Agriculture is and has been Uganda’s leading economic activity for over a century and still remains a leading commercial activity with the potential to improve livelihoods and lifestyles.
Uganda is known in the world for being one of the countries with the youngest populations. Youth participation is key to bolster Uganda’s socio-economic growth.
What the Youth are Saying
By the absence of access to land, coupled with a deficit of capital, the youth find themselves in a position of great difficulty to join the agricultural sector. Agriculture has not only seemingly become less profitable but it is now also expensive to undertake. This has led to a lack of manpower in the sector.
Most of the youth have fled the villages to urban centers on a quest for casual jobs, relegating agriculture to their parents. Even the few who are still engaged in agriculture envy their peers in the cities. There is constant supply of examples of youth selling off their land inheritance, parents selling off land to help their youth raise capital to start businesses such as motorcycle transport commonly known as “Boda Boda” in Uganda. Many of the youth are drawn to it because of its relatively low one-time initial investment and its ability to bring in daily income. Climate change also has an impact on the decline of youths involved in Agriculture. There is clear evidence of losses in agricultural enterprises due to prolonged droughts, unpredictable rainfall patterns and emanation of pests and diseases that have adversely caused immense losses in the sector.
However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, most youths who had abandoned agriculture and taken refuge in urban centers could not cope with the high cost of living and have returned to the rural areas.
Agriterra Uganda Intervention
There is an inherent need to be proactive to restore agriculture’s glory and confidence in it as an economic activity. To this end, Agriterra Uganda Ltd together with Uganda National Young Farmers Association (UNYFA), an umbrella association of young farmers in Uganda, has been organising youth exchange visits in cooperatives of NYEKORAC, ALITO JOINT, SEBEI SACCO, KISORO UNION and P’KWI under the CRAFT Project. In 2020, a total of 72 youths have been engaged in exchanges to take adaptation and mitigation actions to enhance effective participation in climate change policy decision-making processes.
The youth participants learned about local seed multiplication, how to use smart farming techniques to optimize output of the land, getting access to drought, pest and disease resistant seed varieties, crop insurance, post harvest handling techniques and converting plant wastes such as sunflower stokes into briquettes.
The methodology used during the youth exchanges has majorly been, observation of processes in a classical transaction, plenary Q&A sessions, demonstration of processes and application of climate smart technologies and 1-on-1 discussions between youths in the same value chains.
The exchanges have so far generated overwhelming interest and enthusiasm among the youths. Currently, some of the youth have formed groups under individual cooperatives for collective production. They are hiring land from landlords and telephone farmers who may not be utilizing all their land. Some of the youths producer groups are in the process of signing Memorandums of Understanding with Cooperatives and SME's for market linkages. The youths are also discussing amongst themselves on policy gaps in the sector and proposing topics to UNYFA for Lobby and Advocacy purposes.
It is true that the journey of bringing the youth back into agriculture is a long one, but it is important that we start somewhere and more importantly, see it through to the end. We are committed to facilitating a growth of youth involvement in Agriculture. Their return spells out a good chance for us to finally realize middle income status.