While rural youths are increasingly turning their backs on farming and move to cities to find employment, Shambani Solutions in partnership with Frigoken Ltd developed a project to foster opportunities for youth in rural areas, taking advantage of the opportunities arising from cross-border trade within the East African Community (EAC). They were able to create a stable income for more than 500 youths participating in Green Beans for Youth Job Creation project (GB4J). This is a green beans contract-farming model in Babati, Tanzania, supported by the EAC and GIZ via the Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa (IIDEA).
Alicia Amandus, a young woman from Manyara Region, Tanzania, describes her experience in GB4J: “The GB4J project has opened my mind for cross-border business, and the opportunities available through trade with other EAC countries. I will use the knowledge and network I got from this project to sustainably sell my product to Kenya.”
The idea behind the project is simple: International Kenyan exporter Frigoken Ltd provides the market, much of the infrastructure and on-farm training for how to grow green beans fit for regional and international markets. Shambani works with local government officers and regional youth groups in Manyara Region to find youths who want to benefit from the project. While the project has been running for some years, it was expanded in 2020 through funding by IIDEA. Due to this partnership, GB4J was able to reach more than 2,500 youths of which 957 were women.
“The young farmers signed and worked under a six-month contract which guaranteed a fair and fixed price for the green beans, whatever the market price does. But setting-up costs can be more than most people have upfront – seeds, harvesting equipment, transport costs – so the youths were also offered loans for the seeds and on farm running expenses, which have been paid back from the harvest and sales price,” notes Johnson Mwambola from Shambani.
Special focus was put on supporting women. “Encouraging women to farm green beans has been a little more difficult, but we have been working with women leaders, who acted as champions for the programme, telling women why it is a good idea and can help them with a steady income,” stresses Johnson. “It’s not just about farming either. Part of the program included working with the farming groups on soft skills, building them into businesspeople, understanding the markets, standards, negotiating and how to run their farm at a profit.”
Through these measures, the project really changed the life of its participants. On average, the young farmers in the project more than doubled their income due to higher crop yields through increased technical input and improved business skills. The production of green beans per quarter acre grew from around 450kg to around 900kg. Many young women were able to turn away from simply being supporters on their husbands’ farms to owning their own green beans farm.
Looking back, an estimated 576 jobs were created as a result of the intervention (365 male, 211 female). Subsequently, there is now an increased desire of youth to trade with Kenya not only in green beans but also in other horticulture crops that have high market value in Kenya, such as onions, peppers and avocados.
Many plans for continuing the project after the end of IIDEA support are already developed. The project has linked GB4J youths with a Kenya-based company called Serengeti Fresh Ltd, currently operating in Arusha Region, Tanzania, which showed interest to expand its activities to Babati. Frigoken Ltd itself has already invested and continues to invest in the necessary infrastructure to help grow this enterprise.
This is what successful youth involvement in cross-border trade as part of EAC integration can look like!