16 March 2010 A year after political violence rocked Madagascar, the United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty is helping to generate employment for the Indian Ocean nation’s young people while supporting small businesses.
The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) reported yesterday that its ‘Prosperer’ project aims to create work for young people as well as a stable workforce for small businesses after a year in which investments have fallen and job opportunities have decreased.
Under the new scheme, the incomes of poor people in rural areas will receive a boost and young people will be matched to businesses including pottery, tool-making and shopkeeping. Already, 400 young apprentices have been trained, and that number is expected to rise to 8,000 in the next five years. Ultimately, 54,000 small businesses will benefit from the initiative.
“The basic idea of the Prosperer project is to support, though business development services, the people who already have some income generating activity and want to turn it into real small enterprises,” said Benoit Thierry, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager in Madagascar.
The agency hopes that the scheme’s benefits will extend beyond increasing young people’s incomes.
After their training, apprentices, when they return home, “are able to increase the interest of their parents and the family livelihoods, making them more prosperous,” Mr. Thierry said.
Following weeks of unrest resulting in dozens of deaths in Madagascar early last year, President Marc Ravalomanana resigned in March, amid a dispute with the mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, who now leads the country.
In addition to the political and social turmoil, the country has suffered from natural disasters including cyclones and droughts, as well as rising food insecurity, according to IFAD.
Further compounding these problems is a growing population, with a quarter of a million young people entering the workforce in rural areas, home to 85 per cent of Madagascar’s population.
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