More than 80 per cent of Uganda’s labour force is in agriculture. However, youth engagement in the sector remains low even with high unemployment, a factor often backed up with a common perception that youth dislike agriculture, and do not see it as a viable venture. Whereas that may be partly true, the sector faces an uphill battle in its quest to modernise.
Though agriculture is said to be the backbone of Uganda’s economy, there is little investment in the sector. Farmers still practice rudimentary farming methods, use outdated tools and equipment. The youth, especially those who may want to engage in farming, have limited access to land, lack financial services to counter agricultural risks in addition to having limited access to post-harvest information.
While the government has extensively applied a range of policies to promote agriculture, many of the policies and strategies have failed to reflect the needs of youth. Consultations are often held in urban centres, which often exclude uneducated, rural and poor youth. There is also lack of comprehensive data on rural youth as a distinct group, resulting in policies that do not respond to the real challenges faced by the rural youth.
Therefore, in order to promote youth participation in agriculture, value addition and agriculture extension services should be prioritised and invested countrywide to attract more young people into the sector.
For better understanding of challenges in the agricultural sector, data should be aggregated according to age, sex and geographical location. The aspirations, needs and concerns of young people should also be taken into account. Additionally, the budget allocation to agriculture sector should be increased and more resources channelled to local government levels where rural youth reside.
Furthermore, advocacy campaigns targeting local authorities on land use is crucial. Similarly, loans are also necessary to enable youth access to land and providing low cost insurance products to cushion them against shocks from fluctuating prices and weather conditions, including natural calamities such as floods.
Rural youth should be supported to actively participate in policy dialogues on agriculture as the country looks for the best alternatives to curb high youth unemployment. Published by the Daily Monitor at:http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Letters/Involve-rural-youth-agriculture/-/806314/3066516/-/8ypq1az/-/index.html
By Ali Kaviri,