2.1.1 Adapt Successful Adult Employment Models to Meet the Needs of Youth
MEDA has employed its rural sales agent model across multiple value chains, offering a means whereby entrepreneurs can bring value added services and products to rural enterprises that were previously underserved. Having identified a need for rural input and extension agents in Ethiopia and a large unemployed youth population, MEDA sought to adapt the model to allow youth to engage.
The Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation (EFACE) program is operating in remote, rural areas of Ethiopia, where many communities lack access to quality agro-inputs and extension. While the project is operational from 2012-2016, MEDA just started adapting it for youth inclusion at the end of 2013. MEDA provides youth with a high demand employment franchise working as agri-extension and inputs sales agents. EFACE employs MEDA’s recognized sales-agent model, in which local community members receive a package of training in business management and marketing, matching grants for equipment, and market linkages that enable the young participants to market high quality inputs and extension to local farmers.
The following explains the process and criteria MEDA uses for selecting youth sales agents:
- Child Protection Committee (CPC) for the project designated Woreda selects households (from government lists from a specific geographic target area) based on all the project criteria listed below.
- CPC’s select households and provide to MEDA
MEDA filters the selected households by applying the priority criteria (area in blue highlights)
The following is a list of criteria for youth, of which the bolded ones are priority:
- aged 14 -17 who are engaged in weaving or agricultural activities
- engaged in child labor
- currently out of school
- willing to travel around the kebeles to solicit and sale agri-commodities
- received some education
- willing to participate in the 100 hours of training and cooperate with the project
- not part of any other support/NGO clients
- male or female youth workers
Figure I below outlines the model. To intentionally support youth, MEDA provides additional training for the distributor in mentoring youth agents, and assists youth to gain credibility in the community as model farmers. The project is working with youth and community leaders to facilitate access to community land, where youth could operate demonstration plots to market their skills and inputs to potential clients.
While this initiative is in the early phases, it has already trained and equipped 127 youth who are working with a total of 22 promoters, which averages six youth sales agent per promoter. Promoters, as seen in the diagram above, are intermediaries between the youth sales agents and the various input suppliers. Promoters act as mentors and supporters for the youth.
The following are a few of MEDA’s transferable lessons learned to date:
- Many of the youth were already engaged in some form of petty trading, and therefore already had a good sense for how to sell. The challenge MEDA faces is to give them more technical training on the product lines that they are selling so that they can also advise farmers about such things as best agronomy practices for each seed type. This provides youth with an additional value add, on top of the convenience their door-to-door sales provide.
- As they are minors, MEDA needs to limit the youth’s ability to access certain products such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer.
- Due to MEDA’s internal and donor policies, any linkages that MEDA makes for the young people must be to registered formal businesses. In the rural areas, many input suppliers do not meet this criterion. Organizations should explore during the program design phase whether there is any flexibility in policy. If not, organizations should make the first intervention to assist actors in the input supply chain to become registered businesses.