Hammers to solar panels: Vocational training to empower youth in Guinea-Bissau

Hammers to solar panels: Vocational training to empower youth in Guinea-Bissau

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ADPP believes that the people are the decisive force in creating development. The people carrying Guinea-Bissau’s development must be trained and equipped with the tools to transform their dreams for a better world into practical actions that make a difference. ADPP’s main objective is to establish and implement development projects through which this can happen, within agriculture and food security, production at large, health and education, extending to emergency aid and environmental protection. The Vocational School, one of ADPP’s flagship achievements, trains youths in academic and technical skills so that they can be employed by established companies or can start their own enterprises. These skills most recently include solar energy, electricity, and rural plumbing/pumps.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and while its legal economy depends primarily on farming and fishing, trafficking of narcotics remains the most lucrative trade. Since independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced considerable political and military upheaval that has included coups, mutinies, and civil wars. In 2005, former President Vieira was re-elected president but was assassinated in 2009. Malam Bacai Sanha was elected in an emergency election held in June 2009. The country is currently divided into 9 administrative regions and is governed by a mix of civil law (influenced by the early French Civil Code) and customary law. Sixty-five per cent of the population lives in poverty and 20% live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than US$1 per day. The average income of the people in the country is €500 per year. The rate of illiteracy is 63%. Guineans are composed of many ethnic groups, primarily African 99% (including Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, and Papel 7%). European and mixed race ethnic groups account for less than 1% of the population. ADPP began its work in Guinea Bissau in the early 1980s and has remained working in the country since its start 30 years ago, despite unrest and war. In addition to the Vocational School in Bissorã, ADPP operates Farmers’ Clubs in Oio, a “Child Aid” community development program in Bissorã, clothes and shoes sales, and HIV/AIDS prevention and vocational training of vulnerable youth. In its 30 years in Guinea-Bissau, an estimated 200,000 people have benefited from its projects, directly or indirectly.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The training combines theoretical and practical elements, including College subjects and general knowledge. Classes utilize tools from blackboards to GPS systems to train the students, educating for market-based needs. The skills training takes center stage, and also here a fruitful exchange between studies in the classroom and practical exercises in the workshops or in the fields is fundamental. The trainings are in subjects that are both new (renewable energy) and those that are more traditional but equally essential. Periods of attachment in neighboring commercial companies, farms, or institutions are a valuable part of the program, where the reality of working life blends with what the students have learned at the School. After completion, the students enter into their productive lives, still accompanied by the School in the start up phase. The center is a boarding school and the students take part in operating the institution together with their teachers. Planning, preparation and implementation of tasks within a certain area, and the meaning of personal responsibility are some of the capacities that are trained. Culture, sports and a healthy lifestyle add to the personal development of the students. Their training is therefore a full-time life training so that the students can be the catalyst of both their own development and that of their country. The School also provides training for youth who have completed their primary education or secondary but whose family members are no longer able to continue to fund their studies.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The School offers holistic training in photovoltaic solar energy, electricity, rural plumbing and pumps, commerce, agriculture, and construction, skills needed in the local market. The School thereby empowers individuals from rural, impoverished areas to gain access to long-term employment opportunities. Students complete academic subjects such as math, Portuguese, geography, biology and physics while they study for their technical certificates. The curriculum offers time for sports activities and competitions to keep the students healthy physically and mentally. The training program exposes the students to real world work experience in their vocations. This is done in two ways: 1: At the college the students are actively involved in production work. The agriculture students use the College garden and fields to produce during their practical lessons. The commerce students run the College shop, which sells secondhand clothes and shoes. The construction students participated in the construction of the recent school expansion. The students in renewable energies and plumbing assist in ADPP’s development projects. 2. Students gain work experience through industrial attachments. The students are attached to companies in their different areas of study and work under the supervision of the company authorities and their teachers. Students also complete courses in HIV/AIDS awareness and carry out campaigns in the community to educate the people about the epidemic and other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. With the skills gained, the students are empowered to become entrepreneurs, creating their own small businesses, or to secure employment with a local company. The majority of graduates secure employment upon graduation; and nearly 100% of graduates either secure employment or continue with their studies, a clear demonstration of the School's success in propelling the students forward to collaborate in the development of Guinea-Bissau.
About You
Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo ná Guiné-Bissau. (ADPP Guiné-Bissau)
About You
First Name


