The Rural Youth Employment Support (R -YES) project has embarked on tackling youth unemployment in Rwanda through making agribusiness the gateway for youth jobs. According to the Labour Force Survey Annual Report 2020 by the National Institute of Statistic of Rwanda, overall unemployment rate among Rwandans stood at 17.9 per cent, and joblessness was higher among young people (22.4) than among adults (14.1 percent) in 2020. The 5-year project (June 2020 - December 2024) is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to create employment opportunities for youth in agribusiness. R-YES targets seven agribusiness value chains with potential to attract and provide decent employment (self and wage) to youth in agribusiness. Among those value chains, there is Dairy, Piggery, Potatoes, Maize, Rice, Poultry, Vegetables (Tomatoes, Onions, Cabbage, Carrots, Chilli, Green pepper, and French beans). Andrew Gashayija, R-YES Project Team Leader said that this project, which is considered a pilot, will invest slightly over Rwf2 billion, and its success will inform future extended initiatives by IFAD and other development partners in Rwanda and other countries in Africa and beyond. R-YES is implemented by a consortium led by Kilimo Trust Rwanda. Other consortium members include Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) and Rwanda Polytechnic (RP) - with Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRCs), TVETs and agribusiness industries as centers of training. The project is part of a larger programme of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) that focuses on creation of employment opportunities for rural youth in Africa through support to integrated agribusiness hubs. According to Gashayija, the youth need to be skilled so that they can take advantage of opportunities in agriculture, which is the main livelihood in rural areas, indicating that the main purpose of the project is “to create greener pastures even in the rural areas.” “By building technical and entrepreneurial skills of rural youth, this project provides much needed skilled labour in food and agribusiness industries and reduces youth migrating to urban areas.; sometimes crossing over to other countries [in search for job opportunities],” he said. Though R-YES project is national in scope, 16 districts and Kigali have been selected as primary focus. They include Gicumbi, Rulindo, and Musanze in North; Nyabihu, Rubavu, and Rusizi in West; Nyanza, Ruhango, Gisagara, Kamonyi and Huye in South; Nyagatare, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Ngoma and Bugesera in East; and Kigali. Last week, officials from IFAD Headquarters in Rome were in Rwanda to carry out a field supervision and assess progress, review projects’ implementation approach and any challenges. Brian Chipili, Technical Specialist-Youth Employment at IFAD applauded established partnerships and the high level of buy-in by the project stakeholders, which is promising effective implementation of the project. “The focus of all stakeholders and partners we met has been to create jobs for youth. So far, we are so impressed that there are some enterprises which have provided youth with apprenticeship, internship, and employment opportunities with promising results so far,” he said. Project support, expected outcome Interventions of the project include vocational training, incubation, internships, apprenticeship, work-based learning, and business development for increased business expertise and enhanced market access. R-YES project goal is to contribute to sustainable employment (self and decent wage) and income generating opportunities for 3,000 youth in agriculture related activities in Rwanda through an integrated agribusiness hub. In this regard, it will directly benefit 1,200 youth (50 percent women) – aged from 18 to 30 years – in agriculture related activities in Rwanda through an integrated agribusiness hub. Indirectly, R-YES project will benefit 1,800 youth who will acquire meaningful jobs through established agribusinesses. Beneficiary youth are trained in selected centers of training (IPRCs, TVETs and agribusiness industries). It is to note that the initiative is establishing partnership with financial service providers such as the Business Development Fund (BDF) to support financing for profitable youth agribusiness. Partners welcome the project Dr. James Gashumba, the Vice Chancellor of Rwanda Polytechnic (RP) said IPRCs will do the actual training works for the youth in agribusiness, while RP will focus on coordinating their activities within IPRCs. “I am excited to be working with Kilimo Trust on this important project to skill the youth in agribusiness,” he said. Eng. Joseph Mfinanga, Deputy Principal in charge of Academics and Training at IPRC Musanze said the project’s model of training and the approach of working with industries is commendable. IPRC Musanze committed to be receiving 50 young people per cohort – 25 in Meat processing and marketing, and 25 in Milk handling and processing of dairy products. “We believe this particular training setup will be beneficial to the youth because they are getting support throughout the training until they are settled in the workplace,” he said. As it is their role to advocate for more youth into agribusiness, Jean Marie Vianney Rwiririza, the CEO RYAF stressed that the forum is committed to challenge the mindset and engage youth in agribusiness which gives room for creation of employment opportunities for youth in agriculture. Esther Muthee, Technical and Operations Manager at Masaka Creamery Ltd (MCL), a Kigali-based dairy processing factory which employs people with speech and hearing impairment, said that under R-YES project, the company has started training youth with hearing impairment and 3 of them will be retained by the company as permanent employees. MCL makes dairy products including yoghurt, butter, fermented milk, and cheese. She commended the fact that the project will support recruitment and onboarding of youth to enable skills acquisition. “In as much as we would love to help, we are still a business. So, it’s not easy for us to train youth and participate in their recruitment and onboarding. It’s good to facilitate that part for youth, so that we, as a company, focus on the training,” she said. Other partners that were visited during the field supervision include Zamura Feeds and Agropy in Musanze District as well as Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), IPRC Kigali, JR Farms, Pride Farms, Rugali Meat Processing Company, Skills Development Fund (SDF) and FONERWA in Kigali.