On this rainy day, Hamidou Traore, an agricultural entrepreneur in Tambacounda region, is busy. The young man cultivates local seeds on a large scale: groundnuts, maize, cowpeas and cassava. His laughing eyes reveal the pride and emotion he feels, as five years ago his life was very different.
He was the owner of a large shop in his village, Koar (Tambacounda Region) when he decided to join his brothers in Europe. The young man, full of hope, wished to succeed professionally by crossing the Mediterranean.
After passing through Mali, he managed, not without difficulty, to reach Libya. He was working as a baker when he was tricked by a smuggler who promised him to reach Europe. In reality, Hamidou finds himself sequestered and subjected to all sorts of violence, abuse and torture.
Having no news from his family and weakened by the inhuman treatment he is given, Hamidou sinks into desperation: "I regretted having left my village. In Libya, I was already dead, but God wanted me to live."
After a year, the young man was miraculously freed by his torturers and managed to contact IOM. He decided to return to Senegal under the EU-IOM assisted voluntary return and reintegration initiative.
When he arrived in Koar, Hamidou thought he would find the peace of mind he had before his departure. Unfortunately, he had to face the disapproving attitudes of his relatives: "With all the trauma I had experienced in Libya, I was also rejected by my family. Even my wife went home two weeks after my return, bringing the children with her," he says.
In order to recharge his energy, Hamidou goes to the village elders under the palaver tree whenever he has the opportunity. It is an essential place of information where all the important decisions are taken. These moments of discussion help him to overcome the rejection and to rebuild himself little by little.
Hamidou also receives home visits from representatives of the IOM sub-regional office in Tambacounda. In order to help him overcome his trauma and find a place in his community, psychosocial support is provided to Hamidou. IOM also organises mediation and exchange sessions between the young man and his parents. This regular support allows him to regain self-confidence and improve his family relations.
The financial support he receives from IOM enables Hamidou to reopen his general food shop and regain his place in the community. "This shop works better than the one I had before I left. With the money I saved, I was able to fence my cassava field and buy farming equipment. Now, with my three plots of land and my shop, I can support my family and give work to some of the young people in my area," explains Hamidou.
In 2022, Hamidou participated in technical trainings in agribusiness as well as in incubation and networking activities, supported under the project “Consolidation of achievements in reintegration of returnees to Senegal through integrated support to micro and small enterprises” funded by the Czech Republic and implemented by IOM. With twenty other young returnees from Tambacounda, he was supported to promote the creation of productive and sustainable economic opportunities.
The entrepreneur also receives support from IOM to participate in the International Fair of Agriculture and Animal Resources and the Green Job Fair, organised in Dakar and Tambacounda. "These events showed me that entrepreneurship is the path I want to take to shine. The contacts I made will allow me to strengthen my ties with entrepreneurs like myself," says Hamidou.
Hamidou does not intend to stop there, he is determined to become a successful entrepreneur and serve as role model for for Senegalese youth.