Last Name


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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo ná Guiné-Bissau. (ADPP Guiné-Bissau)

Organization Country

, BS

Country where this project is creating social impact

, OI

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

ADPP is a member of the Humana Federation, which is comprised of 36 national development aid organizations working in 43 countries on five continents. Humana began as a group of friends who travelled in the developing world in the 70s to learn about the situation of the world were horrified at the people’s suffering. Returning to Denmark, they began to focus their dismay at the suffering caused by apartheid and collected clothing, blankets, and whatever other useful materials they could gather and sent the goods to Zimbabwean refugees living in refugee camps in Mozambique. They organized vocational training courses and, with funding from the international agencies, invited refugees to train in Denmark. When Zimbabwe gained independence, these refugees returned home to assist with reconstruction, reconciliation, and resettlement. The Humana teachers were invited to Zimbabwe to build a college for returning refugee children. They accepted the challenge and built their first college. Since then, Humana has grown into a global network that reaches more than 11.5 million people annually.
Lack of opportunities for youth in Guinea Bissau to be trained professionally to earn a living and participate in the economic and social development of the country, the wish to contribute to halt the emigration from the country side to the town and to other countries and the experiences from other African countries, the positive effects of such type of education and the wish by the government inspired HPP/ADPP Guinea Bissau to do the same in Guinea Bissau.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Since opening in 1997, the Vocational School has graduated 834 young men and women in basic electricity, manual water pumps, solar energy, civil engineering, commerce and administration, and agriculture. A study of the graduates in the first 5 years revealed that 50% found jobs, 10% continued their studies, 25% were unemployed and seeking employment, and 15% had emigrated to other countries in search of better living conditions. In 2010, 56% of graduates found employment. Of the most recent graduates in 2011, 53% are working but 89% are either working or continuing their studies: 12% are engaged in the informal economy, 47% in the formal economy, and 41% are continuing their studies. The College also currently trains 138 children, between 14 and 20, in pre-vocational training. The school therefore has a proven success in empowering the majority of its students to find employment or to create their own employment.
As a result of the students studying water pumps, 1,000 family members gaining access to potable water in Bissorã, Oio Region, and in Sector Canchungo, Region Cacheu. The students graduating in civil engineering have built 4 houses and worked in 3 areas to provide decent living conditions for 160 households in the area. Two area-wide cleaning campaigns have been made in the hospital in Bissorã Sector and in the local market. In addition, gender empowerment has been essential for the School: 189 girls out of the total 825 students graduated by the end of 2010. In one of the newest courses in solar energy technology, 64% of the students are women. In 2009 the whole construction course team participated in a social responsibility action in Djabicunda, Bafata region to rebuild the houses for families, who had lost their homes in a fire.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

The School hopes to reach more students with new courses, the curriculums of which have already been created. A sewing course of 11 months will be targeted at girls and housewives of all ages. This course will empower women with the training, skills, and materials needed to become professional, seamstress entrepreneurs. New courses in carpentry and motor mechanics will enable graduates to begin work directly after completion of their training. Courses in re-training and in master degrees will also be offered to ensure that the graduates of the School have the same training and certification as other individuals from other countries who secure employment in Guinea-Bissau, assuring the competiveness of the graduates.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The School requires funding to operate and has successfully overcome this burden through the combination of self-funding through the sale of donated secondhand and financial support of its partners. It will continue to utilize these resources and will also reach out to more private sponsors to fund its programs and its students. It will ensure that the fees to attend the courses remain low and affordable and will provide scholarships to students without means.
Basic literacy and other educational skills are requirements for the courses. The School will continue to assure that students are not dissuaded from their dreams by a lack of a quality education, in particular as many students come from some of the poorest, most rural areas of the country. The School will continue to train students in basic skills to ensure they have the foundation necessary for success.
The School will ensure that each student has the individual attention that s/he requires through the promotion of collaboration and solidarity among the students and the teachers. It will also continue to ensure that it has the support of the local communities by engaging families and local leaders in the school, its projects, and its development.
The School will also continue to strive to include women and empower them, to ensure that they too benefit from the opportunities offered. ADPP will also continue to admit girls with poor economic conditions without fees.

