Haramaya University launched Agricultural and Rural Innovation Incubation Hub (ARIHUB) and trained its first intake of trainees on Entrepreneurship and Agribusiness Development at Haramaya University (ARIHUB) for 30 Local Youths from December 20-23, 2020 at Rare Training Center.

During the opening ceremony of the training, Dr. Zelalem Bekeko, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, explain the importance of training and incubation centers to build local capacities and innovation and promote agricultural commercialization. He added that such initiatives not only will enhance the innovation and entrepreneurial capacities of students and local youth groups but also improve farmers’ livelihood through demand-driven technology development and incubation.

According to Dr.Getachew Shambel, the organizer of the training and principal investigator and coordinator for student and local youth training at ARIHUB, building local capacities and innovation is a core pillar of agricultural transformation and promoting empowerment and a key responsibility of research universities such as Haramaya University are tasked with.

Dr. Getachew added that the ARIHUB model of entrepreneurship is the first of its kind at Haramaya University. The ARIHUB will serve as a laboratory to experiment and incubate innovation, business ideas, and agricultural technologies by students, local youth groups, and researchers.

It was highlighted that the ARIHUB is not the same as the conventional entrepreneurship model. Unlike conventional entrepreneurship training, the ARIHUB model at HU integrates entrepreneurship training with innovation incubation and Multi-stakeholder Innovation Platforms (MSIPs). The use of MSIPs in the AIH is to promote co-learning, mentorship, identify emerging needs and relevant technologies to address expressed need of the local people and other stakeholders, and provide opportunities to tap into existing strong business networks.

The innovation incubation facilitated by the MSIPs will allow trainees to experiment with potential business ideas at the innovation incubation hub. Trainees who passed the first stage of the entrepreneurship training will be invited to participate in an open call for a small seed grant. Trainees that passed the first and second stage and admitted to the Center will be given the opportunity to work with subject matter expert mentors/supervisors who will regularly coach and monitor their progress, according to information obtained. They will also receive coaching from multiple stakeholders and partners, participate in specialized /tailor-made training to execute their business plan, and receive soft skills and personal mastery training.

The project is coordinated by Dr. Getachew Shambel and colleagues from the School of Rural Development and Agricultural Innovations (RDAI)) with support from RUFORUM, MASTERCARD foundation, and Haramaya University. The coordinator emphasized that the ARIHUB initiatives and the youth training could not have been realized without the support and encouragement of Dr. Jemal Yousuf, President of Haramaya University from early inception to realization of the initiative. He also thanked the research office for its unwavering support to the center.

The project is designed to enhance agricultural students and local youth groups’ entrepreneurial competencies and innovativeness through strengthening and supporting the development of innovative agricultural enterprises. It is mentioned that the ARIHUB particularly aims at supporting selected students in the College of Agriculture and other schools of Haramaya University and targeted local youth groups to design, develop, and implement their innovative agri-business ideas through successive training, interactive coaching, mentoring, and monitoring activities provided at the innovation incubation hub. The final output is to promote innovativeness, self-employment, and build positive entrepreneurial skills and attitude.

The three day training titled “Entrepreneurship and Business Development for Local Youth groups” is part of the commitment to enhance innovation and the entrepreneurial capacity of local youth through a step-by-step approach to developing a business idea and its successful implementation. The first round of training was organized for a total of 30 local youths who are carefully selected based on key indicators. Of the total participants, more than 75% of them were female youth. During the training, participants were enabled to develop a real business plan and a personal action plan. It is said that the business plan will allow the trainees to apply for a small seed money competition (which will be shortly announced by the Center) to experiment with their business ideas at ARIHUB.

The three-day training came to an end through a certificate award and motivational speech by Professor Jeylan Woliye, Vice president for Administration and Student Affairs. Professor Jeylan addressed the trainees on the importance of knowledge and entrepreneurship to tackling the growing youth unemployment in the region. He encouraged the participants to clearly set their goals and to put lessons gained during the training to practice.