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Young agripreneur-consultant in Benin sees opportunities despite COVID-19 crisis

The last few months have witnessed unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not only had an impact on the health of people, but has also disrupted agricultural value chains, threatening the livelihoods of rural communities.

The situation is even more difficult in low-income countries like Benin. With the imposition of measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, economic activities have declined and communities which depend on farming and agri-based enterprises are badly affected.

“Some of the initiatives taken by our NGO Frontières et Développement Durable (Frontiers and Sustainable Development) have suffered,” stated Maliki Agnoro, from Cotonou, Benin. “Our agroecology initiation project and gardens for schoolchildren in Tanguiéta had to be stopped.”

“The gardens could not be maintained, and some things were stolen. In Adjohoun, thieves have been stealing from our fish farming project, because we can’t visit the area due to the pandemic,” he added.

Maliki is a graduate of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences from the University of Abomey-Calavi. He has more than a decade of experience in supporting rural communities and promoting youth entrepreneurship and has trained over a hundred young agripreneurs. He is founder/director of the Gouvernail Consulting firm, which specialises in the training and integration of young people in entrepreneurship.

Maliki’s consulting firm faces various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As he said, “Because of restrictions on gatherings, it is difficult to organise face-to-face training. We have tried online exchanges, but internet connections are costly for most of our clients.” He acknowledges however that it is important to continue supporting them by offering free counselling services to strengthen relationships and maintain trust.

A lifelong learner, Maliki is passionate about acquiring new knowledge and skills. Therefore, despite his initial apprehension, he saw the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to sign up for new online courses. He was also happy to spend more time with his family and strengthen his social media networking skills. His ultimate happiness during the confinement was that he was able to finish writing a book called “Le premier enseignement du succès" (The first lesson of success) in record time.

Based on his experience and commitment to helping develop the capacities of vulnerable groups, especially women and youth, Maliki was selected in 2019 as an ambassador for Access Agriculture, a non-profit global service provider that supports farmer learning in the Global South through quality videos in international and local languages.

Maliki’s aim is to promote effective agricultural training for farmers and rural businesses through the Access Agriculture platform. He hopes that governments could be convinced to subsidise internet connections so that more people can have the same opportunity as him to benefit from Access Agriculture videos.

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