The panel session was moderated by Ms. Sanyu Rebecca and was composed of 6 experts from government, development partners, academia and youth. The panel discussion topic was, “the drivers for Youth led agricultural transformation for economic development”. Each panelist discussed the topic from their perspective and their working with young people in agriculture in Uganda.
3.1 Mr. Mwesigwa Bickie Isharaza, Deputy Chief of Party feed the future Uganda Youth leadership in Agriculture
According to Mr. Mwesigwa, the key drivers for youth-led agricultural transformation for economic development are:
- Increasing youth access to microfinance institutions as well as building the capacity of village savings and loan associations to reach out to young people;
- Creation of an enabling environment for the private sector to succeed as the private sector has the potential to drive agricultural development;
- An enabling environment in form of policies that facilitate and promote learning from the innovations in youth and agriculture;
- Investment in research and development;
- ICT infrastructure to linking rural areas and youth to information and services;
- The availability of, and access to reliable data. There are no clear mechanisms or platforms that promote data sharing across stakeholders which calls for urgent attention.
3.2 Ms. Jane Lowicki-Zucca, Program Director – Driving Youth-led New Agribusiness and Microenterprise (DYNAMIC)
Youth in agriculture for development means that agricultural transformation should be driven by young people. Stakeholders in the agriculture sector should create an environment in which youth can participate to lead agriculture transformation.
“Youth-led agricultural transformation must be led by youth and all actors have a responsibility to enable that youth call”
DYNAMIC works with youth to increase their self-employment and resilience in the agricultural markets. The program works towards making markets work for the youth enabling their participation in both input and output markets. The market has potential to offer many employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people through incentives and an enabling environment that attracts youth. Emphasis should therefore be put on promoting the market support functions that would enable youth participation. Some of these include: education and skills development, access to finance, access to information, rules and norms, and policies among others.
The following are some drivers of youth-led agricultural development:
- Access to finance, and in particular digitalization of VSLAs to build traceable credit history and links to formal financial institutions,
- Access to information particularly market prices and agronomic practices,
- Key value skills (business and life skills);
- Promoting value chain approach to agriculture;
- Private sector involvement of youth in agriculture.
Sharing lessons from the study by Plan International that had conducted in 2013 to inform one of their program implementation, Patrick noted that youth-led transformation begins with youth at the center where they participate, in the design, implementation and monitoring of youth programs.
He emphasized the need for shared partnerships because they facilitate interaction between private sector, public sector and the young people. Civil society and private sector need to define and align their program/project values to young people’s needs.
Mr. Ssebowa encouraged stakeholders to support youth groups with business development decisions and skills to run agricultural enterprise as businesses as youth are already forming savings an investment groups.
Mr. Arinaitwe started by responding to one the question “what do youth want?” He noted that young people want to be leaders and to participate in matters that concern them. He also noted that youth-led transformation should begin with consultations with youth.
Mr. Arinaitwe noted that there are a number of progressive youth in agriculture programs. The biggest challenge faced however is lack of extension support, limited financial resources and insufficient evaluation of the impacts of the programs.
According to Mr. Etyang, one of the drivers of youth-led agricultural transformation is collective action of youth through the formation of youth groups and cooperatives. By forming groups, youth can take advantage of the benefits of collective action including collective bargaining power and economies of size.
YETA has adopted the “learn, engage and build” model while working with youth to promote youth-led to agricultural transformation. It is believed that through learning youth will acquire skills for establishing sustainable enterprises and behavior change. Youth engage at different levels with peers, mentors, extensive services and private sector actors to build agricultural enterprises.
According to Dorcus, educating young people in agriculture remains a challenge as most parents, mentors, teachers hope that when they take their children to school they will redeem them out of agriculture. Given the rate of Uganda’s population growth and owing to the fact that there are 3 major sectors with potential to employ young people – service, industry, and agriculture; investment in agricultural education is critical for economic growth. The biggest challenge is that needs to be addressed is the attitude of the population towards agriculture. Evidence from Makerere University admissions shows that agricultural courses are nearly a last resort for students, in case of failed admission in other courses.
The Government and NGOs are increasingly realizing the importance of investment in agricultural education of young people and are working together with universities to improve the content and delivery of agricultural education. There are still a number of stakeholder acting independently, duplicating other efforts. The challenge that remains is to ensure increased partnerships and collaboration for a joint approach to tackling the issues of skilling youth in agriculture.