Today, 41-year-old Josué Komla Guenou is a successful full-time agricultural entrepreneur, proud to walk through the rows of his corn plants, which are already a head taller than him. The buds of corn will soon appear, bearing a promising new harvest.
His fields are now several hectares in size, bordering the Nationale 1 road which crosses Togo from north to south. Josué lives in the verdant plateau region near Notsé, just under 100 km from the capital city, Lomé.
In 2015,” Josué recalls, “I was growing only one hectare of maize which grew to 3 hectares the following year, then to 5, then 6.” Year after year, he expanded his crops and saw his production increase. Thanks to this, he could finally send his children to school.
From a modest farmer struggling to simply provide for his family to an agricultural entrepreneur, Josué credits his success to the Support Project for the Employability and Integration of Youth in Promising Sectors (PAEIJ-SP) – including agriculture. Deployed in 2016 in three of the country’s five regions – Savanes, Centrale and Plateaux – the project was financed to the tune of $21 million by the African Development Fund.
Today, thanks to the training provided by the program, Josué speaks of “market”, “value chains”, “agro-industrial clusters” and “business plans” without a caveat of overwhelming complexities or challenges. On the contrary: who would have thought, as he says himself, that the untrained child from a small, isolated rural village would become the entrepreneur he is today, employing several farm workers and trading the products of his farm with aplomb?
Since its inception, the Project to Support the Employability and Integration of Young People in Promising Sectors has created more than 35,000 jobs in the agricultural sector – well over the 20,000 originally planned.
The program has had other benefits for the country, including the diversification of Togo’s agricultural production and increased food security, thanks to the availability of food with higher nutritional value, especially in rural areas.
Sitting in the courtyard of his family’s concession, glasses on his nose and notebook and Bic pen in his hands, Josué balances his accounts. He smiles at his children who surround him, puts a hand on the head of the youngest. He has big dreams for them, convinced that they will have a better future.