Building the Ideal Mentoring Relationship in Crisis
“Mentoring is a relationship between two human beings,” Emilio Odong, mentor, Uganda
According to the Uganda Business Climate Index, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, businesses in agriculture, especially in the northern and western regions, experienced the largest decline in activity with 76% reporting severe decline due to containment measures such as transport restrictions, quarantine, social distancing and ban on weekly markets, which hindered farmers’ access to input and output markets, thus undermining their productive capacities.
With support from the Argidius Foundation, ICCO Cooperation in partnership with Youth Business International (YBI) are linking 300 youth agri-entrepreneurs in Nebbi district to experienced agro entrepreneurs through the ‘High Flyers’ project mentorship program in Uganda. The partnerships continue to strengthen their capacity to build resilience that can enable their businesses to grow and expand even during crises.
Face to Face meetings and Whatsapp
Through a two-day experience sharing platform in Nebbi district from 8th to 9th September 2020, experts from YBI supported by ICCO were able to coach both mentors and mentees in methods of adapting their professional interactions to the challenges and restrictions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through virtual presentations and practical sessions, mentors and mentees were able to highlight some activities that have been constrained since the onset of government restrictions, such as, regular face to face meetings and practical on-farm mentoring sessions.
They also emphasized the increasing importance of phones as a primary communication tool since the onset of the pandemic. Mentees highlighted the use of whatsapp as a means to share pictures of their farms with mentors for guidance, and calls and texts as a regular update mechanism that spans time and space during emergencies.
Overall, the need for a strategic blend of phone and face-to-face interactions was highlighted as the best way forward in maintaining a mentoring relationship that respects both the restrictions of the new times, and the needs of the young entrepreneurs for guidance to establish and grow their agribusinesses.
The ‘High Flyers’ program in northern Uganda seeks to assure, accelerate and enhance young
entrepreneurs’ successful transition from micro enterprises to small businesses and establish a
secure pathway to growth from the often precarious early stages.