Ruthatana Patrick, a novice silkworm farmer, is taking his skills to the next level. The young Rwandan is using the training he received in sericulture (the raising of silkworms to produce silk) to branch out and raise fish and rabbits.
“With this project, we hope to farm rabbits, tilapia, and North African catfish and sell them at the market,” says Patrick.
Patrick’s story began with his enrollment in Akazi Kanoze, a four-year youth livelihood project in Rwanda led by EDC. Akazi Kanoze, which means “a job well done” in Kinyarwanda, focuses on youth ages 14–24 and is based primarily in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. The program supports youth as they continue their education, find employment, or create their own businesses.
“In Rwanda, 67 percent of the population is under 25,” says EDC’s Melanie Sany. “Many young people lack the skills to access jobs. Our project is focused on providing youth with employable skills and direct work experience.”
Youths taking part in Akazi Kanoze complete an interactive, 100-hour work readiness training course. Through interactive activities, youth learn skills in such areas as teamwork, time management, leadership, financial literacy, and customer service. They also receive specialized training in various subjects, including English, computer literacy, and savings group development. Private sector partners provide jobs, internships, training, and apprenticeships. The Rwandan government is exploring the possibility of embedding Akazi Kanoze’s work readiness training into the country’s school curriculum.
Patrick learned sericulture by working with a local textile manufacturer. With his new skills, Patrick and his classmates developed a business cooperative called Icyerekezo (“vision”). With 20 hectares of land provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, students are cultivating mulberry plants for silkworms. They are also using a portion of the land to raise fish and rabbits. Impressed by the work of the cooperative, Rwanda’s minister of agriculture sent Patrick to a conference on fish farming in Vietnam.
“I learned about all types of fish that can be farmed in Rwanda,” says Patrick. “I also learned how to increase the productivity of fish. I feel confident that our cooperative will be able to implement this project and be successful at it.”
Patrick’s classmates have been just as successful. In October, the program graduated its first class of more than 600 students. By 2013, the project will have trained 12,500 youth, including 5,000 orphans and vulnerable children. The project is also reaching out to 1,000 uneducated youths in sectors of Kigali with concentrated low-literate youth populations. These youth will receive intensive literacy and numeracy instruction; counseling and referral for other relevant services, including health and psychosocial services; and placement in short-term jobs.
Akazi Kanoze is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.