Reaching young people with old technology: Meet the FarmQuest candidates!

*Above: Mamadou Diarra, contestant on FarmQuest, is interviewed by Fatogoma Sanogo of Radio Fanaka.

Diakaridia Fomba raises chickens in the idyllic village of Dien, in Mali, West Africa. Newborn chicks scurry around his traditional chicken coop while guinea fowl and sheep mill about his property.

But farming hasn’t come easy to the 35-year-old.

As a teen, Fomba showed interest in raising poultry. But he became restless and left Dien for several years. He gravitated to a larger town and then the city, where he survived doing various odd jobs. But he became discouraged because his financial situation wasn’t improving. He decided to return home, put down roots, and do what he knows best. Raise poultry.

Fomba’s struggle for sustainable employment is not unique. Employment is the number one priority for youth in Africa[1]. While economic hardships and employment opportunities are a push/pull factor for many rural migrants like Fomba, unemployment is actually more widespread among youth living in urban areas.[2]

Fomba is a contestant on FarmQuest, an innovative reality radio series that aims to show rural youth in Mali that farming can provide them with a sustainable livelihood. And because of radio’s widespread reach and accessibility in Africa, many more just like Fomba will hear his story, and that of the other five young farmers competing to become Mali’s “best new farmer.”

This year, International Youth Day (August 12), focuses on the issue of youth migration. So we thought we would take this opportunity to introduce you the six FarmQuest candidates and give you an update on how radio and farming are helping them build a vibrant farming business at home.

News from the field

One of the cornerstones of the FarmQuest project is ensuring that each candidate receives support and mentorship throughout their journey, while also learning the necessary skills needed to continue their farming business after the series is over. Each contestant has been matched with a local mentor with extensive farming experience. Each has received a loan of $500 to jumpstart their new farming business and been linked with relevant input suppliers in order to access essentials like seeds, timber, and livestock. The contestants are currently in the process of writing a business plan to pay back the initial $500 loan.

The first episode of the series is complete, chronicling each individual’s hopes and challenges in building a new business. Read more about them all below, and stay tuned for more updates on FarmQuest!

Meet Mali’s “best new farmer” hopefuls

Candidate: Kafune Mariko
Gender: Female
Age: 20
Village: Tingole Banankabougou
Activity: Raising goats for milk and cheese production

More about Kafune: Kafune is a mother of two. Since her teens, she has wanted to raise goats or sheep, but didn’t have experience or animals of her own. Since getting involved with FarmQuest, Kafune has been given a female goat by her mentor, Alimata Diarra, and a billy goat by the village chief so that she can start breeding them. Alimata taught Kafune that goats breed every seven months and usually have two kids at a time. If Kafune buys another couple of females she could easily have ten goats within just over a year. (Kafune is the subject of a recent audio postcard. Read more.)

Candidate: Fanto Samake
Gender: Male
Age: 18
Village: Tingole Banankabougou
Activity: Raising cattle

More about Fanto: Fanto is an articulate young man. He attended high school, speaks French, and is highly motivated about raising livestock primarily for milk production. Fanto already helps his mentor, Bougou Coulibaly, in his field. Fanto’s mother has given him a cow to start his own herd.

Candidate: Hawa Doumbia
Gender: Female
Age: 27
Village: Dien
Activity: Peanut farming

More about Hawa: Hawa is a mother of four from a village on the outskirts of Bamako, Mali’s capital and largest city. She wanted to grow peanuts, but didn’t have the oxen and plough needed for this kind of agriculture. As a participant in FarmQuest, Hawa has access to credit, allowing her to buy an ox and plough. Her village chief was so excited about the idea of supporting women’s initiatives that he even granted Hawa more than two acres of land to start her farm.

Candidate: Diakaridia Fomba
Gender: Male
Age: 35
Village: Dien
Activity: Poultry farming

More about Diakaridia: Diakaridia is the oldest of the FarmQuest participants, but, like many young people, he’s still struggling to put down roots. As a teen, Fomba showed interest in raising poultry. But after a while he became restless and left Dien for several years. Fomba sought better opportunities in the city, where he survived doing various odd jobs. After a while, he became discouraged with his financial situation. He came to the conclusion that the only way for him to get ahead would be to return home and do what he knows best – raise poultry. While he already has a traditional chicken coop, FarmQuest will allow him to build a more modern one and expand his business.

Candidate: Mamadou Diarra
Gender: Male
Age: 26
Village: Ballan
Activity: Maize farming

More about Mamadou: Mamadou is a bachelor and has just returned to the region of Ballan. His local advisor is Mamoutou Diarra, an experienced maize farmer who has been teaching Mamadou about various aspects of planting, including the best period in which to sow corn after the rainy season is fully established.

Candidate: Salimata Traore
Gender: Female
Age: 32
Village: Wakoro
Activity: Market gardening (growing a variety of vegetables to feed the family and sell at the market)

More about Salimata: Salimata is a mother of four and has been constantly thwarted in her efforts to practice market gardening by her father-in-law, who feels that this activity would limit the time she devotes to planting, cultivating, and harvesting millet in the family fields. As a candidate on FarmQuest, Salimata is in a stronger position to start her own market garden project with help from her mentor, Minata Coulibaly, and moral support from the village women’s association.

[1] UN. (2011). Regional overview: youth in Africa. Retrieved from

[2] ILO and FAO. (2009). Food, agriculture and decent work. Retrieved from

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