Seeds of Change: Empowering Youth through OYE Initiative

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Article, 16.02.2024

In the rural heartlands of Zimbabwe and Zambia, where the sun kisses the earth and the fields stretch endlessly, a quiet revolution is taking root. 

Seeds of Change: Empowering Youth through OYE Initiative.
The OYE programme is bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, showing that agriculture can be both a source of livelihood and a force for positive change. © Embassy of Switzerland in Zimbabwe.

It is not the sort that makes headlines or stirs up storms of controversy. Rather, it's a subtle transformation, a silent surge of hope that spreads like wildfire among the youth. This is the impact of the Scaling Up Youth Employment in Agriculture Initiative, known as OYE, a programme implemented by SNV with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

In Zimbabwe, Tinashe, a young man in his twenties, had grown disillusioned with the lack of opportunities in his village. Like many of his peers, he saw no future beyond subsistence farming or migration to crowded cities in search of elusive jobs. But then, the OYE programme arrived, bringing with it a ray of hope. Through vocational training, financial literacy workshops, and access to resources, Tinashe and others like him learnt how to turn their agricultural dreams into reality.

Armed with newfound knowledge and support, Tinashe embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship. He transformed a small plot of land into a thriving vegetable farm, embracing sustainable practices taught by the OYE programme. With each harvest, his confidence grew, and so did his income. Soon, he became a role model for other youth in the community, inspiring them to follow in his footsteps.

Meanwhile, across the border in Zambia, Grace, a young woman with a passion for agriculture, faced similar challenges. Despite her talent and determination, she struggled to break free from the cycle of poverty. But when the OYE programme reached her village, Grace saw an opportunity she could not ignore. Through mentorship and access to markets, she learnt how to add value to her crops and connect with buyers beyond her local area.

With support from the OYE programme, Grace established a successful agribusiness, specializing in organic produce. Her products gained recognition not only for their quality but also for their positive impact on the environment and the community. As her business flourished, Grace hired other young people, providing them with jobs and a sense of purpose.

In addition to the direct support provided by OYE, SNV and the SDC are also working closely with private sector partners to facilitate linkages for youths to participate in higher value chains. Through these partnerships, youth like Tinashe and Grace have access to markets previously inaccessible to them, allowing them to expand their businesses and reach new heights of success.

As Tinashe and Grace's stories spread, so do the ripple effects of the OYE programme. Across Zimbabwe and Zambia, youth who once felt marginalized and forgotten find new opportunities in agriculture. They embrace innovation, sustainability, and collaboration, transforming their communities one harvest at a time.

The impact of the OYE initiative extends far beyond economic empowerment. It sparks a sense of pride and belonging among the youth, reconnecting them with their cultural heritage and the land that sustained their ancestors for generations. It bridges the gap between tradition and modernity, showing that agriculture can be both a source of livelihood and a force for positive change.

In the end, the true measure of the OYE programme's success isn't just in the number of jobs created or crops harvested. It's in the lives transformed, the dreams realized, and the hope restored. For Tinashe, Grace, and countless others, the OYE initiative is more than just a programme – it is a beacon of possibility in a world hungry for change.