Syrian youth have the potential to effectively fight hunger and poverty through agri-preneurship, and FAO is committed to providing youth the support they need to effect change. The 2021 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum served as a platform for young people to send a clear message to the world: we need more equitable food systems. To continue the momentum and set the stage for the Food Systems Summit, the United Nations has decided to make the role of youth in transforming food systems the focus of the 2021 International Youth Day. This annual event, which gives voice to young people, reminds us all of the importance of providing youth with access to information, resources and opportunities to enable them to improve food systems efficiency, inclusiveness and sustainability.
In order to support youth in transforming agriculture and making food production and access in Syria more stable, FAO, under its Smallhoder Support Programme (SSP), launched its Entrepreneurship Programme named Nabta (Arabic for “Seedling”) in 2019. This initiative aims at enhancing the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem by creating a cadre of professional trainers to raise awareness on business and entrepreneurship opportunities in rural areas and to support rural youth and women in establishing small agribusinesses.
To reach Nabta’s goal, FAO is addressing the two main constraints that impede Syrian youth from transforming the agricultural sector: access to information and knowledge and access to finance. To this end, the programme is being implemented in three crucial stages:
- Women and Youth Entrepreneurship training, through which FAO identifies and trains entrepreneurship experts capable of contributing to change the agribusiness sector;
- Training of trainers (ToT), a capacity building phase for the most qualified experts to become certified Nabta trainers able to bring knowledge to the rural areas; and
- Business Ideation and Business Development Workshops, which bring entrepreneurship awareness and knowledge to rural youth and women, followed by a business implementation phase that includes financial support and mentoring for selected business proposals that take into consideration aspects such as innovation, sustainability, environment conservation and job creation.
The rural youth take centre stage on the International Youth Day organized by FAO-Syria
In Damascus, FAO Syria hosted the official launching of a Community of Practice (CoP) for Young Agri-preneurs, a platform that aims at gathering young entrepreneurs-key actors in the transformation of local food systems - to share knowledge, experience and good practices. Young Nabta beneficiaries from Homs took this opportunity to present their projects to the audience and to join the CoP.
“We, as youth, need knowledge and financial support after years of crisis in Syria,” said Lara Rajab, a trainee of the programme. “FAO’s Nabta programme is a great opportunity for me to receive information I was not aware of. Now, I know how to solve a problem that I may face during a project’s implementation, planning for a budget and setting the marketing requirements. These skills are highly demanded by the youth to kick start their own project and business,” she added.
Paving the way towards a youth-led agribusiness sector in Syria
“The CoP for Young Agri-preneurs aims to progressively become the networking platform for a new generation of agri-entrepreneurs that has the potential to transform the food systems at local level and the agriculture sector as a whole” said Alfredo Impiglia, FAO’s SSP Technical Advisor. “The exchanges that will happen in this platform, designed for and owned by youth, are meant to trigger innovation at all stages of the food system: production, processing, marketing and consumption,” he added.
FAO’s programme will create an environment in which young agri-preneurs have the support they need to create the paradigm shift needed to enable youth to invest in the rural areas. In fact, by starting up their own businesses, young agri-preneurs will prompt their young neighbors to regain the trust needed to innovate for transforming food systems.