Investment in the farmers of the future is key
Agriterra has always highlighted the importance of active participation of young members in farmer organisations and cooperatives. In our ‘Farmers Fighting Poverty’ program for 2016-2020, youth is one of the focus points. We stated that by the end of 2020 at least 50% of our cooperative clients will have active Youth Councils or alike sections in place and that at least 10% of the board members of cooperatives will be 35 years or younger.
When it comes to sharing expert knowledge, we can make use of the successful examples at Dutch cooperatives (like FrieslandCampina, Agrifirm, Cosun, AVEBE and many more), where youth participation is a bottom up demand from the young farmers themselves. The purpose of these Youth Councils is to attract young members and discuss with them the cooperative agenda, to involve young members in strategic questions of the organisations and to train high potentials in order to get professional board members in the long term.
In Ethiopia, a three-day Kick-Off Workshop Youth Participation was organised. Agripool expert Siebe van de Crommert tells about the workshop in a movie:
The workshop focused on new business models within the unions with a clear role for youth members. The participants all understood the importance of involving youth in cooperatives, union or in agricultural sector. However, they found it hard to make this practical.
The participants were forced to work hard and discuss a lot. In their final presentation, Seyemti union stated that they want to start with fattening cows, poultry and dairy. Their first action plan was focused on fattening. They wanted to select 20 youth members to start with this.
The unions delivered both an action plan with high potential. The ideas were out of the box but can be implemented in the cooperatives. The cooperatives want to use new businesses to increase the income for their youth. It is possible that youth will see the value of a cooperative more. This means more sustainable businesses with young farmers within the cooperatives.
The follow-up from Agriterra is crucial in this project. It is advisable to make an achievable action plan. If the actions are achieved, it will give the unions, cooperatives and farmers energy to take the next step.