What do rural youth want? Sofiatou Ouedraogo

In honour of International Youth Day, held annually on 12 August, IFAD is featuring seven rural youth from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face, and to discover what they need in order to improve their lives and feed the world.

Name: Sofiatou Ouedraogo
Age: 34
Location: Burkina Faso

In this interview, Mathilde Zins, an IFAD intern from France, speaks with Sofiatou Ouedraogo, 34, an entrepreneur from Burkina Faso.

After studying in the city, Ouedraogo decided to work in rural communities and has set up an organization that offers services to rural enterprises and small farmers, helping them to access finance, training and inputs.

Below is their conversation -

Q: Describe what you do to earn a living?

“I am the founder of Hourya Advice, which is an enterprise that provides a range of services and consultancies adapted to the needs of rural areas. We work to promote entrepreneurship and facilitate contact between local entrepreneurs and existing support systems in rural areas.”

Q: How did you start to do this job?

“For my education, I completed a Bachelor in Management in Rural Micro Business. I then worked as a business consultant for a project financed by IFAD. I've seen that there was potential in rural areas, and I have continued my work as a business consultant.”

Q: What are some of the challenges you face living in a rural community?

“There are different challenges. First, there is a strong need for services aimed at rural women. Consultancies are important for entrepreneurs, and incomes are low. The second challenge is illiteracy as well as social and cultural considerations.

During the project and programme that I carry on in the community, I try to explain what people can do [to increase their incomes]. I work to activate the partners in the community and show the potential of local products and practices.

Q: What key issues concern you most as a young person?

“There is a huge lack of trust in young people by financial partners. There is also reluctance from men to follow women's advice. Some people do not accept that women can become independent. I am the oldest in my family. I had to manage four siblings, manage my private life and professional life. When women dare [to dream], we can do it.”

Q: How did you overcome/address your challenges?

“Since 2008, I have evolved my consultancy to target rural areas. Now I want to develop cross-cutting aspects of my business. I want to be able to provide services in rural areas from the beginning to the end to satisfy all the needs of small farmers. I hope to invite graduate students to create more engagement for entrepreneurship in rural communities. I'm looking for associates for my project, two or three that can help rural entrepreneurs.”

Q: What do you think governments and development agencies can do to support rural youth in your community?

“We have to make agriculture more modern in order to make it more attractive. Today, young people don't conceive a farm as a business since they don't conceive that it can be profitable. Also, we need to make water available and facilitate the settlement of young people. For example, land insecurity for young people is a big issue. We always ask for experience in order for youth to get access to financial products, which is difficult to have when they are young and just starting.”

Q: What are your plans/dreams for the future?

“I want to grow my own business and become the main rural entrepreneurship resource. I want to add a branch in agricultural production and the processing of agricultural products, livestock and literacy. I would like my business to collaborate with financial structures capable of helping young people to undertake new ventures.”

Q: Some young people may have a negative view of farming, rural areas and agriculture. What are your own views/thoughts?

“My country's education system does not introduce entrepreneurship in vocational training schools and universities. It would be a good thing to promote agriculture and livestock training in schools.”

Q: What has been the greatest lessons you have learned so far?

A: Many lessons! I have learnt that rural areas are bursting with potential, however many rural areas have poor access to development opportunities. Many of the financial products that are available are not adapted to rural areas.”

Q: What advice would you give to other young people who want to do what you are doing?

“To live and work with the rural population, it is necessary to know the local needs and strategies needed to best support rural businesses. Also, try and gather some experience. My first job at an IFAD-supported project allowed me to have the experience in this field. You have to work for the long term, while taking risks and daring to try new things.”