KAMPALA — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, have today launched the second round of the Youth Champions Initiative competition which seeks to identify and reward youth agripreneurs from across the country.
The second round of the Youth Champions Initiative competition will scale up the model into a national youth mentorship programme for young people in the agriculture sector.
Over 270 youth agripreneurs- two per district will be selected at district and regional levels. From these, 135 youth will be selected to represent each district in the country; with special consideration for gender. Only 35 youth champions will be selected at the national level. However, all the 270 champions identified at the district level will benefit from youth peer-to-peer support activities.
This initiative aims to promote youth employment in agriculture, recognizing youth agripreneurs as role models that can work with and inspire other youth to join the sector, through knowledge-sharing, capacity building and mentorship. The second round of the competition will be implemented in partnership with two youth-focused organizations- the Young Farmers Champions Network (YOFCHAN) and the Young Farmers’ Federation of Uganda. Interested youths can take part by picking and filling application forms from the headquarters of their respective districts or from the websites of the two youth organizations.
The Youth Champions Initiative was first piloted in 2017, with 25 youth were selected at the national level and given mentoring and financial support to grow their agribusiness enterprises. The first cohort has been instrumental in attracting more young people into agriculture and agribusiness, helping to reduce youth unemployment, increase opportunities for decent work and help young people to earn a living from agriculture.
Speaking at the launch today at the Uganda Media Center, the FAO Representative in Uganda- Antonio Querido, emphasized the need to engage Uganda’s youthful population in the agriculture sector by providing incentives and decent employment opportunities to reduce on the current high unemployment levels in the country.
“Reports indicate that many capable and productive youth in Uganda tend to shun agriculture due to the risks involved, its intensive nature and low profitability. Therefore, youth need support to develop skills and insights needed to engage in farming and adopt environmentally friendly production methods to help them create jobs for other youths and boost their agricultural and agribusiness undertakings,” he said. “If we are to make substantial progress towards attaining national and global aspirations for sustainable development, it is important to engage and re-engage youth in productive enterprises like agriculture and agribusiness”, he added.
Honourable Hellen Adoa- Minister of State for Fisheries noted that a large youthful population, as it is in Uganda, “creates both an opportunity and a challenge because of the potential demographic dividend from the abundant labour force and future demand”; but also a big unemployment problem. She called for ore investment that can generate decent jobs for young people.
“Most of the unemployment challenges in Uganda are caused by a mismatch between skills required for labour markets and limitations in accessing investment capital”, she said. “The agriculture sector is a great source of employment to many youths and therefore the youth champions act as role models and agribusiness change agents to inspire a generation of youth agripreneurs to produce food, reduce hunger and create employment for other youth”, she added.
Mr David Mugisa, the Commissioner in Charge of Occupational Safety and Health who represented the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, thanked partners and the Government of Uganda, for prioritizing support to agriculture and agribusiness, even amidst crises such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Following an analysis by the President and the Government of Uganda, agriculture is considered to be part of the real economy; which has helped to sustain the country through the provision of food and income, even during the pandemic”, he said. As a result, agriculture has been repositioned and “we are likely to see a shift of attitude, with more youth involved in agriculture”, he added. He thanked FAO for the initiative to interest youth in agriculture and agribusiness and called on stakeholders to support youth with entrepreneurship training, access to affordable credit, value addition and marketing infrastructure and data collection”.
Gerald Katabazi, one of the Youth champions in the first cohort also encourages fellow youth to take part in the competition to benefit from the mentorship programme that comes with the initiative.
“As a Youth champion, I gained a lot of farming skills from the programme, good network and start-up capital for my enterprise. Today, my coffee enterprise is one of the best brew points in Uganda. As young people, we need to join hands with stakeholder and support initiatives like YIYA to build an agricultural sector we want, for prosperity, equality and inclusion.”
The Youth Champions Initiative is part of FAO’s “Integrated Country Approach (ICA) for decent rural employment” to boost job creation for youth in the agri-food system. Through the first phase of the programme, FAO supported the development of the National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture (NSYEA) in 2017. The Strategy is providing guidance to state and non-state actors in Uganda to create decent employment for youth involved in agriculture. In line with the implementation of the NSYEA, a National Technical Coordination Platform was established to support the implementation of the strategy.