About the Project
The Mali Support to Youth Entrepreneurs Project (known also by its French name Projet d’Appui aux Jeunes Entrepreneurs or PAJE-Nièta) accompanies out-of-school youth on the path to becoming more educated, economically productive, and civically engaged in their communities.
The PAJE-Nièta program aims to provide 12,000 rural out-of-school youths, aged 14–25, in four regions—Sikasso, Kayes, Koulikoro, and Timbuktu—with improved basic education, work readiness and technical training, social and leadership development, as well as assistance with livelihood activities. Young Malians are offered seven technical-training options that can help them earn a livelihood in the Malian rural market.
A key focus is agricultural enterprise development, with training in agriculture and animal husbandry, to help youth create successful agro-enterprises. “We would like to see youth gain the entrepreneurial skills needed to access opportunities and grow their own businesses—whether it’s in food production, processing agricultural produce to sell as bottled or dry products, or opening a restaurant. There’s a wide range of opportunities for youth in the agricultural sector, ” says Project Director Scott Isbrandt.
The program has a unique implementation strategy: it is delivered through a volunteer corps made up of Malian youth who have received a formal education and earned a diploma from secondary school, trade school, or university. Young university graduates are recruited to serve for two years as village-based volunteers and peer educators, instructing youth participants in basic education and work readiness. “The volunteers gain real-world training and invaluable community development experience while helping rural youth gain essential skills needed to become entrepreneurs.These youth will be able to draw on this rich community development and youth empowerment experience during their future careers, “ says Scott Isbrandt.
Training and education is also supported via mobile learning. Mobile learning applications provide support in and out of the classroom to reinforce youth capacity. Multimedia applications pre-loaded on mobile phones provide alphabetic, numeric, and phonetic sequences as well as math drills and quizzes. In addition, learners also have access to mobile phone-based sound libraries, digital textbooks on project themes and access to SMS services for agriculture market data.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the project is now in its second year. Since its implementation, the five-year project’s reach expands to over 100 communities, with plans to reach as many as 220 villages.
The project is managed by the US-based nonprofit Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) that addresses challenges in education, health and economic development in 35 countries.