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TREE beneficiaries raise incomes through horticulture projects

Feb 2014

Mutoko is one of the districts implementing the Training for Rural Economic Empowerment Projects (TREE) under the Skills for Youth Employment and Rural Development Programme. Through the assistance of the project young people are now engaged in horticulture projects. This has created decent jobs for the youth and has benefited the broader community by creating employment for others.  One such young person is 29 year old Ernest Chamanga, who has seen a remarkable increase of his seasonal earnings. A father of three, Ernest joined the Skills project in June 2011, "I was sceptical at first but my situation forced me to keep trying new things to provide for my wife and children" says Ernest.

Ernest was part of the programme's first intake; he was trained in horticulture and business management. "We received technical training with a lot of practical activities" recalls Ernest "I got very interesting insights into how to manage my finances and how to deal with markets". The programme's training aims to prepare young people for the world of work by combining technical skills, business management and basic financial management.

Young people who receive skills training are encouraged to start their own enterprises. However limited access to finance often deters young people to start their own businesses. The Skills programme in cooperation with MicroKing provides loans for youth in the rural and informal economy. The loans enable youths and craftsperson's who normally lack collateral security to access credit and related services from financial service providers.  After receiving training Ernest approached MicroKing and he obtained a low interest rate business loan.

Buoyed by his newly acquired skills and financial support Ernest began to grow carrots. "With each season I became more confident and increased the hectrage under crop" he explained with pride. The 2013 winter season was a huge success for most young people in Mutoko district. Ernest planted carrots and reaped a 12 tonne harvest. As is the norm with most farmers in Mutoko, Ernest planted more than one crop, maize and sweet potato, to shield himself from weather and market volatility. "I learnt a lot during my training, I now plant more than one crop just in case the rains let me down or the buyers offer poor prices but most importantly my business management skills allow me to cost my costs and to save". Ernest says on average he spends a third of his income on overhead and variable costs. In addition he saves a sizeable part of his income.

 " The bank was very impressed with how I serviced my first loan and managed to accumulate savings over two seasons"

Young people such as Ernest have been able to build relationships with financial institutions and they continue to leverage this access to finance to grow their business. Ernest repaid his initial loan, saved some of his profits and was able to negotiate with the microfinance institution to help him purchase a new truck. "I realised that as a young farmer it is hard to negotiate with buyers when you have no means to access more lucrative markets, the truck should help me to move my produce to the market offering better prices" said Enock. In addition the truck is now providing a new revenue stream for Ernest as other farmers in the area hire his vehicle.

" Having an income is very liberating, my children are now in school and my family will be well provided for. I can plan for the future knowing that through my hard work I am guaranteed to earn a decent salary", said Ernest.

Training for Rural Economic Empowerment (TREE) is a local economic development methodology developed by the ILO to promote market driven community-based technical and vocational skills development in rural areas in order to expand training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups such as women and youth.