Despite 22-year-old Mohammed Yousif holding a BA in computer science he was still battling unemployment, like many other young Yemenis. Mohammed had little choice but to depend on his family, whose limited income was already stretched. ‘I was feeling like a burden on my family and with the outbreak of war it became impossible for me to find a job. I was so desperate that I thought of even joining one of the armed groups just to get a monthly salary. This is what most of the youth my age do.’
SPARK’s UNDP-funded Youth Economic Empower Project (YEEP), implemented in partnership with Vision for Development, aims to give young people like Mohammed the opportunity to channel their skills, experiences and knowledge, in spite of the ongoing conflict. ‘The project came and saved my life’ Mohammed expressed. SPARK’s YEEP initiative provided Mohammed with further skills and training to enable him to start his own business. In November 2015 Mohammed launched ‘The King of Strawberries.’ He made use of the fertile land in his area to grow strawberries and tomatoes to sell to his local community, which provided him with a stable monthly income. The business is now developing as Mohammed has been able to increase his sales. What makes his business different is the use of plastic tunnels to increase his harvest and improve the quality. Mohammed’s customers include a local ice-cream shop in Taiz which turns his local strawberries into a tasty summer treat.
Mohammed has great aspirations for his business, which he hopes to expand in the coming months. ‘I’m very glad to have my own business. I know that the income I am earning is still small, but I believe that I can expand my business further. That way I can have a family and depend on myself,’ said Mohammed. ‘The best thing about having a business is the freedom I have with time while the biggest challenge was accessing the capital I needed. But it makes me proud is to have my own business with no need for support from anyone.’
What is your personal ambition?
My personal ambition is to have my own business with a large enough income which enables me to support myself through my own difficulties without the help of a development project.
What impact do you see your business making?
A monthly income made from my surplus of vegetables which I can sell in the area. Also exploitation the environmental sources such as the soil, animal dung, water ponds, rain water and saving the fresh vegetables for the community.
How do you see the future of your business?
It is a successful project whereas now we are planting strawberry and tomato without any need to import vegetables and fruits at an expensive cost. Also harnessing the rain water and being able to spend my free time in doing beneficial things for my family.