. "My occupation pays for my four children's school, rent, and food". Her dream for when the project ends is to multiply the income to be able to finance other projects, which is an aspiration shared by Antonieta da Costa, 49, another of the project's beneficiaries. She has her own space for the sale and processing of fish and seafood and sees the future with her business growing here and in Europe. "I want to grow; I like my work and I would like to expand the business. I have a niche market to sell my products and in six months' time my premises will be much better prepared for sales".
The stories of Serifo, Jean, Marcelino, Nanina, Siro, and Antonieta are just a sample of how the multiple sectors of the blue economy can help Guinea-Bissau harness the wealth of nature in a sustainable way and for the benefit of the population. They also show how the economic diversification that UNDP promotes through interventions such as this one can contribute to the sustainable development of the country's economy and the achievement of a green path to inclusive growth. A path that young people, people with disabilities, and women will also be able to travel.