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The Mapping Training for Young Agricultural Entrepreneurs takes place in Kenya

Having been involved in more than one mapping project involving youth, I have always felt a missing component, that of helping youth use the skills they acquire to make a living. I always felt that empowering youth to get out and source for themselves is key. Being the representative of YPARD in Kenya, this was an opportunity for me to assist Young people involved in ARD in my country. I believed these skills would provide an impact on them by creating employment as well as helping improve agriculture in the longrun. so I floated the idea of a mapping training to the the YPARD coordinator Courtney, who felt it was a great idea, and so we worked together to write a concept paper. We approached a number of partners but were fortunate to meet the African Centre for Technological and policy Studies (ACTS). The rest of the organizations were not in a position owing to such reasons as ‘they had short notice’, others were ‘doing full recovery of costs’ and could not be able to support us. However this did not deter us from going on with our plans. YPARD pledged financial support while ACTS pledged staff time, stationery and other in-kind support. Up till now I remember the quote by the ACTS secretariat members Serah and Andrew, “ Here at ACTS failing is not a word in our vocabulary” and indeed we went by the quote. Giacomo Rambaldi of CTA played a very big role in ensuring we had training materials so he sent to us the CTA  Participatory Mappig Training Kit which would be used to train the participants. In addition he sent a number of publications which the participants were given. The journey began of searching the resource people and the trainers.  This being a new concept, the challenge was linking the mapping and entrepreneurship concepts, and simplifying GIS so that it could not look like a very ‘big animal’(as I have heard many people refer to it). Following a series of meetings between the YPARD and ACTS (an amazing team of young people all under  the age of 35 of Serah, Andrew, Richard, Faith and I ) we were able to come up with two resource people with entrepreneurship background and an expert in GIS as well as four youth trained by Map Kibera. These would provide a credible team of trainers. And within a short while we had come up with the plan of the training, the venue, where we were going to source for GPS Units, the call for participants, criteria of selection, etc. The advertisement was sent out with applicants being asked to send their CVs together and motivational notes and the the response was amazing! We had applicants from as far as Cameroun, Uganda and Nigeria expressing interest in attending the training. The Ugandan applicants wanted to know if they would have a similar training in their country. Unfortunately, the training was planned for only 30 participants so the secretariat selected only the thirty, using different criteria namely the unemployed/under-employed, gender, age, computer literacy, likelihood of multiplier effect, among others. In this case the CVs and motivational notes played a key role.   Come the day of the training we had the participants all in time for registration, and things began flowing, beginning with presentations from YPARD and ACTS. Courtney, the YPARD Coordinator encouraged participants to all sign up as members of YPARD. Mrs. Ann Singiri, the Director of research in ACTS hailed the idea of YPARD and ACTS coming to do this training and encouraged further colaboration for more such trainings. She also suggested follow up activities to ensure the participants do not fall out on the way.   Before the training began the participants gave their expectations as By the end of the training I would like: 
  1. To know how the data collected would be used in starting agri-business
  2. To be able to know how participatory mapping can be used y the community to identify their needs, how it can be used to come up with preparedness plans for disaster situations
  3. To be able to apply GIS in research
  4. To be able to use skills acquired to market oneself to potential employers
  5. To learn how I will use the skills in the field of agriculture
  6. To be able to know how these tools can be used to assess the needs of the community
  7. Being a trained forester, I would like to know how it can be applied in forestry
  8. I am looking forward to the training because it will focus on specifics of business/agriscience coz many trainings that have entrepreneurship are general
  When the actual training began you could see the kind of enthusiasm the participants had towards learning GIS. In the beginning however you could sense some kind of confusion in definition of terms, but as time went by they began getting more and more acquinted. The GIS resource person Shadrack Kirui, a tudent in Netherlends began by introducing GIS and mapping, using the CTA Participatory Mapping Training Kit. The questions the participants were raising on the first day showed the kind of interest. His presentation was followed by a presentation of the Map Kibera example of how they had managed to map the whole of Kibera slum and how they were doing it in other areas. The idea of bringing the Map Kibera example was to show the participants that GIS is not as complex as people have made it look, and that it can be simplified to so that local people, having as little as basic computer skills can be able to do amazing work. The idea was to help the participants relate with the Kibera story and see how they can use the skills/example to create agriculture related business ideas. The fact that mapping in Kibera was done by young people, who had gone upto form four level and only had basic skills in computer was really an encouragement to the participants. The GIS component took the better part of the training, with the participants learning to use handheld GPS units and going out to the area around to do mapping. They returned with each group collecting over twenty points and uploading began using the Openstreet map, www.openstreetmap.org . Compared to my previous experience, these students were amazing! They showed great interest and followed keenly as they were shown the different steps. The challenge we experienced here however was that the GPS units we had hired could not be recognized by the computers, so we relied on the few units that we had as individuals. The  entrepreneurship component was introduced in the afternoon of the third day, with participants being introduced to sole proprietorship and partnership, what a good entrepreneur is, strategies of an entrepreneur, how to spot business oportunities, examples of  GIS related agribusiness and finally development of businessplans. They were given assignments to home and prepare businessplans which they were going to present on the last day. The fourth day, owing to the GPS units crisis, some participants who had the hired gadgets went back to the field and returned to download data and edit. The afternoon saw the second entrepreneurship expert come and talk about how the participants can be able to spot opportunities and go for them as well as he gave a talk on how they can do consultancies. These entrepreneurship trainers as they went on spoke in the context of GIS agribusiness, and all examples were on that context. The fifth day the participants made presentations of the maps they had come up with and we were all surprised and the products.After that they presented their business plans, with the entrepreneurship trainer analysing each of them. The training ended on a bright note with comments from the participants, which were all encouraging. They were all fetted with certificates of participation signed by the Director of ACTS and the Global Coordinator of YPARD. They agreed that they would form a group and named it “Agri-mappers Kenya”, so look out for the agri-mappers! It was indeed a great oportunity for me as an individual to see my idea, my dream come to pass. And this would not have happened if I had not gotten support from YPARD coordination unit and steering committee, ACTS administration and their amazing young staff, amazing youth trained by Map Kibera and the participants who graced the training with their appearance and their eagerness to learn. Jane Bisanju, Kenyan Representative of YPARD in Kenya     Read also:Mapping training for young agricultural graduates, 29th August- 2nd September 2011, now underway in Kenya, an on-the-moment update of the training.