By Felix Oketcho
Although agriculture is the back bone of Uganda’s economy, the youth have neglected the sector for white collar jobs while others travelled abroad for nonprofessional jobs to make ends meet.
However, farmers under their umbrella body Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) are still convinced that youth contribution to the sector would increase food production and attract external funding to address youth employment crisis.
In recent analysis from UNFFE indicates that youth participation into agriculture is still low despite Uganda having young population. UNFFE Director for Agribusiness Kisambira Peter maintains that agriculture is the most profitable venture youth should embrace to solve youth unemployment.
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics about 700,000 youth graduate annually but remain unemployed because of lack of jobs despite government interventions like emyooga initiatives aimed at job creation ..
Kenneth Katungisa UNFFE Chief Executive Officer says they have partnered with Vi Agroforestry with funding from European Union to implement apiculture and solar Green Livelihood Youth Project (GLY) in Adjumani and Arua to address unemployment rate among the youth saying youth unemployment so high and has been further aggravated by the influx of refugees and asylum seekers.
“The influx of refugees potentially created tensions in the area as there is perceived competition for resources and opportunities with host communities. Through this intervention we seek to contribute to Improved Livelihoods of young people disaggregated by gender in Arua and Adjumani districts through creation of green employment options and strengthening youth governance, advocacy and decision-making capacities at local and national levels,” he said.
Apiculture and solar are premised on the long-term experience from sustainable land management interventions which indicate that the selected interventions are critical conservative practices that do not only enhance land productivity but have ready markets and high returns on investment.
According to Katungisa the project objectives are to increase farm and off-farm green employment options for economic empowerment of female and male youths through sustainable apiculture, solar energy businesses and access to affordable financial services.
The project also aims to strengthen capacity of youth organisations to influence decision-making processes at local and national levels through the adoption of progressive governance systems.
Outlining the major challenges, he said youth unemployment in these district is fuelled by low interest in agriculture that guarantees ready employment and mmismatch of skills relevant to the workplace by the young people.
He also singled out lack of supportive business environment as major challenge which contributes to high attrition rates of youth business owing to lack of business development and supportive services, lack of requisite entrepreneurship skills and lack of access to affordable financeamong others.
UNFFE director for Agribusiness Kisambira Peter called upon government to adopt equity in planning toAdopt equity in planning to cater for the unique needs of youth in agricultural development and resilient livelihood saying adopting equity planning shall ensure that youth have a fair share of productive resources critical to attainment of their livelihood needs to address current youth unemployment.
He also suggested strengthening youth inclusive financial services and Investment in youth mentorship and incubation programs to enhance youth resilience and business sustainability.
”This requires strong consideration of equity in agricultural planning; inclusive policies and processes that enable youth to meet their development needs, have dignified livelihoods and make a significant contribution to the community and national development,” Kisambira said
Meanwhile, inclusivity of youth in development programs and decision-making processes, ensures that youth are part of the decision-making processes on matters that directly affect them,” he added.
In a similar intervention, UNFFE has organized the first-ever national agriculture education show in Jinja from the 8th to 12th of June where different technology exhibitions, and innovation competitions will be showcased to interest young people in agriculture to find opportunities.
“The National Agricultural education show is designed as a learning platform for learners at different levels, a platform for showcasing innovative technologies that suit the prevailing farming conditions in the country, a platform for unveiling trending agricultural research and as well a national policy advocacy platform. Most recently, it has hosted youth competitions on innovative youth ideas in agriculture and school debates,” Kisambira explained.
He added that the show intends to Interest young people in agriculture through organizing, shows, exhibition, innovation competitions and writing competitions in line with agriculture, train youths in practical agribusiness planning and management and also create skilled, technical and hands-on youthful farm managers with the appropriate skills and the right attitude to drive the Agro-industrialization effort
Kisambira however urged the government to invest more into the agriculture sector so that youth can agriculture profitable ventures.
“We appreciate government on different initiatives aimed at poverty alleviation and job creation however programmes like emyooga and parish development models should have components of agribusiness so that youth find it profitable to venture into the sector,” Kisambira stressed.
He also asked government to supplement them scale up their youth agribusiness trainings and projects country wide.
According to Kisambira UNFFE survives on trade show collections as source of income and donations from European Union. The trade show contributes 60% while external funders 40% to farmers source of income.
National Agricultural Show has been going on for the last 27 years and it is the biggest and leading agriculture exhibition in Uganda and East Africa with over 1000 exhibitors showcasing different products and services geared at improving agriculture in Uganda.
The show sets a platform for knowledge benchmarking, business and market opportunities to both exhibitors and show goers. It gives farmers opportunity to attend agronomical, technological, industrial and entrepreneurial trainings.
Agricultural show has attracted many exhibitors from all corners of the country as well as neighboring countries within the East African Community.
“We estimate up to 2,500 farmers and 10,000 show-goers from across the 4 corners of the country to attend the show daily. UNFFE’s network brings up to 7.5 million farmer households, 150 farmers’ organizations from 115 districts and up to 15 foreign nations participating in the Show” Kisambira explained.
“The era of subsistence agriculture must end. UNFFE will drive a new era of farm productivity change that will integrate a smallholder farmer into the global agricultural value chains. We have also involved youth into our projects to drive technology generation, transfer and adoption as the cornerstones of agriculture modernization “he added.
Kisambira believes that this partnership will promote the use of science, technology and precise information to empower smallholder farmers in decision making to increase productivity, run farms as business, penetrate markets, bargain collectively and attain farm profitability.
The Jinja Show also brings forth a wave of new technologies at display. Local and international exhibitors arrived from continental leader such as -Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa, to come and show case of their technologies to the Ugandan markets
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