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Employment situation, challenges and opportunities for young adolescents and out of school young persons in Agriculture

Employment situation, challenges and opportunities for young adolescents and out of school young persons in Agriculture

Presented by Mr. Francis Mwesigye – Research Fellow at Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC)


The presentation focused on the findings of a study by EPRC carried out with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Key highlights are as follows:

  • Uganda has a very young population with about 77.6 percent of its population below the age of 30, of which 56.7 percent are children below 18 years. This is mainly attributed to the high fertility rate of about 6 children per woman in 2014 (UBOS, 2016).
  • 79 percent of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas where poverty levels are highest with farming as the main source of livelihood (NPA, 2015).
  • Youth are not only larger in number, but are also the least unemployed. Youth unemployment (11.1 percent) is higher than the national average unemployment rate (9.4%). In comparison, unemployment remains highest among female standing at 13.7 percent compared to their male counterparts (UNDP, 2015). Across the age cohorts, it remains highest among the age group 14 to 17 years, estimated at 14.5 percent in 2012/13 (NPA, 2015).
  • The Government of Uganda has committed to address youth unemployment through a number of initiatives among which include:
    • The 1995 Youth Entrepreneurs scheme (YES)
    • The 2005 Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP)
    • Youth Venture Capital Fund initiated in 2011
    • Youth Livelihoods Programme,
    • Northern Uganda Youth Entrepreneurship Project (NUYEP) among others.


Until recently, most programs targeted youth between 18 and 35 years, excluding young people of 14-17 years who are out of school and are of the legal age to work (14-64 years). Only the Youth Opportunities Program that included young youth (16-35 years) although it lacked an agricultural component. As it is still assumed that youth aged between 14 and 17 years are still in school, the programs continue to exclude over 19 percent of youth.


  • According to perceptions obtained from focus group discussions of the study, Karamoja has the highest number of out of school young persons aged 14-17 years at 63%, and Northern Uganda at 50% comes second. The authors’ computation of the school to work transition survey estimate that at least 83 percent of the out of school rural young persons had never completed primary education. Lack of school fees is the main reason why many young people drop out of school.
  • In terms of employment, 4 percent of youth were considered employed. Agriculture was their largest employer with at least 96 percent engaged in agricultural related activities. The out of school young people who were paid employees received meager wages in informal employment, the majority of whom were female.
  • The main challenges faced by the out of school youth employed in  in agriculture were:
    • Defaulting on wage payment
    • Working hungry
    • Exploitation in the form of working long hours and subjection to physically straining work
    • Lack of protective gear exposing youth to injuries and hazardous chemicals
    • Lack of appropriate tools
    • Long distance to land
    • Sexual abuse and harassment
  • Challenges that limit youth engagement in agriculture include limited access to land and limited access to credit/loans (85% are unable to borrow)
  • The study conclusion and key emerging policy recommendations included the following:
    • The Government of Uganda should support the out-of-school to acquire specialized skills by enrolling them in vocational training institutions.
    • The out-of-school 14-17 year olds are sometimes subjected to physically strenuous activities and are made to work for long hours, sometimes without food.  The Employment Act, 2006 prohibits harmful employment of children; including work that exposes a child to physical, psychological, sexual abuse, work underground, dangerous heights, & dangerous machines.
    • Young people should be supported with access to land which is a crucial factor of agricultural production.
    • There is need for Government to fast track implementation of strategic interventions for increasing agricultural productivity; as this would aid movement of excess labour force to upper nodes of agricultural value chains which pay more and are attractive to young people.



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