Tell us about your partnerships

ADPP builds on the understanding that progress and development must be created from people to people. The driving force will always be the people involved in the issue at hand, but they need partners to succeed. Partners who can provide the financing of development projects must contribute with funds, alongside government departments, local interest groups, civil society and individual activists. Partners who can organize and implement the programs leading to development must be there on the ground, among the people and with the people, to make the development happen. Thus, a powerful trio can be established: the principal partner, who is the people themselves - the funding partner - and the implementing partner. Organizations in the Humana network (of which ADPP is a member) operate in 19 countries in Europe and North America, among them some of the world's richest. In these countries, individuals donate their secondhand clothing, the Humana partners sort these clothing, and it is either sold directly on the international market or donated to member organizations in Africa for re-sale.
ADPP’s current partners include:
Global Fund Round 7 through the National Aids Council
UNICEF in WASH programs in Oio Region and Education in different regions
European Union
Japanese Embassy in Dakar
PATC/Denmark through DANIDA UFF in Denmark
French Embassy
GAIA Movement
PRESAR / Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development
World Bank / PEASA program

Explain your selections

Foundations - Private foundations such as PATC/Denmark through DANIDA UFF
National government - The national governments of France abroad (the French Embassy in Guinea-Bissau) and Spain through its development arm (AECID)
Other – sale of secondhand clothing in Europe and North America; World Bank; European Union

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

The School will expand its offerings as described above to provide training in a greater range of skills that are employable in Guinea-Bissau. ADPP has recently introduced new, high technology means to better track the development of water and energy sources through GPS technology. It will continue to utilize these essential resources and will train students to be the individuals tracking these vital resources. In addition, it will expand its trainings to have greater reach to those in hard-to-reach areas through mobile phone technology and distance learning. The expertise that the School is quickly gaining in renewable energies is currently being transferred to key national stakeholders; this expertise sharing will be expanded to include more students, so that the skills are ensured to reach all corners of the country.
The School will also gain the support of new partners to implement these programs, to supply these new inputs, and to provide the training and education to a greater number of students. It will continue to expand its data collection and analysis to ensure that the trainings are well-suited to the markets and that graduates continue to find employment. In addition, the School will continue to expand its reach to women by not only offering a wider range of courses, but also by providing more funding opportunities to women and through education and sensitization of communities through ADPP’s development work.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Lack of access to information and networks


Restricted access to new markets

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

The College trains students in the skills necessary for success, be they as basic or advance. It will train students in fields that are in demand in Guinea-Bissau, ensuring that the skills match the market needs.
The College provides students with up-to-date information and knowledge, through its excellent teachers and administration and through its professional resources that include a library and computer center.
The College collects data on market needs locally and trains individuals and communities in how best to connect to those markets. It will continue to provide this training in all of its courses.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

The College will enhance its impact and direct its students to other sectors and development through new courses in the next 2-5 years. ADPP is a current member of many nat'l and internat'l networks, including Humana, Grupo de Água e Saneamento (headed/organized by UNICEF; gathers actors in the water and sanitation programs in GB), and PLACOM (a platform for coordinating national NGOs). ADPP has strong relationships with the government, including the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Health, Energy and Natural Resources, Family, Poverty&Social Solidarity, and Economy&Planning. Through these relationships (meetings, seminars, project implementation, etc.) the College will immediately and in the future influence other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Collaborations have expanded the school’s courses (AECID, French Embassy, and the EU). Women have been empowered (French Embassy), FUNUAP (Fundo de Nações Unidos para as Populações) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) through UNICEF worked to improve drinking water and sanitation and construction / rehabilitation of schools and training of vulnerable youth, AECID is currently supporting ADPP to improve the efficiency of family farms, food security, level of wellbeing and health of 2,000 families, and PATC/Denmark (Project Advice and Training Center–an organization under DANIDA) is working with 600 farmers. And ADPP’s work to prevent HIV/AIDS has also been expanded: thru participation in Global Fund Round 7 for GB through the Nat'l Aids Council.