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Bananas: creating jobs for youth in rural Zambia

Outnumbering adults disproportionately, teens and young adults in many parts of Zambia face an extremely tight job market. However, change has been occurring in the rural village of Chongwe.

Five years ago, youth in Chongwe engaged in market research, skills training and mentoring through ChildFund Zambia`s Youth Empowerment Program. Their objective was to work together to create opportunities for long-term employment.

After determining that a banana plantation would be an ideal livelihoods opportunity, ChildFund provided a grant for seeds and a solar-powered irrigation system, and a local chief donated land. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture taught participants about growing bananas and maintaining their equipment, and a fertiliser company provided training on farming techniques. After years of hard work, this has resulted in a flourishing plantation of more than 1,500 banana trees, and a huge employment boost to youth in the village.

Many youths have also learnt about running a business, how bananas fit into the larger world economy, and how to follow commodity prices daily. Additionally, several involved young people have used the skills gained from ChildFund`s Youth Empowerment Program to lay foundations for other businesses, including one young man who has turned a small vegetable garden into a thriving grocery business.

What began as a challenge for youth in Chongwe, has become a key economic opportunity for current and future generations. The banana plantation will remain a testament to what can happen when youth are empowered to create change within their communities.

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