I’m going to throw it out there…I’m a farmer groupie. I thrive on fresh, local veggies, getting knee-deep in the dirt, and seeing the fruits of my labor.
So, when I found out I would be visiting an innovative farm program in Bensonville, the capital of Montserrado County in Liberia, suffice it to say I was a little excited.
This farm is one of the sites where members of the Community Youth Network Program (CYNP), a humanitarian youth organization in Liberia, learn an array of agricultural skills, farming techniques and animal husbandry.
Founded in 2007, CYNP was created to increase youth participation in a broad range of issues that affect them -– everything from health and agriculture to good governance and youth empowerment.
Though the primary goal of the program is to equip youth with agriculture skills -– and therefore a steady income and job security -– CYNP also promotes education and empowerment for young women and provides counseling and support for youth, including ex-combatants. If CYNP sounds familiar, it’s because it was a runner up in last year’s ONE Award. From my tour of the grounds to hearing the stories of the students themselves, including Junior Toe, the founder of CYNP and an ex-combatant himself, it’s not surprising this incredible organization made it all the way to the final round.
Like many countries in Africa, Liberia is an extremely young country –- in fact, more than 50 percent of its population is under the age of 20. Due to the years of strife, youth in the country face a crippling array of challenges, most notably high unemployment and low skills, an issue that the government has made a priority to remedy, particularly as they head into presidential elections this fall. CYNP has also become a major player in equipping these young people with marketable skills that will not only set them on the path to recovery but on a sustainable pathway out of poverty.