International Volunteer Day: Building resilient communities

5th December 2018

The United Nations’ International Volunteer Day is celebrated annually on 5th December. This year, the event focuses on volunteer efforts that strengthen the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters, economic stresses and political shocks.

We look at how volunteers from Tanzania and from abroad have been supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in setting up small businesses in order to overcome economic challenges and create opportunities for young people in rural areas.

Last week, more than 100 aspiring entrepreneurs in six different rural communities in Tanzania pitched sustainable business ideas to a panel of judges, for the chance to secure funding to start small enterprises.

The business-ideas ranged from sustainable charcoal production and sunflower farming, to tree planting and beekeeping enterprises.

The pitching event is an important part of a 10-week entrepreneurship training course delivered by ICS volunteers, alongside local project partners the Tanzanian Forestry Conservation Group (TFCG) and Agrónomos sin fronteras (ASF), which included all aspects of financial planning, budgeting and accounting for running a small business.

The ICS Livelihoods programme aligns with the Tanzanian government’s Five-Year Development Plan, which states that the creation and growth of micro-enterprises is essential in reducing the number of those living in poverty in rural areas.

In addition to the skills gained during the entrepreneurship course, an important part of building resilience is providing training on alternative sources of funding, so that those who didn’t receive a grant on pitching day have the confidence and adaptability to continue to seek financial backing.

The training included information on how to access loans or credit from a variety of local sources, such as village community banks (VICOBAs), savings and credit cooperative organisations (SACCOs), and local government authorities.

The aim of the Livelihoods programme in each of the six villages is for at least 10 youth (50 per cent female) to develop a small enterprise through a Raleigh funded grant, and for at least five youth (50 per cent female) to develop a small enterprise through alternative funding opportunities.

Since the pitching events last week, all six communities have now submitted their constitutions to the district government to begin the process of receiving a special interest rate government loan.

‘Pitching for a grant at the end is not the be-all-and-end-all of the programme,’ said Bryony Simms, deputy operations manager for Raleigh Tanzania’s ICS Livelihoods programme. ‘The focus is on education, and giving entrepreneurs the tools and knowledge they need to be able to start – and maintain – small businesses in their communities.’

Jofrey during his pitch

Jofrey Kisinga is one entrepreneur who received funding last week to help set up his business, which centres around selling tree seedlings in order to tackle deforestation in his village (Ihanzutwa, Mufindi). With the grant money, he bought seedlings, seeds, fertiliser and tubing.

Before it was his turn to pitch, speaking to Raleigh Tanzania, Jofrey said: ‘I believe in myself, but even if I do not succeed [in winning a grant] I have learnt a lot of things that I didn’t know before, especially about how to manage a business. I think the education from the course was enough for people to succeed with their business even if they do not receive the grant.’

Another way volunteers helped build the economic resilience of the communities they worked in is through the creation of support networks, where marginalised groups, such as young people and women, support each other through networking schemes and peer learning events.  This will also cultivate a supportive and safe space for idea and business creation.

Words by Jessica Rowbury (Communications officer)

Photographs by Thalia Aboutabeb

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