Serve Africa

Serve Africa: From War to Wealth: Building the next generation of Young Farmers in Casamance,

Hightstown, United StatesDjibellor, Senegal
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Serve Africa encourages youth uptake of agriculture as a way of addressing the unemployment problem in the conflict-plagued region of Casamance, Senegal. We train, mentor, network and support young farmers to build sustainable agricultural enterprises for improved livelihoods.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

Our Inspiration question is: 'What if farming could create employment opportunities for youth and put them on the path of saving future generations from the anguish of civil war in the Casamance region?'
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

300,000 youth join the labor market each year in Senegal, only 10% of these get jobs. The 30-year civil conflict in Casamance has made it difficult for rural youth to acquire skills so they can exploit the region's rich agricultural potential. The lack of livelihoods makes them prone to recruitment in rebel movements.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Serve Africa offers a three-year program that uses a complex idea that combines training, mentoring and youth-led cooperatives to help young farmers manage unemployment by gaining employment working in agriculture. This program trains them in new farming methods so they maximize crop yields and forge their living. Program participants alternate between training and applying the knowledge they learn during cyclic farm work. They receive mentoring by expert businesspersons to help them build enduring business ventures and grow market networks. Upon completion, The participants are transitioned into the youth-led cooperatives where they work together to gain capital and markets for their produce.


Mr. Kody Emmanuel, Serve Africa's Founder is the recipient of the NSEP/Boren Fellowship, and a winner of the AmeriCorps Local Leader Award. He is also a 2015 Echoing Green finalist.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In 2014, Serve Africa recruited 30 unemployed youth into its initial 2-year long CYAP program apprenticeship training. The program combines classroom teach pieces and field practicals. For field practicals, the 30 participants used knowledge they acquired in class to grow crops on a five acre piece of land. They applied modern agricultural methods to farm the crop and had a bounty harvest in 2015 earning them $4000. They reinvested the entire amount into farming: 75% percent on establishing a chicken farm to earn additional income during the dry season; and 25% to purchase light agricultural equipment for the 2016 planting season. They have negotiated with Senegalese Ministry of Agriculture representatives for ten more acres for the summer

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, the biggest impact that our work has had is to demonstrate to youth, institutions and government officials in the Casamance region that investing in agriculture is one of the most effective ways of addressing youth unemployment. Participants of our inaugural class have already started earning from agricultural activities, having made $4000 from their initial crop. The team has embarked on doubling their farming efforts from 5 acres in 2015 to 10 acres in 2016. They have also set up an additional chicken farming project that will allow them to earn extra income. CYAP has put the young farmers on a path of creating livelihood sources for themselves. By end of 2016, we anticipate that this team will have doubled their 2015 income to well over $10,000, which translates to at more than $300 per farmer. We project that they will fully become self-reliant in the next five years.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Serve Africa’s five-year spread strategy involves expanding its project reach to the three departments of the Casamance. It also involves facilitating the establishment of a youth-led cooperative to improve access to capital and markets for young farmers. The project intends to begin influencing policy within the Casamance region by consolidating the voice of young farmers in the cooperative. Over the next 10-year period, the highlight of project strategy will involve introduction of Serve Africa activities in the two countries neighboring the Casamance region and providing mentorship support

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Serve Africa is currently partnering with the private sector and government institutions like the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute to sustain the solution. Establishment of the youth-led cooperative will make the solution sustainable as the cooperative will provide the required financial cushion to agribusiness startups as they grow.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Serve Africa and Senegal's Synapse Center train youth to look for farming trade options. However, unlike Synapse that does not support trainees financially, Serve Africa leads a “profit sharing” idea that allows group members to pool profits on common investments. TechnoServe, like Serve Africa engages the farming market. TechnoServe feels that the private sector can help farmers. To Serve Africa, the private, public sectors, and civil society are equal partners. One Acre Fund uses the private-sector to aid farmers in East and West Africa while Serve Africa builds on youth group potential.

Founding Story

I first travelled to Casamance region in 1998. During my visit, I came face to face with the reality of youth joining the rebel army or migrating to other places due to insecurity and a lack of livelihood despite the fertile land in the area. I held numerous conversations with government officials youth groups, and leaders of non-governmental organizations about this issue to see how I could help tap the agricultural potential of the region. Having experienced Americorps, I thought its experiential learning and commitment to professional development model could work in Senegal. I shared the idea with representatives of the Senegalese Ministry of Youth and we started implementing it in small


Team Currently, our staff and their skills are: 1. Kody Emmanuel (NYU graduate in International Relations): Founder & President, Management Expert, Full-time 2. Salif Sane (Expert in Farming Production, Community Growth, Microfinance, Project Assessor): Program Director, Part-time 3. Aissatou Konate (University of St. Louis graduate in English, Multilinguist): Consultant 4. Five-member Serve Africa Board: Experts in Business Management, Farming, and Finance We are looking to grow our core staff from part-time to full-time for 2016 operations.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

I learned about the Unilever Awards through the Ashoka Emerging Innovators Challenge participants network and Ashoka staff.

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

I Kody Emmanuel, is the Executive Director of Serve Africa.

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I first visited Senegal in the fall of 1998 during a time of increased economic panic in the country that saw thousands of young Senegalese farmers abandon their family farms to explore economic options in Dakar, Senegal. My experience in the country shaped my professional life. In 2010, I opted to use my 10 years experience managing AmeriCorps programs in New York to see if a program that marries apprenticeships with civic engagement could work in a Senegalese context. My first idea was a project called iMap Senegal that aimed to employ young Senegalese to map low-income communities of Senegal. The idea failed to launch, but the contacts I made while working on the idea would later put me in a position to found Serve Africa.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

I am currently a participant at the Managing for Innovation: a Program Management Forum of the City University of New York School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS). The eight-week course provides a series of professional development courses on data management, program development, and budget management and analysis. Course participants also receive informal group coaching in their areas of focus. My area of focus is budget analysis, where I meet a group of four senior managers bi-weekly to strategize on best practices that I can adapt to gain experience managing complicated financial statements and program budgets. I am also taking a course to learn best practices for revising and expanding the program metrics used to evaluate Serve Africa’s work.