After enrolling in the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project, many participants establish producer associations that help them improve their livelihoods. Ofelia Bernardo Morais, 21 years old, from Ribaue district, Mozambique, also joined one.
Ofelia dropped out of school in grade 10 when her family could not afford her school fees. She was selected by the district authorities and the local Youth Council to join the OYE project, where she and her peers received basic life skills and technical training in the horticulture sector.
Girls marry early in her community. But Ofelia has defied this social norm by seeking self-employment and becoming self-reliant. Before joining the OYE project, Ofelia ran a small business selling dumplings. The income she earned from the sale of dumplings was not enough to cover the business expenses: she was running a loss-making venture.
"After our group received the OYE training, we decided to form the Namiconha Association with nine other OYE participants." Together, they prepared a plot to produce vegetables. "Before the OYE training, I alternated between idle days at home and days on which I woke up, fried my dumplings and went to sell them. Now, I get my hoe and weed around the vegetables. There is always work to do. Our first season was very successful." Ofelia beamed. Field supervisors from the OYE project offered technical follow-up to the new recruits in collaboration with the District Youth Council.
After harvesting, the association sold its first harvest at the Waresta market in Nampula, in partnership with AGROWAM, the wholesale market vendors association. The association earned about MZN 72,740 (1,100USD) from 130 bags of harvested cabbage. "We started our work after receiving our first seeds, fertilizer and pesticides from the National Institute of Vocational Training. We planted our first seeds in April 2016. We were very happy with our first harvest." said David Labe, the President of the Namiconha Association.
"In the past, we all would immediately spend the money to satisfy our personal wishes. But now we know better. We will buy what we need for the second season and use the money that will remain to build houses for members and send our nephews and children to school," Ofelia said.
After the first harvest in July 2016, the group planted tomatoes, peppers and green beans, which they sold for MZN 51,000 (USD 800) at the local market, earning a total MZN 124,000 (USD 1900) for the two 2016 seasons.
They also increased the land under cultivation from half a hectare to 1.5 hectare and are now preparing the first season of 2017, hoping to transplant some cabbage seedlings in the first week of April. According to David, the president of the association, one part of the revenues from the 2016 sales were used to purchase new fertilisers, seeds and insecticides while the other portion was divided among the members of the group. The Namiconha group continues to make business sense out of their horticultural pursuit and this year the 10 participating members in the group hope to double the revenue they achieved last year.
Ofelia is not done dreaming. "My dream is to save up and open a beauty salon," she said with a confident smile. She even used part of her pay-out to kickstart her hair salon business. "I bought two bags of braids at MZN 2,000 each and sold each bag at MZN 3,000, making MZN 4,000 profit." The rest of the money went to buying food for her family.
Ofelia calls on more young people to join the SNV OYE project: "I want to advise jobless youth in my community to join us in our journey. Agriculture is great! I'm really enjoying earning money with my hoe.”