In Madagascar, IFAD-supported training provides rural youth a future in business

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In Madagascar, IFAD-supported training provides rural youth a future in business

Rome, 15 March 2010 One year on after the political crisis erupted in Madagascar, a project funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working with small businesses to provide employment opportunities for young people in poor rural communities in the Indian Ocean country.

In addition to recent social and political turmoil, Madagascar has struggled with natural disasters, a growing population and an arduous food insecurity situation.

Compounding these factors is a steadily growing population with a quarter of a million young people entering the work force, particularly in rural communities where 85 per cent of the Malagasy people live. During the last year, investments in the country have fallen along with opportunities for employment. The IFAD-supported project focuses on creating job opportunities for young people and a stable workforce for Malagasy small businesses.

The IFAD supported ‘Prosperer' project aims to improve the income of poor rural people by providing diversified income-generating opportunities and promoting entrepreneurship in rural areas. To date, 400 young apprentices have been trained, with the aim to reach a total of 8,000 young people over the next five years. Covering areas in the North, Southeast and Central regions of the country, the project matches young people to businesses that include pottery, agricultural tool making, shop keepers, weavers as well as farmers.

The project aims to support more than 54,000 small enterprises in the country.

"We are encouraging young people who live in very populated areas, but who cannot take up work in the agriculture sector, to develop small businesses in rural areas," said Benoit Thierry, IFAD's Madagascar Country Programme Manager. "The basic idea of the Prosperer project is to support, through business development services, the people who already have some income generating activity and want to turn it into real small enterprises."

Many people involved in the project are small scale entrepreneurs, like seamstress Madame Alexandrine, who is currently training 20 apprentices and has hired five previous apprentices as regular staff. She says the project is giving a future to young Malagasy.

"We encourage the most underprivileged and disadvantaged young people," she said. "Among them are very poor people who would like to study, but the parents can't afford school fees, so they are not able spend their time productively."

The businesses in the rural communities are seeing a better future with improvements that directly benefit them, such as new business service centres, called ‘Ivo Fanoitra' or ‘leverage' in Malagasy, in each of the 19 districts where the project is operating.

The project has a multiplier effect that goes beyond providing income generating activities for young people.

"We've seen some really interesting results that show the Prosperer project is working beyond supporting rural youth," Thierry said, adding that "apprentices who continue to practice what they've learned, when they return to their homes are able to increase the interest of their parents and the family livelihoods, making them more prosperous."

Press release No.: IFAD/20/2010

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 350 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).