When Adja, Fatou, and Oumy—three cousins—discovered that their uncle’s lemon crop was destined to rot when sales fell flat, they came up with the idea for a processed fruit and vegetable business. Their enterprise, Sen Gnam, produces, packages, and sells a variety of juice drinks made from local produce.
These three young women were among 320 youth to benefit from Jeunes Agriculteurs, a project supported through IYF’s YouthMap initiative, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development and Synapse Center. From 2013 to 2014, the project provided rural Senegalese youth, ages 16 to 29, with training in entrepreneurship, agriculture, and life skills—along with access to learning exchanges, innovation labs, mentoring, networking, and resources such as where to locate financial services.
While Adja, Fatou, and Oumy had all graduated from university, they lacked knowledge of how to start and grow a business, which is where Jeunes Agriculteurs came in. "The program allowed us to develop better controls, to anticipate risks, and structure the project,” says Oumy.
Key goals established by Sen Gnam’s founders from the start were to promote women's entrepreneurship, create job opportunities for local youth, and encourage consumers to purchase locally-produced products.
While building a business from the ground up hasn’t been easy—Sen Gnam faces stiff competition from international suppliers and team members have deferred salaries while growing their enterprise—the cousins remain committed to their goal of strengthening the local economy while promoting good health.
And they’re not alone. Because of Jeunes Agriculteurs, young people have created more than 170 new businesses, with more expected as program graduates continue to establish enterprises across Senegal.
For more information on youth employment opportunities in Senegal, read Youth Employment in Senegal: Creating Job Opportunities for Young People produced by IYF with support from the World Bank.