When a famine spread across his village in Chad, Mystère Belmamou Diksia knew his purpose in life from then on was to eradicate hunger in his community. Graduating as a geological engineer, Diksia worked as a mud logging analyst for three years with an endgame in mind: save enough money to create ways to end poverty and create opportunities.
Diksia believes that growing enough food for everyone in the community is only the start of fixing the problem of hunger. To promote economic resilience and sustain positive change, he trains communities on business and entrepreneurship. Creating a viable market for African businesses not only takes gut, but gusto. He launched Agritranscom in 2016, one of his many cooperatives that deal with agriculture, livestock, food processing and commerce. Diksia says that succeeding in entrepreneurship is about teaching people, training people, sharing the vision and never giving up. It also is about finding and funding the solution, not the problem.
“It’s not good to give money to people because they have a problem,” Diksia says. “Give money to people because they have an idea, a solution.”
Diksia and his team at Agritranscom create solutions and innovate every day. Simultaneously, he works to change perspectives about agribusiness and farming in general. Although many people look down upon farmers, he continues to visit his home and maintain a farm there to serve as an inspiration.
“Look at me. My life can inspire you, and what I’m doing in the sector of agribusiness,” he says. “You can study and come back and also become a farmer. Why not dream … about being a farmer? It’s not all about being a pilot, a doctor.”
Learn more about what motivates Diksia, what valuable lessons he has learned to grow his companies’ reach, and the one person who changed his life forever by listening to the YALI Voices podcast or reading the transcript below.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
YALI Voices Podcast: MYSTÈRE BELMAMOU DIKSIA
DIKSIA: What is your goal? What is your objective? What is your passion? I discovered that my passion, it’s agribusiness, and I decided to never give up and to launch this business in a rural initiative.
My name is Mystère Belmamou Diksia, and I’m from Chad.
♪ Yes we can ♪ ♪ Sure we can ♪ ♪ Change the world ♪
VOICEOVER: Welcome to the YALI Voices podcast, your home for sharing the best stories from the Young African Leaders Initiative Network. Be sure to subscribe to the YALI Voices podcast and visit yali.state.gov to stay up to date on all things YALI.
Today we’re speaking with Mystère Belmamou Diksia, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and YALI Network member from Chad. Mystère remembers being passionate about agriculture as a child. Growing up in a small village, he says that he always dreamed of having his own farm. Even after earning a degree in geological engineering and working for an oil company, he still sought to realize his vision of being an agricultural entrepreneur. Now, he is the founder and CEO of Agritranscom S.A.R.L., an agribusiness startup. He is also a volunteer committed to eradicating hunger and promoting rural development as the founder and president of the Young Rural Entrepreneurs Association, where he trains, coaches and mentors young entrepreneurs on innovative direct money-investment financing and partnership opportunities.
Mystère begins our conversation by sharing how the effects of hunger and food insecurity motivated him to approach agriculture as a business to make change in his community.
DIKSIA: I think when I was 11 years old, something happened in my village. I can remember in 1998, it was a horrible hunger, so I saw people looking for food. I saw people lacking food, and I myself experienced hunger. I decided to change things in my community. I had always this dream in my mind, and I loved this business — to eradicate hunger, produce enough food for families, communities, and then contribute for economic resilience of communities. And that’s what I’m doing. And I realized that launching a business is not enough. That’s why in 2016 I come to the rural area, start giving training to people. So I gave them training in business and entrepreneurship, how to sell their products, how to — how to fix a price for your product, to take into account the cost of production. And then I decided to build cooperatives because I think that it’s — the cooperative — it’s better for people to have their interest in a business, and then they can share their interests.
I had always my farm, even studying in university, during the rainy season, I would leave university to come to my village and have my own farm. And in 2016, my objective is to go and study, find a good job and save money, come back and invest in my passion, what is agribusiness, what is to eradicate hunger. So, I went to the oil company and worked just for one year. So, they decided to put me on standby, and I had some money, so I decided to launch the business in 2016.
And after that, I was also selected for the YALI program. I’m in a regional center. And after the YALI program, I went back and get the legal document of my — of my company. The name of the company is Agritranscom. Agritranscom — it means agriculture and livestock, also transformation, what is food processing. And “com”; it’s doing commerce. So our objective is to master primary production, and then we will teach food processing.
But right now we are producing. We would like to master how to produce crops. And after that, our objective is to have our own industry which can process our products in the city, in the country, around the country.
My company is involved in the production of sesame and also sorghum. It’s an agribusiness company which is also involved in rural development. I realized that, as an entrepreneur, you cannot succeed alone in Africa. You have to teach people, to train people, to share the vision, and then together you can overcome the challenge of hunger, poverty, and also what I call always economic resilience of communities. So, that’s what my companies are doing.
I think everything in life you have to learn yourself. Learn more about your life. Learn more about where do you come from, firstly. And you will discover in your life what you are supposed to do. When you realize or identify what you are supposed to do in life … so don’t give up. And I start with this. And that is what I did. I looked at my life, and I was in the capital city. Where do you come from? From a village where people are hungry, people are poor. So, I think the best part of the game, to know yourself firstly, and then you will see where am I going.
