How to Transform Rural Areas? — Let’s Do Agribusiness

A participant’s note on the international Agribusiness 4 Change conference
Processing of oil for human consumption — Field trip to Dano at the “Green Innovation Project” in the West Shoa Zone, Ethiopia on agribusiness and job creation for youth

By now, we have probably all come across this figure in our daily work: Currently, about 20 million youths enter the African labour market every year. Hence, strengthening agricultural smallholders’ entrepreneurship and mobilising rural youth for agribusiness is precondition for inclusive growth and economic transformation. Against this background, the international conference Agribusiness 4 Change was held.

Reflecting on the conference, the spirit of the entire week has been remarkable: influenced by the business-mindset of young entrepreneurs and representatives of youth associations, government representatives, researchers and development facilitators. The drive to “shape rural development and inclusive agricultural transformation” was mutually shared and motivated the conference from start to finish. The various panel sessions with catchy titles such as “value change” or “generation X-change” brought about no less insightful discussions.

There were participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire over Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Tunisia, and many more. They expressed very different perspectives on aspects of rural transformation, which created a melting pot of experiences.

Market places

A variety of 20 market places informed about ongoing initiatives on the ground. To name just a few:

  • AgroInnova presented their Farmer Business School (FBS) mobile App (FBSInnova) which encourages entrepreneurs in practice
  • Smart Apiculture Management Services (SAMS) informed about their ICT-solution to advance forms of existing beekeeping
  • The Ghana Cocoa Board COCOBOD displayed several of their products and explained their work in facilitating the production, processing and marketing of good quality cocoa, coffee and sheanut

Vision labs

Further, four so-called vision labs discussed building synergies between « informal and formal education”, uplifting smallholder agriculture “from subsidy to agribusiness”, “investing in employment” and ”engaging youth in policy debate”.


In particular, I was inspired by the panel session “Value change”. Here is my personal take-home message from it, which I want to share with you. As development facilitators and practitioners, we refer to smallholder farmers as “the target group” too many times still. This perception is flawed and must change – change towards one of a business partner and investor in rural development – from a rather passive understanding of a beneficiary to an understanding that acknowledges the active role of smallholders as creators of rural transformation, too. Once again this was an eye-opener — not only for me but for many amongst us, as one cannot overemphasize this fact. Additionally, several speakers outlined that we should also broaden our horizon and consider the private sector as a powerful partner to team up with and learn from as well when we want to reach scale with our efforts.

Panel discussion “Value change” moderated by Mark Fynn (GIZ) with Audrey Lagauche (Cocoa Sustainability Manager, Touton), Nabil Kesraoui (Chief of Business Engineering, Zitouna Tamkeen / micro-finance), Eshetayehu Tefera (Teamleader II-Crops Value Chains, ATA), Adenike Oghene, (Managing Director, Eagleson Cassava), Dr. Koffigan, Kpevon (CEO, FUPROCAT) (from left to right).

Conference App & field trip

To not lose track of all the different panel sessions, a conference App ran us through the agenda. I used it to interact with the speakers in the discussion or to give feedback. The last day, I joined one of the four field trips. I learnt from the practical community development project, the « Green Innovation », about the potential to create employment, especially for young people. It is implemented in Dano in the West Shoa Zone 200 km south of Addis by the “Menschen für Menschen Foundation”.

About the event

The conference was organised by GIZ within the framework of the FBS Advisory Facility of the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-Business (SSAB) Programme in partnership with the Green Innovation Centre (GIC) Ethiopia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).

To sum it up

While maintaining an emphasis on entrepreneurship of young professionals in particular and the promotion of agribusinesses along the entire value chain from farm to fork, special attention was paid to related policy needs and strategies for the upscaling of good practices.

The event was followed by the GIC Working Group (WG) Farmer Organisations meeting on 10 May 2019. The participants assessed the potential to adapt and promote the Cooperative Business School approach within their respective countries and decided to team up with SNRD Africa to commission in-depth guidance on how to utilise the various existing tools for farmer group support.

It was a pleasure to attend both events, which have been well-organised and facilitated knowledge exchange in its many different ways!

Stay tuned

There will be results and notes on follow-up activities, for example on promoting farmer organisations.

Further reading

  • AgroInnova, see URL:
  • SAMS, see URL:
  • COCOBOD, see URL:
  • SSAB, see URL:
  • FBS Advisory Facility, see URL:
  • GIC, see URL:
  • ATA, see URL:
  • Green Innovation Project, see URL:


Written by Carolin Voigt (