– July 20 2022
Creating opportunities for the future
Like many young people, Abdilahi, 25, did not find farming glamourous. He thought it was back breaking work with little or nothing to show for it.
“I sat down with myself and asked – what are you good at? What can you do differently? What can you contribute to the general good?”
These reflections drove Abdilahi to do research on crop production. He attended online and offline courses and developed his farming skills. “I also discovered that the vegetables in our country are shipped to us day and night from Ethiopia, and this inspired me.”
Today, Abdilahi keeps himself busy ploughing his plants giving them the attention they need to thrive. His small farm, lush with vegetation, stands out in a dry landscape dotted with dry thorny shrubs. The land around Abdilahi’s farm is parched due to erratic rains, and the river nearby has lost all its water to the rising temperatures.
Abdilahi irrigates his farm with water he pumps from a shallow well dug next to the river bank.
“Here I am in my garden growing lettuce, tomatoes, coriander and onions,” says Abdilahi. “It really makes me very happy to learn that I am working on my farm, and I have created a job for myself.”
Somaliland has a huge youth unemployment problem. Official figures show that 75 percent of young people eligible for work have no jobs.
Adding to the youth employment woes is the country’s legal status. The self-declared state which broke away from Somali in 1991 is not recognized internationally as a country. This exempts it from direct aid from global financial institutions, key to development and job creation in the various sectors of the economy.
Without work and hope for the future, some school graduates have been forced to migrate to Europe in search of a better life.
Ibrahim Mohamed Ismail, a youth coach with SOS Children’s Villages, says another problem is that “70 percent of graduates are ill-prepared to join the job market because what they learnt at school does not match the demand in the marketplace. And so there is an ever increasing number of young people struggling to find work.”
To close the skills gap, SOS Children’s Villages along with partners started the Next Economy programme, so young people fresh from school can build the skills they need to succeed in the work place, or as entrepreneurs,
For four months, school leavers aged 18 to 35 receive free training in soft skills, and pick between employability and entrepreneurship. Those aspiring to find employment and build a career select employability and go on to internships, while those who want to create jobs for themselves learn how to sustain and grow a business.
Ismail says most young people seeking jobs lack confidence in public speaking. They cannot express or articulate an issue, and they do not understand what they are good at or not.
“Goal setting is also an issue,” says Ismail. “They want everything and have no direction. We support them to draw up a personal development plan, and they plan for the next three to five years. We give them guidance and they get to know where to go next.
“We also manage their high expectations,” he adds. “They hate low level jobs or pay. They want huge salaries and they do not want to start small. We bring in speakers who have made it to inspire and encourage them to start small.”
Budding entrepreneurs are required to raise seed capital of 500 US dollars and the programme adds an equal amount to this investment fund.
“I discovered the programme when I was looking for a job,” says Abdilahi. “I sent my application, I went through the interview process and I am one of the lucky youth who got a spot. I chose entrepreneurship. The programme taught us how to find our inner strength and how to apply it into our work. What I learnt gave me the courage to fully commit to this (farming) vision of mine.”
With 1,000 US dollars to invest, Abdilahi bought a new generator and did maintenance to an existing one. He bought seeds, fertilizers, pipes and farm tools.
A good start
“I do not make much but it is enough for my pocket money and also to support my family back in the village,” says Abdilahi. “I also hire one person to help in the farm. I plan to be successful in agriculture and I do not want to limit myself to what you see today.
“What is behind us now is empty land that no one is cultivating. My vision is to expand my farm by leasing most of it. I want to grow more crops and provide Somaliland with 10 percent of her fruit and vegetable consumption.”
The young farmer sells his vegetables from the farm to avoid the cost of transport to the nearest market in Hargeisa, 35 kilometres away.
Abdilahi says he has not given up his dream to be an auditor, but he will not idle around and wait for it.
“I decided to employ myself in order to be self-reliant,” he says. “I also want to be a role model to my younger siblings for them to say that Abdilahi studied well, he graduated from university and now he is doing his own thing.”
And to his peers: “There are a lot of viable opportunities in our country and you can create a job for yourself and for others. The old experienced farmers are retiring and there is so much land left unutilized. The future of farming is in the young generation and you need to join me and stop seeking life in the cities, disregarding untapped opportunities here.”
Text by Anne Kahura, photos by Lydia Mantler