AN AGRIBUSINESS RURAL TECHHUB TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL TECH INNOVATION COMMUNITY
Senegal has a huge potential to create jobs in the agriculture sector, especially in horticulture where the country has an advantage in several factors such as the favorable weather and water conditions, the proximity to European markets with the availability of competitive transport by sea and air or the access to quality inputs. As part of a growth strategy based on ICT and telecom services, the Senegalese agricultural sector has in these last years shown an interest to modernize and take advantage of innovative tools to push the development of farmer incomes and job creation and to reduce crop losses, which significantly affect the income of farmers.
The public institutions need to support these kinds of initiatives and put in practice a national e-agriculture strategy, while the youth need to be empowered and trained to this field. Therefore, the aim of the Senegalese country unit is to respond to this need and create a concrete possibility to
explore the agribusiness sector in Senegal through an innovative perspective, where the youth will be the protagonist of the process and the local stakeholder institutions will be actively involved.
A psychical space and a virtual community
The selected pilot area of intervention is the region around Thiès, east of the capital Dakar and the envisioned platform of innovation is represented by Yeesal AgriHub, founded in 2016. The team has handed in the application documents for Yeesal Agrihub as a legally registered association
with 22 founding members, representing the core multidisciplinary community. With the legal identity, Yeesal will now be able to act as an official partner in collaboration and projects with other stakeholders. Their aim is to develop a synergy among young experts in ICTs and the farmers who practice livestock and agriculture in Senegal, in order to help them develop innovative solutions for the local needs of the community. They alsowant to raise awareness and sensitize the youth about the business possibilities in agriculture through the creation of a network to link them with successful local start-ups and training services.
First areas of interventions
A first needs assessment by the Yesaal members among small hold farmers in early 2016 for the agricultural innovations and services yet to emerge from the agribusiness tech-hub still needs to take place in a strong systematic fashion with more resources. But first indications of problem areas were identified as follows:
- The general situation of the land issues, where lands are abandoned in the countryside while they could very well be exploited by youth who want to practice agribusiness
- Organic farming and the lack of information for farmers to use alternative fertilizers and products to grow fruit and vegetable. A place of sensitization and a market of these products are also missing.
- Senegalese people consume imported powder milk at the expense of local fresh milk. There is not a solid value chain of the sector, while there are several breeders around Thiès who could produce and sell milk within the region.
A living network of experts and makers
Several events and activities have been organized in the physical hub and the team is further developing its program for the community, for instance with a summer school on food security together with partner MakeSense and other events and trainings around entrepreneurship and agricultural concepts. They also aim to develop an online community platform providing access to agricultural information to Senegalese youth and representing the virtual space of the Yeesal community. As currently focused next community projects, the team has chosen to further develop a concept for an application as a solution to the aforementioned milk value chain challenge and potentially the development of a market-platform for organic food, requested by a local partner organization.
The Yeesal Agrihub project has within short time garnered a lot of attention through the efficient use of online social media, traditional mass media channels and pro-active networking with local stakeholders both from public, private sector and NGO. Still, the journey has only yet begun – a lot more can be expected from this community driven experiment once it gathers pace.
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