DIKSIA: Sesame is needed. In my country, people come from Cameroon and from Nigeria looking for sesame, so that’s why I realized that sesame is a product that I can make a profit from, sesame. And my objective is to sell sorghum to World Food Programme, and if I … so they can take it to those who are hungry. That’s the objective. And sesame, I know that there is a market for exportation from my country. So, this year, I know that there is a potential market for those products.
My training to rural people in general that involve women, girls, everybody. So, I just train them how to do business.
Now, in Africa, I realized something about business, entrepreneurship, especially in agribusiness sector. When you are alone, you cannot succeed. You have a product. You take into account what you — how much did you pay to get the product, and you know how to add a margin to make profit, but somebody around you is producing and is selling. They don’t take into account how much they spend to get the product, so, where the customer is supposed to go and buy and the business is down. So I’m giving them training how to fix the price of their product and also to build cooperatives. They are getting associations, but I think that it’s not what we need because everybody’s not involved in associations. They think that the president and the — they will do the job. But in cooperatives, everybody should work. So that’s what I’m doing.
DIKSIA: And I innovated also a microfinance system, because after training, you should give them something to start their business. But I think that it’s not good to give money to people because they have a problem. Give money to people because they have an idea, a solution. So I innovated direct money investment. What it means, giving money to those who are — those who have an idea or inspiration for their problem, not because they have a problem, but a solution for that problem. And my objective is to do something like a Grameen Bank; it’s giving a daily loan. There is a weekly market, so the money … somebody can come to the office, take just maybe $10 or $20 and go and do business, and in the evening, come back and pay back and then make profit. So it can help families to eradicate hunger. That’s what we are doing in our rural area.
VOICE OVER: We asked Mystère how he communicates with youth about taking up careers in agripreneurship. Later, he talks about his particular interest in training women in agribusiness and how he was motivated to do so by his mother.
DIKSIA: Ah, it’s a big challenge. Myself, when I come, they say, we want you to stay in the city. What are you doing here? Why, why? It’s not what you are supposed to do. They don’t dream about being a farmer because they think that a farmer, it’s for somebody who did not go to school. That’s the problem. So, what I’m doing now … I myself, I went to the oil company, and I traveled around the world. But I come back to the village and I start my farm. Look at me. My life can inspire you, and what I’m doing in the sector of agribusiness. When they look at me like that, everybody would like to have his own farm. And my objective also is to go to schools, tell them that agribusiness — agriculture — it’s good. You can study and come back and also become a farmer. Why not dream, dreaming about being a farmer? It’s not all about being a pilot, a doctor. So you can come back and start your own business in agribusiness sector.
I started just with three hectares of sesame, and I’m improving. And my grandfather had a very big farm, so it means I have land. And my objective is to reach 20 hectares, and then I can improve from year to year.
Yes, we raised a local workforce because what we would think, it’s rural people, they don’t have qualifications. But sometimes I would like to give them degrees. And I’m working with those people. They know how to do agriculture, so as it’s primary production, so I’m working with three people as an agricultural controller, and I work more with consultants in accounting and also finance because the company’s not big enough to have all those employees, so it’s better to have consultants and then maybe for the next year, we will have more people in the business, yeah.
DIKSIA: I always learn from my life. My mother, she’s — she did and she’s doing great things, and she impacted my life, really. I think she stopped going to school because she was pregnant and could not walk 10 kilometers a day. So she, after that, she become a nurse, and every day she walked from my village. The medical center, it’s about 2 kilometers. Every day she’s working. Maybe at this time, she is working, going to the medical center. And she did a lot in our lives. I’m the elder of eight children. So, she had also an association, but now it’s a cooperative because I’m working with cooperatives. And when I look at women, each woman, it’s my mother. That’s why I’m training women. And they’re very important in the development. They know how to keep money. They know how to spend money for the family.
DIKSIA: I want my life, my story, to inspire people, to go everywhere in Africa or in a rural area and inspire people that you can be born in villages, small village, but you can also achieve your goals. And it’s not because of being in a rural area that you can say that, no, no, no, “I cannot do that. I cannot connect to internet. I cannot have my Facebook page. I cannot have my website.” No, I have rural and also living in the city. And I’m proud of living in a village. I would like to also have something like wearing a T-shirt that “I’m villager,” because people think that you are the villager. You are not connected to internet, but it’s not … you know something in the village. You must know something that people don’t know, and I want the YALI Network to tell my story to people, inspire people. They will do the same, and we’ll have a great work, a great life here. People will be very, very happy. Thank you.
VOICE OVER: Thank you, Mystère. To learn more about Mystère’s company and initiatives, you can visit his website at www.agritranscom.net. That’s w-w-w dot a-g-r-i-t-r-a-n-s-c-o-m dot n-e-t. And on Facebook at agritranscom.net.
Be sure to come back for more inspiring stories from young African leaders on the YALI Voices podcast.
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Our theme music is “E – Go Happen,” by Grace Jerry and is produced by The Presidential Precinct.
The YALI Voices podcast is brought to you by the U.S. Department of State and is part of the Young African Leaders Initiative, which is funded by the U.S. government.