Mentorship and the life of an agripreneur

As with all Summits and events, they come and go. But, The MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit (YAW 2017) was an exceptional one. We sat down with Pacifique Nshimiyimana, one of the youth delegates to get a feel of how the conference was in general and in particular the Young Africa Works Pre Summit workshop session run by YPARD.

Enjoy reading the interview below.

YPARD: Thank you Pacifique for agreeing to this interview. To begin with, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and why boosting strong youth participation in agriculture interests you?

Pacifique: My name is Pacifique Nshimiyimana and I am a 24 year old born and raised in Rwanda. I have a Bachelor’s degree of Science in biology with a major in biotechnology from the University of Rwanda. Growing up in a rural area exposed me to farming at a very young age and I can’t miss to tell how that background got me to fall in love with Agriculture. It is this same passion that led me to starting Real Green Gold Ltd., a social enterprise that builds the capacity and improves the supply chain linkages for smallholder banana farmers in Kirehe district, Rwanda. So to me, boosting the youth participation in agriculture is a solution for revolutionizing the way to feed Africa and sustainably. Youth are struggling for employment and agriculture is a sector that needs manpower with skills and innovation which make us young people the best fit as we have the energy and innovations.

YPARD: Is this your first time in such a workshop? How can you describe the experience so far?

Pacifique: Yes it is. In 2015 my project was nominated for the Africa Rethink Awards that took place in Paris during the COP21. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there to participate in person and it would have been my first. The Young Africa Works Summit was my first and big workshop to attend and I have really benefited from it. To me, it is like I was living my dream where I was able to meet, listen and interact with the top tier people in the policy making arena as well as being connected to other young people who are positively transforming their communities. I am here to testify how it was well prepared for people like me who are not familiar with big conferences by preparing us first with a series of webinars and a pre-Summit workshop. For that I am 100% sure to call the summit a total success story for me and other youth who participated.

YPARD: Speaking of the pre- Summit webinars, you attended most if not all of the pre-summit webinars. How useful were they in getting you set for the conference? What are some of the skills you have been able to put into practice so far?

Pacifique: Yes, I attended all the webinars prior to the pre Summit workshop. Both webinars and the workshop have been an opportunity for me to be prepared to best participate in the summit. It was amazing how they gave me some of the best skills on how to present myself to the guests during the summit and how to pitch my project. I also used the pre Summit to connect with other youth delegates, getting to know more about their work which has inspired me a lot to the point that I am planning to visit some of them. In addition to this, I also got a new customer from the attendees of the Summit and for sure I will be supplying her supermarket in less than two weeks as we have agreed when we met again after the summit.

YPARD: What are some of the key things that you have derived from being part of the pre-Summit workshop? In your opinion are they applicable in your day to day life? Would you recommend such a program to someone else?

Pacifique: The pre-summit helped me to connect with other youth delegates and I am looking forward to use those connections to improve my project by learning from them. In addition, the pre-summit also helped me refine my presentation to new people who might be potential customers or partners and it is really applicable in my day-to-day life as an agripreneur. It was a blessing that I got chance to use those skills at the summit and experience its effectiveness and learn on how I can use them for the rest of my career. This is a number one program and I would recommend it to every young people especially to the career starters like me. In terms of the skills, I learnt how to prepare a pitch for my project, the way to present myself to people I don’t know for the first time, but mostly it helped me to clear my purpose road map which is a tool I will use in my career for both reaching my goal with my social enterprise but also the bigger career I want to pursue. In the near future I wish to continue building on the experience from the workshops to start other plans I have on my purpose road map and I hope to make it far with the experience I got from applying those skills at the summit.

YPARD: How did the pre-summit workshop as well as the webinar series help you to prepare and be better set for the summit? Could you give an example of how you felt better empowered during the summit?

Pacifique: Both the pre-summit workshop and the webinar series helped me to understand how the summit was going to be. They gave me the opportunity to be prepared to the diverse community that I was going to meet at the summit. And I got chance to learn skills that helped me to get the most of the summit at my use. By that I am talking about designing my purpose road map, networking, how to effectively listen and give feedback as well as how to pitch myself. It was really amazing to me when at the summit I used the pre-summit experience to ask a question to the panel that was discussing issues of policy and its impact our youth startups.. I believe that if we were not given the pre-summit experience it would have been difficult to us to catch up with the summit, ask some questions to some high profiled people on the panels and build good networks among ourselves as youth delegates.

YPARD: In your opinion, what are some of the challenges facing youth entry and participation in agriculture and how can mentorship contribute in solving them?

Pacifique: Youth face a lot of challenges either on entry and participation in agriculture and most of the time they are a result of limited access to resources, information, skills, etc. Having a mentor is a privilege as young people can get inspiration and encouragement. Sometimes, it is even hard to find someone who believes in what you’re doing especially when it comes to agriculture. Since a mentor is someone who has the experience but mostly who must believe in the success of your agri-project, it is an added motivation and source of advice and most of the time directions. As once said John F. Kennedy, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and directions.”  It is from a mentor where a mentee get directions as the mentor has those from experience and with a mentor’s support it is possible and easy to clarify our purpose too. That is what I believe in and my expectations are high towards this opportunity as I have someone to mentor me.

Thank you Pacifique for taking the time to narrate to us your experience at the Young Africa Works Summit. Keep on keeping on the good work.

Photo credit: Illume for The MasterCard Foundation