Rwandan Youth Engagement in Private Extension and Advisory Services
This post is written by Nicolas Uwitonze, Jean de Dieu Ndaruhuye Irankunda, and Raphael Rurangwa with support from Kristin Davis, Steven Franzel, Beatrice Luzobe, and Richard Miiro, Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC).
Over the past decades, Rwanda has experienced impressive economic growth, resulting in considerable improvements in living standards and poverty reduction. With the agricultural sector employing more than 70 percent of the population, the concern for many stakeholders is to understand how youth are contributing to the country’s economic development. Youth as defined by the Government of Rwanda are those aged 16-30, and rural youth comprise about 79 percent of the total youth population. With increasingly more farmers and extension agents advancing in age; engaging youth in extension and advisory services (EAS) is key to preparing the next generation of food producers.
In this blog, we present examples of Rwandan youth engaged in private EAS that a recent USAID Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) and USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security study, “Youth and Private Sector Engagement in Extension and Advisory Services in Rwanda and Uganda,” undertook to examine ways to engage youth as both providers and recipients of extension. We emphasize for-profit private sector EAS because of the rapid growth of commercial agriculture, greater public policy emphasis on private market mechanisms, and the sector’s potential for providing effective EAS on a sustainable basis. We emphasize private youth EAS in the following three categories.
3 Categories of Private Youth EAS
1. Fee-based networks of young extension providers
As an agricultural extension social enterprise, the Youth Engagement in Agriculture Network-Rwanda (YEAN-Rwanda) hosts the Rwanda chapter of the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD Rwanda). Since its start in 2014, YEAN has successfully attracted 11,520 members in Rwanda who access information through digital technologies (phones, YEAN website, social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp groups). YEAN also has a network of 60 volunteer youth community coordinators that provides advisory services to farmers and cooperatives on a fee basis. Furthermore, YEAN developed a digital system of extension information on its web-based platform with 265 extension notes and articles available to network members. Extension staff and members also pose questions in YEAN’s WhatsApp groups, which have 913 participating farmers who get advice and answers to their questions. Farmers also post photographs of their problems and get recommendations for how to address them.
2. Fee-based youth EAS providers who are successful due to internships
In Rwanda, young agriculturalists started several private extension services that are on the path to prosperity and sustainability.
- HoReCo or “Horticulture in Reality Corporation” is a rapidly-growing company providing extension services and started by several young agriculturalists after their return to Rwanda from an 11-month internship in horticulture at Kinneret College in Israel in 2016. HoReCo currently employs 104 young extension staff and has had numerous contracts with various government offices, projects and donor agencies. Further, they support 76 agricultural cooperatives and 64 water use associations and manage 66 irrigation schemes.
- AGRIWIN, or “Agriculture with innovation,” like HoReCo, was founded by 47 young agriculturalists returning to Rwanda from an Israeli internship in 2017. These youth took a different route than HoReCo did in developing their business, focusing on private, large-scale farmers rather than contracts with government and projects. Their 20 extension staff provide services to 12 large-scale farmers and train nursery operators across five districts.
- Expanders Ltd. was founded in 2018 by agriculturalist Innocent Twizeyimana, who had completed an internship with One Acre Fund. With funding mostly from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Expanders is helping farmers grow fruit trees and raise rabbits.
3. Fee-based EAS providers benefitted from agribusiness incubation programs
Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) is a platform established in 2016 to promote, inform, advocate, and mobilize Rwandan youth to engage in agribusiness. Reported successes include but are not limited to having registered some 12,000 members through its website and social network; facilitated many youth to get professional internships in both public and private institutions; and increased rise of young entrepreneurs, including those working with farmers, with products on the market at RYAF shops and/or offer EAS. Here are a few examples:
- Gashora farm company is owned by the vice chairman of RYAF and recently secured a $500 million deal to export chili oil to China. Gashora farm contracts farmers and employs many youth to meet its market demand.
- Zima Enterprise is a pumpkin processing company started by a young woman, Marie Ange Mukagahima. Zima Enterprise works with three cooperatives that grow pumpkins, including a youth cooperative and women farmer cooperatives. Apart from creating employment, Zima helps farmers to negotiate better prices for their crops and provides the farmers with free pumpkin seeds; in return, the farmers assure her of a steady supply of pumpkins for processing.
- Go Ltd. is a fast-growing ICT-enabled EAS company in Rwanda assisting farmers and cooperatives to get the right, modern, and personalized best practices through the AgriGO app. See their 4-minute introductory video.
- FarmPal: Founded by young entrepreneurs, FarmPal is a digital agriculture platform linking farmers and investors. The company enables people to invest in agricultural projects of their choice, earn a profit while empowering farmers, which is an important measure of sustainability.
In this blogpost, we showed examples of some of the many Rwandan youth engaged in private extension and advisory services. As the concept of private EAS provision is relatively new in Rwanda, the examples in the 3 categories of fee-based EAS provision still need professional training in advisory services, leadership, productivity, and management of youth networks.
As the study has shown, the first two of the fee-based EAS providers successful due to internships appear to be sustainable, with diverse sources of financing, from the private sector (Agriwin) or from government and donor agencies (HoReCo). On the other hand, Expanders has ongoing funding but are yet to diversify their EAS funding sources.
Some of the private youth EAS initiatives lack skills or strategies to effectively deal with other actors in the value chain and further the market forces of supply and demand principles. Thus, the sustainability of the initiatives are questionable. The government and stakeholders play a big role to support youth startups; however, there is a need to put in place coaching and mentoring programs for private youth EAS on how to run and manage their businesses, financing, people management, and so forth.
These are just a few of the findings and insights from the DLEC study full report. See more in an article on Rural21 and stay tuned for the final report. The authors would like to thank Jane Lowicki-Zucca and John Peters for their support.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views and opinions of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).