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Family Farming Matters
January 23, 2015

“Joining the YALI Network helped me access online courses. And discussions by members give me a vista of ideas and actions for social entrepreneurship in Africa.”

— Ariel Djomakon

Ariel Djomakon, a blogger and entrepreneur from Cotonou, Benin, believes that “family farming matters.” This YALI Network member wants to convince other young Africans he’s right.

In 2014, Djomakon and some friends created the blog “Let’s Be a Farmer,” encouraging African youth to learn more about farming. “The goal is to enhance the image of the African farmer whose daily job is about feeding others, but who happens to be the poorest and least recognized in our societies,” he writes in his blog.

“To do that, we wanted to create a Web-based community platform which would help connect,virtually and physically, two different social groups — farming communities and aspiring young entrepreneurs. … It would also help farmer organizations to promote their daily work and to share their challenges and innovations,” Djomakon says. Establishing a line of communication between these two groups also “will provide youth with useful tools that may allow them to explore job opportunities in the agri-rural sector,” the blogger writes.

Let’s Be a Farmer also promotes agricultural entrepreneurship and the empowerment of rural women, Djomakon says.

To help youth learn to appreciate family farmers, Let’s Be a Farmer recruited 120 nonfarm Beninese youth to go to rural areas and visit with men and women farmers, ranchers and agriprocessors. The farmers taught the youth different agricultural production techniques, then had them try their hands at ploughing, weeding, milking cows and even preparing akassa, a fermented maize dough.

Close-up of Ariel Djomakon (Courtesy of Ariel Djomakon)
Ariel Djomakon

The training, which Djomakon says had the support of the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou and several local youth-education nonprofit organizations, ended with a short instructional course on agricultural entrepreneurship.

Djomakon says he and his peers are working to scale up the project and offer youth practical training in agrirural entrepreneurship and resources to help them launch rural enterprises. So far, he says the blog has hundreds of regular readers from 80 countries.

He says agriculture and rural services “offer the best opportunities to move out of poverty and build satisfying lives” for young Africans.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, family and small-scale farms are important because they do these things:

  • Contribute to global food security.
  • Preserve traditional food products while contributing to a balanced diet.
  • Safeguard the world’s agro-biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Boost local economies.

A graduate in international relations from the University of Paris-Sud, Djomakon worked four years as head of sustainable agriculture at the local nonprofit YPA Development, or Youth Partnership and Agricultural Development. He then co-founded RurAg Services, a group venture that delivers services to and invests in rural areas, with the goal of connecting farming communities with “aspiring young agri-rural entrepreneurs.”

“Joining the YALI Network helped me access online courses. And discussions by members give me a vista of ideas and actions for social entrepreneurship in Africa,” he says.

The Let’s Be a Farmer blog echoes recommendations from other knowledgeable people in African agriculture about the opportunities available in the future of agriculture. Business expansion expert Madison Ayer of Honey Care Africa held a recent Facebook chat with the YALI Network to explain the promising business opportunities that agricultural enterprises can offer.