The United Nation Development Programme hosted the 2021 virtual launch of the Youth Innovation Challenge on Promoting Young Entrepreneurship in Agriculture and Handicraft Sectors on Friday, 28th May 2021. Under the theme of ‘Enhancing Social and Economic Opportunities for Youth in Lao PDR,’ the initiative has been generously supported by Russia.
Co-hosted by the Lao Youth Union, Lao Women’s Union, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and UNDP, this challenge aims to support innovative project ideas to promote modern and green agriculture and Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) handicraft. Despite low agricultural and handicraft productivities and level of products available, UNDP identified the main problem to be the lack of information and channel of connection between producers and markets to achieve fair pricing; capacity of adapting technologies into product and promotional support; and inadequate awareness on value of local products.
On behalf of the Lao Youth Union, Mr. Somkiao Kingsada, Director General of the International Relations, Cooperation Department, expressed his gratitude to all partners for enabling the availability of a platform to link youths with their potential. He further commented, "as one of the five Thematic areas of the National Youth Strategic development, the acces of the country’s youths to such an engagement is even more crucial. It is the time of digitalization and the time for their skills to be further developed."
On this basis, UNDP is seeking to support 12 successful project ideas that will improve and develop agriculture and handicraft sectors across the country in the following areas: (1) Sustainable Models and Solutions to Agriculture and Handicraft Sector, (2) Technology adapted to SMART and SME handicraft entrepreneur, and (3) Innovation in marketing strategy and public outreach.
Ms. Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Resident Representative remarked, "as the young population grows rapidly, at least 80-100 thousand jobs must be provided yearly, we consulted with our partners prior to this initiative on how we could best assist these youths who will be entering the workforce. Very rarely does it happen that one person comes with a brilliant idea, but it is how many minds come together to truly make a difference."
Over 130 participants from 18 provinces across the country were present at the event. During the launch webinar, which was also streamed through UNDP’s Facebook Page, participants had the opportunity to increase their understanding of entrepreneurship in agriculture and handicraft sectors. Additionally, through the networking opportunities created by the event, they were able to establish connections among one another and given ideas about how they can improve their capacity to become a new breed of young innovator. Moreover, among the participants, successful entrepreneurs from Her Works, Recycled Products by Disabled People Handicraft, Panyanivej Organic Farm, and Meuang Lao Food were some of the well-known names the industry were invited to be discussion panel to exchange their experience and encourage youth in the topic “Innovation Opportunities in Agriculture and Handicraft sectors.”
The 12 successful projects will receive a challenge prize of 22,500,000 Lao KIP (equivalent to 2,500 USD) to support the implementation of their proposal. Furthermore, the young entrepreneurs will be matched with a business development support and mentorship programme to enhance their skills, through attendance of expert lectures and workshops by various accomplished young entrepreneurs and regional Youth Co:Lab representatives. Activities will also include visits to agriculture and handicraft sites, and discussions of potential areas of cooperation between UNDP and partners in strengthening agriculture and handicraft sectors. At the end of project, they will be provided with a chance to participate in an exchange programme with the Russian Federation or the regional Youth Co:Lab.
The Youth Innovation Challenge will be organized under a new theme each year. This year’s innovation call has been one of the leading platforms to gather lao youths from 18 provinces across Lao PDR to provide a portfolio of solutions that could be scaled to provide sustainable solutions to agriculture and handicraft and further contribute to the creation of employment for youth, especially for women and improve income generation opportunities in the sectors.
For more information, please contact: Ms. Aksonethip Somvorachit, UNDP Communications Analyst, 020 5502 1550, firstname.lastname@example.org