Engaging youth in Securing our future with Sustainable food systems

Meet 23-year-old Yvonne Mukeshimana, a mother of two children (twins), a member of Twitezimbere youth Cooperative, working in Nyamirama sector of Kayonza district Rwanda. Yvonne had an early pregnancy while she was still a teen (15 years), which led to her dropping out school from secondary level 2, and is now a young single mother, amongst many problems, she struggled to feed her children.

Yvonne is just one among the many disadvantaged youths, in Kayonza district Rwanda. An area that is drought prone and degraded. The situation in the area has been worsened by the COVID 19 pandemic compounded by the existing effects of climate change. Among the challenges facing the youth in Kayonza include dropping out from school as teens to become mothers due to lack of opportunities to earn a living, finances and agricultural knowledge.

As such Benishyaka a Vi Agroforestry partner is implementing a Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Agriculture Project (YESAP) which aims at improving the well-being of the youth. The main objective of YESAP is securing the future of the youth while contributing to sustainable food systems. YESAP is  promoting nature-based methods. Natural pesticides like pepper, ashes and herbs and fertilizer acquired through composting which are all environmentally friendly are promoted. Benishyaka is empowering vulnerable youth by organizing them into cooperatives, training, and educating them to generate income, and  improve yields in their vegetable crops using sustainable agriculture and agroforestry practices which do not mine soil nutrients and degrade environment. This in turn leads to outcomes of improved diets, and healthy families. The project especially empowers the youth to sustainably access agricultural inputs to grow the vegetables.

“When I joined the YESAP project, I learned how to grow vegetables Using compost manure and mulching, on the field boundary I also planted agroforestry trees which increased my vegetable yields, and now I have enough to sell and some for home consumption. my children are getting nutritious vegetables and my kids are healthy”, Said Yvonne. Yvonne attributes all her success to support that Vi Agroforestry has given to the youth through the Youth Empowerment for sustainable Agriculture project, implemented by Benishyaka in Kayonza district of Rwanda.

Benishyaka, has also introduced and encouraged them to be involved in study circles and pulling resources together to do savings and loaning among themselves. Those who borrow pay a small interest, and the proceeds are shared after a period of one year.

These interventions are slowly changing their lives. However, in recent times, the youth smallholders farmers have been hit hard by the effects of Covid19 Pandemic, which has affected their social and economic activities by restricting savings meetings, and their social interactions with fellow group members. In their resolve, they have vowed to continue their vegetable enterprises, feed their children and live dignified lives.