When Bilel Azaza was 30 years old he launched El Baraka, a pistachio and almond plantation in the grasslands of the Gafsa region.
Bilel got the idea for his business a few years ago after speaking with a friend who had given up his job to start his own agribusiness. After doing some research and exploring the costs involved, Bilel decided this was also the best career path for him.
In 2010, Bilel graduated in IT in Monastir and setup a consultancy office with a study colleague in Sousse. However, after a few years he realized the IT industry was not for him and decided to return to Gafsa to start his own project. Whilst the region doesn’t offer many job prospects for IT graduates it has many opportunities in agriculture. With the support of his family, Bilel began investing his time in properly preparing the launch of an agricultural plantation.
“Most people often think of threats before identifying opportunities. If you only see the problems, you will never be able to move forward. It takes patience to succeed,” said Bilel.
In 2013, Bilel completed the CEFE training and joined the Association of Young Investors in Gafsa, which strengthened his networks in entrepreneurship and the agricultural sector. He also discovered the Mashrou3i program, organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation, through the HP LIFE facilitator of the region.
“What first surprised me was the strong support and positive attitude of the team,” said Bilel. “I took part in a face-to-face training from the HP LIFE e-Learning program in March 2017. This enabled me to gain new skills like sales techniques, learn how to promote product quality and also helped me to complete my business plan.”
“The group workshop itself is also very encouraging, it enables you to work as a team, to learn from others and to share experiences,” he said. “I made several friends and was able to strengthen my professional network. Today, we young entrepreneurs continue to help and support each other.”
Bilel recently submitted his application to drill a 120 meter well to the local authorities in order to get the water resources needed for the agribusiness. This is the last step that will ensure the viability of his pistachio and almond plantation. He has also already planted crops on an area of 15 hectares and is preparing additional land with a new plantation of 10 hectares.
“Today I work alone with the help of my brother, but as soon as the well is built, I hope to employ a dozen workers by my side.”