Engaging Young Women Entrepreneurs to Improve Productivity Across the Guinea Agriculture Sector
In her three months of apprenticeship at the Rural Agriculture Shop in Faranah, Guinea, Hadja Nassafy Wamouno has helped her manager define the tools to register sales, manage receipts and conduct a market study on input needs for female farmers. She has contacted a female farmers union with 17 member groups and is analyzing their needs for the upcoming dry season vegetable production campaign. At the end of her apprenticeship, Hadja wants to start her own rural agriculture shop to sell inputs to the producers she’s identifying. Hadja’s exposure to USAID’s Strengthening Market-Led Agriculture Research, Technology and Education (SMARTE), implemented by Winrock International, has motivated her to explore the production and sales of improved seedlings while producing her own dry-season vegetable plots.
In Guinea, women farmers lack access to inputs and technology while men typically control land and production resources. To increase yields and profitability, Guinean women need access to high-quality extension services and low-cost labor-saving technologies. Working through SMARTE and the Feed the Future Strengthening Agriculture Value Chains and Youth (SAVY), the Guinea Agricultural Services Program has developed Apprenticeship in Extension, Entrepreneurism and Rural Innovation (AVENIR), a program that works to build the next generation of Guinean agriculture sector leaders. Thirteen young Guinean women, including Wamouno, are part of the first cohort of trainees, currently completing nine-month apprenticeships with host institutions including ag-input suppliers, veterinary cabinets, producer organizations and microfinance institutions in the Faranah, Kindia and Mamou regions of Guinea. The apprenticeships will empower these women with the tools, experience and knowledge to be positive, innovative forces in the Guinean agriculture sector.
Livestock engineer Madiana Mara, who is hosted by Dr. Yombouno of Faramayah Veterinary Cabinet in Kissidougou, is supporting vaccination campaigns, providing technical support to a poultry enterprise and leading marketing, sales and technical outreach for veterinary products at three weekly market places close to Kissidougou. After her apprenticeship, she’s exploring two possibilities related to aviculture, including the production of 1,500 layers and sales of specialized feed for the aviculture sector and working with ANPROCA — the Guinean government extension service — to understand the market for animal feed.
After completing interviews and on-site entrepreneurial and business training, AVENIR apprentices support SMARTE and SAVY as project implementers — increasing access to finance, market information, inputs, improved technologies and production practices among farmers to improve smallholder productivity — and as formative entrepreneurs, analyzing market needs and opportunities to create their own enterprises so that farmers have a sustainable source of technical information. The young women AVENIRs are successfully balancing the two aspects of their roles by asserting themselves through host institutions as leaders in increasing women’s access to information, inputs and technologies.
Kadiatou Sidibe and three AVENIR colleagues are working with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), a partner with the Guinea Agricultural Services program office at the Guinean ag-research institute in Kindia, to elaborate marketing plans for several UC Davis-introduced technologies including dry cards (which monitor humidity levels in agricultural dried goods to prevent post-harvest losses), solar dryers and cool bots. She has targeted women marketers and traders whose businesses are susceptible to losses. At the onset of her training, Sidibe was interested in providing a mobile soil testing lab, but after reviewing market demand and price point for soil tests, she has become interested in producing a 3,000 square meter banana plot for the Kindia and Conakry markets.
The first cohort of 49 AVENIR apprentices recruited by SMARTE and SAVY are in their third months of apprenticeships, supporting their hosts to provide valuable services to producer clients in rice, horticulture and livestock value chains. The apprentices are also developing their own business plans to create enterprises that provide valuable services and technologies to the Guinean agricultural sector for years to come.
"Through the AVENIR program, Guinea Agricultural Services is providing young Guinean women with the training, technologies and support systems to initiate female leadership in client-driven private sector service provision while creating an entrepreneurial mindset capable of seizing opportunities to respond to market demand,” said Peter Saling, Winrock International’s program manager for SMARTE.