The 1st Meeting on Youth Entrepreneurship and Rural Micro-enterprising ended with a series of recommendations that will help the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and its partners, develop and implement policies that can create more favourable conditions for the growth of young people’s micro enterprises. The five-day knowledge sharing and policy dialogue event was organized by IFAD, the Oportunidades Rurales programme of the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and the Regional Program to Support Rural Afro-Latino Populations (ACUA). Along with more than 20 senior staff and project staff members of the three development partners, over thirty young entrepreneurs coming from Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Nicaragua, Madagascar, Peru, Senegal and Syria participated in the workshop, which was opened by Mohamed Beavogui, Director of IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division. During the deliberations of the workshop the young entrepreneurs were divided in four working group of discussion dedicated to four thematic areas, including:
· The lack of or limited space for participation in exchanges between adults and young people to transmit knowledge
· Restrictions on young people’s access to credit and rural financial services
· Excessive limitations facing on young people’s access to market and value chain opportunities.
At closure of the workshop, Roberto Haudry, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager for Colombia, outlined the key outcomes of the workshop. He said the conclusions that managers and Project staff members of IFAD, Oportunideds Rurales and ACUA have reached following their intensive interactions with the participating young entrepreneurs, would be distilled into two main products, consisting of immediate general recommendations and a policy framework that would require a longer time for development. Haudry said “The proposals made by the young entrepreneurs during the event, including policy hints, activities and tools, will be reproduced exactly as they were expressed.” He added that the three partners will try to incorporate these proposals into their current operations and future interventions. He summarized the general recommendations as follow:
· IFAD and its projects lack, and should acquire the capacity to hear the young people, learn more from them and trust them much more. IFAD and its partners commit themselves to multiplying their exchanges with rural young people, and facilitating exchanges between themselves, in order to learn more about each other’s successful business models, difficulties, solutions and innovations.
· Promoting inter-generational dialogue is very important and requires greater attention. Each generation of young, adults and elders have their own special characteristics, extending from new technology assimilation, through productivity and assets accumulation, to knowledge and wisdom. Understanding the complimentary potential of the three elements and acting upon such understanding needs to be improved.
· The need to design financial instruments and vehicles that permit the inclusion of many millions of young people in the citizenship of access to financial services, markets and information is more pressing now than ever before.
· Recognition of the ICT talents of young people needs to be made by the creation of “knowledge markets” through which they can transmit information, know-how and innovations to each other.
· Recognition of the need to invest in culture is crucial to make good agriculture, particularly in the case of young people.
· Acknowledgement of the global dimension of young people’s space is only logical as they constantly move between rural, urban and global terrains and cyberspaces. Therefore, learning skills such as English, for example, has been identified as a basic necessary tool for young people. · The need to invest in non-formal education, including cultural and physical creativity, would help motivate young people for greater productivity.
· The need to provide the young people with direct access to various resources and assets, including financial services and markets, is crucial and requires greater investments.
The closing session ended with an announced that a special event similar to the Cartagena Youth workshop will be held in Africa in 2011, as part of a global consultation process with rural young people.
The last two days of the workshop were dedicated to field visits in the context of a “Learning Route” programme to the sites of IFAD supported interventions in the Departmental District of La Gallera, which is located in the ZENÚ indigenous reservation and in to the Verdara La Aren of Sincelejo. The participants also visited the sites of rural development interventions in the municipalities of Sincé and Corozal in the Department of Sucre. This had followed other field visits to the sites and activities of micro-enterprises of poor rural people, particularly women, supported by Oprtunidades Rurales in the island of Baru and the San Basilio de Paneque. The huge variety of artisan workshops developed by the young entrepreneurs, for example in Baru, which range from bakeries, to shoemakers to artificial jewellery making workshops, was impressive.
Organized in collaboration with the Association of Women and Young Afro Colombian (AFROCARIBE), the Costa ASOPIELES Marroquineros Association and the Association of the Social Agro-industrial Development Savannah (ASODESEA), the Learning Route provided ample opportunities to learn and share knowledge. This includes the concrete outcomes of Colombia’s experience in rural small business development and its approach to the involvement of young people. The Rural Micro Enterprise (MER) in Colombia has helped nearly 500 thousand families develop secure and sustainable sources of income through engagement in a variety of micro-enterprises and other income-generating activities. Between 2004 and 2009 about 25,000 families received tools, resources and training enabling them to move out of absolute poverty from this investment programme developed by IFAD and the Colombian Government. The innovative Learning Route imitative developed with the technical cooperation of PROCASUR, has become a model in “knowledge travelling” that aims at improving the capacities of farmers associations and organizations of entrepreneurs in identifying, evaluating and learning (for replication and up-scaling) from initiatives of micro enterprises in other regions.
A number of the participating young entrepreneurs have also set up vender tables in Cartagena’s old city centre, where the general public could admire and purchase their products. This “Fair” of products of young micro-entrepreneurs from various parts of has attracted a large number of visitors curious to know more about the Youth initiatives. A good example of these innovations was the development by a group of young rural Colombians of the “marimba” musical instrument, or what they call the “forest piano” that is fast spreading in the countryside bringing happiness to many rural communities after hard work days in the fields. The young entrepreneurs who benefited from micro finance services supported by IFAD and its partners have made a highly visible success in their new industry not only in Colombia. The group affirmed that they are expanding the market outreach of their “marimba” to neighbouring countries too. Naturally, the workshop could not have a better closure that that of the sounds and rhythms of the marimba played by its creators. Naturally IFAD’s staff too, like the director Beavovui, also had a go and tried the fantastic sounds of the instrument. As a final act, Betty Sterling of LAC, took advantage of the youngster’s enthusiasm to hand over the participation diplomas to the young leaders of tomorrow, who seemingly enjoyed the event as much as they have effectively contributed to its outcomes.