Empowering Rural Youth through Model Farm Schools

Empowering Rural Youth through Model Farm Schools

Young people hold immense potential as drivers of progress in their communities around the world. The challenging reality is, however, that this potential is being wasted in many cases, as over 200 million young people around the world are unemployed or working in poverty.

This is no exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ECLT Foundation works directly in 4 countries. In the region, 2 in 3 young workers are living on less than 2 dollars per day, according to the ILO’s Work4Youth initiative. Together with Winrock International, the ECLT Foundation is taking action in Tanzania, teaching better farming, safety and business skills. A promising practice is Model Farm Schools, which have already helped over 600 young workers get on the road to better incomes and safer work.

Building capacities in farming communities

The ECLT Foundation is committed to working with young people in agricultural communities where tobacco is grown, to build capacities and job skills relevant to local markets, helping them secure decent work. Agriculture is a major driver of employment worldwide, but is also one of the three most hazardous sectors, along with mining and construction.

Young people working on farms need to understand how to mitigate the risks of certain types of work, like using sharp tools or farm chemicals, which are inappropriate for children under 18 years-old. To get ahead, they also need business skills and better farming techniques, which allow them to grow several crops and have better yields.

Model Farm Schools are a way to give these needed skills. They are targeted at young people in agricultural communities to train them in better farming methods, growing diverse crops, as well as using safer practices and protective measures.

“Thanks to the model farm school training, I am a more productive farmer...”

ECLT travelled to the Tabora region of Tanzania to hear directly from Model Farm School graduates about their successes. Since 2011, over 600 have been growing tomatoes, maize, sugar cane, okra and more, bringing these crops to market and reinvesting their profits.

Many graduates shared that, after their first harvest, they were able to pool together savings and invest in their own plots of land, on which they can collaborate to grow crops and share the profits with their peers and colleagues. This income also means that graduates are able to increase their earning potentials: investing in their own businesses, going back to school, buying livestock or becoming MFS trainers themselves.

Having several sources of income not only improves livelihoods but also means that young workers are in a better position to respond to economic shocks such as low yields, poor harvests, natural disasters, conflicts or illness.

Amani, aged 22, told us that his farm and his life have changed for the better after graduating from the Model Farm School, “Thanks to the model farm school training I am a more productive farmer. I am building a house and can support my daughter with the extra money from harvest season.”

Customised skills to meet local needs

Model Farm School curricula are developed with local supply and demand in mind. In Tanzania, the curriculum was designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. Local schools provide spaces to learn, and local authorities provide MFS with plots for applied learning. Protective gear, including gloves, masks, boots, and overalls are provided so that young people who are old enough to work with chemicals and farming equipment, can do so safely. Drip irrigation training and kits are also provided to allow the schools to work even in poor weather.

Model Farm Schools are a sustainable and effective way to help young people like Amani improve their livelihoods by empowering rural youth to increase their profits, invest in other crops or livestock and in some cases, become business owners.

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