The youths in Makoko area of Lagos State will remain ever grateful to the United States Consulate in Nigeria for the role it is playing in building livelihoods for them. The Consulate is achieving this through the Carrington youth fellowship Initiative (CYFI) who in turn graduated 10 youths with skills needed to build a successful business in fish processing. The methodical manner in which the program was carried will most likely result in more seasoned youths who are better prepared to kick-start their businesses. According to the program organizers and participants, the program grew in phases.
Phase 1: Needs assessment and program conceptualization
According to Ms Ekanem, the program leader, the desire to help the youths of the community began the journey towards the program. However, in order to decide what training would suit them best, CYFI conducted a needs assessment in the community.
It was during this process that they identified that despite Makoko being a fishing community, its residents were poor owing to the fact that their produce gets spoilt, some rotten and many were thrown back into the river due to lack of processing skills.
“So, we came up with the idea to train youths here on modern fishing processing skills that will enable them better preserve their fish and at the same time empower them on ways to make money,” Ekanem said.
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Phase 2: Candidate selection and training
Next, CYFI selected 10 initial participants from 500 applicants for the program. These selected candidates were then put through a 4-week intensive training course on modern fish processing methods with eco-friendly ovens, training on fish packaging and the application of social media marketing and corporate business models in marketing and growing their business.
Phase 3: Graduation and Post-graduation support
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Subsequent to their training, these youths graduated and were presented with certificates. However, in order to ensure that the youths are able to practice what they learned, the program also presented each participant with an eco-friendly oven and a promise of seed capital to start their fish processing businesses in Makoko. In addition, continuous monitoring and counseling are available to ensure that the project does not fail.
Participants expressed their joy at being trained and their desire to practice what they learned in their communities. For example, Ms Ojobo Omokeji said that the four weeks’ experience has not only exposed her to the methods of fish processing. “Today, I have learned how to use the oven to process fish without being smoked or engulfed by the flames of the fire. Am back to my first love,” she said.
With this initiative, CYFI and the US Consulate have improved the lives of these youths, who in turn, can improve the lives of several others in the Makoko community.