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Five reasons why Ugandan youth should engage in agriculture

By Joseph Miti and Sanyu Phiona-Development Research and Training (DRT)

Africa is a youthful continent – of its population of over 920 million people, 60% are young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Recent estimates show that about 80 million youth in the continent live on less than $2 a day. While 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year, only 3 million formal jobs are created.

In Uganda, more than 75% of its population is below the age of 30 but the country currently has one of the highest youth unemployment rates at 13.3%. Each year, 400,000 youth enter the labour market and compete for only 80,000 formal jobs. This has increasingly made it difficult for many educated youths to find jobs that match their training.

Agriculture could help to plug this employment gap. A few years ago, the sector consisted largely of subsistence farming with households selling off their surplus for meagre pay. Today, the sector is a hub of businesses such as extension services, poultry farming, fruits and vegetable exports, processing, manufacturing, agriculture financing, among others. Already employing 70% of Ugandans, it is one of the most immediate means of employment for young people and increasingly becoming a lucrative business.

But engaging young people in agriculture is still a challenge.  With around 85% of youth living in countries where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income, it is vital that young people are mentored to engage in business farming and most importantly as a source of livelihood. Though, all too often young people are still being discouraged to engage with the sector, which is branded as a “low return sector” due to poor farming, low response to adopt improved technologies and low rate of value addition.

However, perceptions are beginning to change. The emergence of new technologies and methods has started to change the minds of youth and has engaged them across the agricultural value chain. Young people are starting to view agriculture as a business and a venture for wealth creation. Now is the moment to capitalise on this shift to further motivate youth to enter the sector.

At the Symposium on skilling youth for innovative climate smart agribusinesses, organised by the Initiative for Youth Empowerment and Transformation (IYET) in Kampala earlier this year, young people discussed five reasons to engage in agriculture and excel in agribusiness entrepreneurship: 

1) Food production: Youth can make a difference by growing enough food to feed the world. It is estimated that by 2030, the size of food and agribusiness in Africa will reach one trillion USD. Young farmers now have the opportunity to be the generation that could end world hunger, alleviate malnutrition and stimulate economic growth. Providing them with right support and help in enhancing their innovations will foster more youth involvement into agriculture.   

 2) Finances: Through use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), young people have an opportunity to take on agriculture at a higher level and make the sector lucrative. Application of ICTs will support in building partnerships, fundraising, developing business plans and participating in the value chain including trade in agri-inputs, production, transportation, marketing and agro-processing. It is also important to understand that agriculture sustains many other small businesses, banks, stores and markets throughout the country.  

3) Future: Food production will always be important as it is linked with the survival of humankind itself, hence why agriculture is a future-oriented sector and why farming is generational. Young farmers should be prepared to feed forthcoming generations and at the same time build future wealth for their families. Youth who start farms should strive to maintain their investments to last for future generations.

4) Fun: Young people should be supported to understand that farming can be fun. Finding fun in farming can help to relieve pressure and encourages young people to be more proactive in acquiring more in-depth knowledge to grow their enterprise. Having fun in farming enables youth to also enjoy and find love in what they do.

5) Factories: If agriculture is to continue feeding the world, young people need to produce for factories. Youth should strive to make value addition to whatever they produce. Value addition on farm products will minimise losses, open new markets, capture good income and enhance the public’s appreciation for the farm, which in the long run will all support business growth.  

The key takeaway from the symposium is that agriculture is one of the country’s greatest assets for growth and has potential to create many jobs for young people who fail to be absorbed into the formal sector. Capitalizing on agriculture will help the country to successfully reap the potential advantages of its demographic youth boom.