"My life has really changed. Before I used to spend my day talking and having tea with my friends. Today they call me 'the man who doesn't have time'. I really lack time for all other activities besides those related to my commercial farm and I'm happy about it.”
The lack of meaningful youth employment opportunities in Mali can be attributed to several factors, including the lack of demand, the mismatch between initial training and labour market needs, and insufficient entrepreneurship skills. The EJOM project addresses several of these factors to create meaningful employment opportunities. Most young people who complete the EJOM skills development course, set up their own business or economic activity. Hassim Alphagalo (22 years) from Koulikoro is no exception. Hassim holds an agroeconomics degree but he had no employment, belonging to the group of 'unemployed with diploma'. With his recent success, he now calls himself 'young entrepreneur in the making'.
After completing the skills training, Hassim rented out an agricultural plot of one hectare with support from his uncle, a teacher at the Institut Polytechnique Rural de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée (IPR/IFRA) in Katibougo, where Hissam also studied. Hassim grows different horticulutural commodities on the plot: potatoes, okra, lettuce, shallots, tomatoes, beets and carrots. "I earned 100,000 FCFA (€150) after expenses from my first harvests. As a result, I feel like another man. I’m more independent and responsible. Now, I am a member of the young economic chamber of Koulikoro. Contrary to previous years, I’m able to pay my membership fees and I can participate in the training sessions that are organised by the association. I feel much calmer because of my success. My younger brothers now want to finish their studies and become entrepreneurs. They’ve also started helping me out on my plot."
"Even before I started with the project, my dream was to become an entrepreneur, which explains the choice of my studies, Economic and Social Science at secondary school and agronomy at IPR/IFRA. But I was never able to realise my dream. I wasn't thinking clearly and I had a blur in my mind. I didn’t know where to start. At school we do not develop our entrepreneurial skills, while these are essential to be successful in the market place. The business skills and horticulture technical training opened my eyes to new opportunities in commercial farming. The training enabled me to properly plan my planting and harvesting calendar as well as market my products."
"I can safely say that the project helped me to make my dreams come true. To grow my business further, I want to start adding value to my production by creating and selling powdered okra. I also want to acquire a private plot so I'm sure to have space to grow crops. I’m also able to take horticulture products such as potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes home to my family. This has considerably improved the quality of the food that we eat. This brings happiness and my parents are now very proud of me."