Agro-BIG News

Youth visions for the future: when the going gets tough, the tough get going



 Under the scorching Ethiopian sun on a Tuesday morning in March we meet two young gentlemen waiting for their customers in their newly established business. Wondale Mehret (24) and Tilahun Bekalu (19) are both members of a youth group which is now running a business in providing responsible agrochemical spraying services. Located by a busy roadside in Ambo Mesk in Mecha District, Amhara region, the group holds its shop in a green corrugated iron sheet house. The shop has two rooms. The shelves in the first room are full of agro chemicals and the second room serves as an office and resting room at the same time.   

Photo: Storage room for chemicals

The young men welcome us for the interview with big smiles. We read courage and enthusiasm out of their smiles; it looks like they are eager to talk about their business. At one point Wondale expresses his proudness about the business by saying “our business is bringing a big change to the community here. Before, farmers had to buy pesticides in towns, such as Bahir Dar or Merawi. Now they are saving on transportation costs.”

 The business was established some months ago by eight youth members. Three of them withdrew at the beginning and now they are five. Agro-BIG has organized training for the group on pesticide management, business development, good agronomic practices, and how to make assessments to identify whether a field is affected by weeds and pests. Agro-BIG has also provided them with chemical spraying materials and safety equipment. The cost of construction of the two room shop and office was also fully covered by Agro-BIG.          

Photo: Wondale and Tilahun outside their shop

The shop has been up and running since three months ago. The group is supplying chemicals and spraying services with reasonable prices. For instance, they provide spraying services for 30 Birr per Kada (one-fourth of a hectare).

The business is still in an infant stage. The members are contributing from their pockets besides investing back the profit they earn to expand the business. They believe that there will be a big demand once the community awareness is built and thus the business will be paying in the future. They sometimes provide spraying services for free just to promote their services. Leaflets are also distributed to farmers and they use different forums to talk about their services, as part of their marketing strategy.

Agro-BIG considers the group as agro-chemical dealers. The major purpose of organizing the groups are three; (1) to address the shortage of “genuine” chemical suppliers; (1) to overcome the misuse of chemicals by farmers (environment is a cross-cutting issue for the program) and (3) to create a job for landless unemployed youth. In general, the group will be one of the successes for the program if they are supported financially thorough facilitating credit facilities and if, as they pointed out, the support from the Kebele Administration and the cooperatives continued.