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Vocational training breeds new Rwanda agripreneurs

The Rural Youth Employment Support (R-YES) project in Rwanda is a 5-year project (2020 – 2024) funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

R-YES is implemented by a consortium of partners led by Kilimo Trust. Other members of the consortium include Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), Rwanda Polytechnic through its affiliated integrated polytechnic regional centers (IPRCs) and industries as centers for training.

The R-YES project’s goal is to create 1,200 (self and wage) employment opportunities for rural youth in Rwanda by 2024. This is being done through an integrated agribusiness hub with each partner playing a key role.

The project is focusing on youth aged between 18 and 30 years from across 16 target districts (Kamonyi, Nyanza, Ruhango, Huye, Rusizi, Gisagara, Rulindo, Musanze, Burera, Gicumbi, Nyabihu, Rubavu, Nyagatare, Rwamagana, Kayonza and Bugesera).

R-YES team meeting district officials during the awareness campaign

Informed by the value chain scoping study conducted by Kilimo Trust, R-YES targets seven value chains with the potential to attract and provide decent employment to youth in agribusiness. These include dairy, piggery, potatoes, maize, rice, poultry, and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, chilli, green pepper, and French beans).

A youth-led Labour Market Assessment Study to identify potential employment opportunities for youth in selected value chainsas well as a Gross Margin and Profitability Analysis Study were also conducted. It is from these studies that ten (10) short courses were designed for training. 

The courses include Milk Handling and Processing of Dairy Products, Meat Processing and Marketing, Forage/Fodder Production and Marketing, Animal Feed Production and Formulation, Vegetables and Potato Production, Poultry Farming, Operation, Maintenance, and Repair of Farm Machinery, Maintenance and Repair of Industrial Processing Machines, Repair and Maintenance of Irrigation/Drainage Systems, Refrigeration and Cold Chain Management.

Despite the potential showcased by the agricultural sector to employ youth, many young people are not attracted to the sector. Most of youth that have tried to venture into agriculture and other agricultural related businesses have failed within the first 3-6 months. 

Among many challenges that youth face in the agricultural sector, lack of adequate skills to run and sustain profitable agribusinesses ranks high.

Equally, most of the established agribusiness industries cry over the inadequate skilled youth in the labormarket. Responding to these challenges, the R-YES project is ensuring that the youth are equipped with the required set of skills for employment. To realize this objective, the project has ensured that youth identification and onboarding is done in a transparent and inclusive manner. 

To identify and onboard youth for the first cohort, first, buy in by allkey stakeholders in the hub was done. An awareness campaign for the project was conducted in all 16 target districts. The awareness campaign involved all implementing partners (Kilimo Trust, RYAF, and Rwanda Polytechnic). 

Group photo with all partners after the consultative meeting

During the campaigns, the team visited district mayors and other district officials explaining what the R-YES project is about, its goals and the importance of the districts to be on board in the project implementation journey. During these visits, each district appointed a focal person to follow up and support the project moving forward.

After informing district officials about the project, a consultative meeting was held aimed at discussing the modalities of engagement and validation of the call for youth applications. The meeting involved all implementing partners, RYAF, Rwanda Polytechnic and industries.

Upon validation by all partners, the call for youth applications was published. The call for application was clearly written in both English and Kinyarwanda for ease of interpretation by the youth applying. Three R-YES project staff contacts were indicated in the call for more explanations and clarification by the applicants.

The call for application was published on all partners’ websites including Kilimo Trust, Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) and Rwanda Polytechnic.

It was also shared with district officials who engaged their different administrative groups. It was pinned on district and sector noticeboards for quick circulation of information to the youth.

To further create awareness about the call, radios, and social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp groups) of all the partners were used.

An online application portal was created to allow a level of transparency and give chance to every rural youth to apply without discrimination and to make the application process easy. The online application portal was translated to both English and Kinyarwanda, making it user-friendly.

Interested youth applied by clicking on a provided link to an online application portal where they filled required information and submitted their applications. Submissions were received in an excel sheet.

All applications received were subjected to set selection criteria to obtain the right candidates for training. The first call for application attracted 1,502 applicants out of which 651 applicants that met all set criteria were selected.

Gender inclusion

While identifying and onboardingyouth, gender inclusiveness and disability components were taken into consideration.

Females and persons with disability were highly encouraged to apply and this was specified by the applicant while filling the online application form. The R-YES team worked closely with district officials to reach families with unemployed youth with disability. These families were reached out to and informed about the project and opportunities to train youth with disabilities in agribusiness related activities. 

A total of eight (8) youth with hearing impairment have so far been trained at Masaka Creamery Ltd in milk processing and out of these, four (4) have been employed and offered permanent contracts.

Social inclusion

To ensure social inclusiveness, the call for application was open to all youth in different Ubudehe/income categories to give a chance to all rural youth to benefit from the R-YES programme. 

Local leaders at all administrative levels in 16 target districts (district, sector and cell) were involved in informing youth about the R-YES training programme and the call for application. The leaders were also helpful in providing relevant documents needed for submission during the application process such as the residence certificates.

Applications received for the first cohort show representation from at least three out of the four Ubudehe/income categories recognized in Rwanda, and all the sixteen (16) target districts are represented. Kilimo Trust appreciates funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for the implementation of the R-YES project in Rwanda.

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