The Young Horticulturists of Saint-Louis
In November last year, our first 14 beneficiaries (see previous blogs) all successfully graduated from their 10-month horticulture training at the CIPA in Saint-Louis, Senegal. We certainly had great hopes for all of them, but a 100% rate was most rewarding for all those involved. The good collaboration between our local partner AJE and the CIPA, the enthusiasm of the CIPA trainers, the continuous support provided to them by the AJE project leader, and the commitment of the CIPA director, all contributed greatly to this success.
At the graduation ceremony, which took place at the “Espace Jeunes” in the presence of teachers, families and friends, emotions were palpable and even a few tears were shed. It was a day that will be remembered, a milestone for sure, but it wasn’t the endgame! The next day all of them were back at work, putting their newly acquired skills to good use. Through the training centre, our young people had been enrolled in internships at the University Gaston Berger, the beautiful gardens of the Governance and the “Directions Régionales du Développement Durable”. While their supervisors were truly impressed by their skills, they familiarized themselves with new machinery, learned about new plants, rice cultivation and many other topics. At the university, some of them were even asked to demonstrate practical applications to university students who, while mastering the theory, were at loss when it came to working the land. Needless to say these experiences boosted their confidence, but also solidified the connections between them.
While we had explored individual options after the training -from employment to starting up their own businesses- to our surprise, they requested to stay together for now, and register as an “Economic Interest Group”. Aware that cooperatives often fail and are complex to manage, we still agreed to support them in the context of this pilot project, as it would provide them with experience and serve as a stepping-stone to pursue their further careers.
In February 2017, as we were on a monitoring visit in Senegal, the group officially registered as the “Young horticulturists of Saint-Louis”. Having agreed that Aspyre Africa would provide them with an interest-free loan, they started working on a business plan that took into account local demand and opportunities and would allow them to repay their loan within a year. Meanwhile, they also started looking for land that was fertile, affordable and accessible….
To be continued….