Mr Rutherford, why is your start-up centre for young farm managers so important?
Our vision is to solve the problems of underemployed youth – students from the agricultural sector who have either dropped out of their studies or have graduated but are nevertheless uncertain about their future. Our centre seeks to offer these people new prospects. In Benin, the population is and will remain young. And there is a high rate of poverty that results at least partly from a poorly focused education system.
What are the biggest problems young farmers face in your region?
The real problem is the lack of models of success in agricultural entrepreneurship and insufficient training. Furthermore, there is no framework for social reconversions. Access to financial resources and land is lacking, as are investment structures for water control and access to seeds and other inputs.
How do you help young people going into business?
As soon as the young people are in our centre, we encourage them to come up with their own ideas, and then we offer them suitable training. As members of our partnership system, they can sell their products on a formal basis. The initiative is voluntary and private, and we currently receive no government support.
What did you miss in your own (professional) training?
It did not provide me with a background in agricultural production techniques and agricultural management.
What do young people in Benin need to have a future in agriculture? Where could the government help?
To cope with unemployment among young people, the government should support private agricultural centres like mine by offering training on innovations and production. Security of land tenure and the establishment of a bank adapted to the requirements in agriculture are further important aspects. In addition, the government ought to finance or subsidise investments. Access to high-quality inputs like seed and fertilisers is absolutely crucial. And these inputs ought to be tax-free. What I would also like to see is structuring for hydro-agricultural development and water control. And our young farmers lack agricultural machinery for production and processing. Furthermore, young agricultural entrepreneurs must have the opportunity to organise in associations.
Samadi Rutherford started his family farm in 2010. In addition to animal husbandry and fish farming, he also cultivates vegetables, maize and groundnuts. Since 2016, young people seeking farming occupations have been trained on the farm. It takes on trainees from agricultural colleges and students of agriculture as well as locals. The AgriSam Centre employs four full-time and eight temporary staff.