The promise of the agricultural sector in Uganda to turn around millions of lives for the better continues to get believers and financiers.
This week the United States Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac delivered some inspirational remarks to the youth in Mbale whom she encouraged to pursue careers in agriculture saying the sector offers hope for economic prosperity of Uganda.
Ambassador Malac delivered the words of encouragement to young people while officiating at an agricultural exhibition dubbed Agrikool-Youth that was organised by youth in Mbale with the support of the American government.
Ambassador Malac told the youth that: “Uganda’s agriculture industry today… is now an exciting international business that offers numerous new and rewarding careers for young women and men, ” she said.
“Working in agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be working in a field all the time…. You may work in finance, marketing, management, and numerous other fascinating, challenging jobs,” Ambassador Malac encouraged Ugandan youth to bring their talent, imagination, and creativity to the challenges facing the country by exploring opportunities in agriculture that would help build a prosperous future for all Ugandans.
Perhaps to further reassure the largely uninspired Ugandan youth to turn their focus now to Agriculture, Ambassador Malac says the US government is ready to support their various initiatives through a dedicated programme for young people who engage in agriculture.
Writing on her Twitter feed, Ambassador Malac pledged her government’s continued support to agriculture.
She said: “The generosity and commitment of US to assist development of Uganda will continue, particularly in agriculture.”
Under President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, that seeks to end global hunger, the US government has provided over US$150m to Uganda in recent years. To target the youth however, a unique programme dubbed Feed the Future’s Youth Leadership for Agriculture Activity, was unveiled to support youth in Agriculture.
According to a statement from the US embassy in Kampala, the Youth Leadership Activity plans to provide economic opportunities in the agriculture-related fields to approximately 350,000 youth aged 10 to 35.
Ambassador Malac’s campaign to interest the youth into agriculture is actually part of a deliberate policy by the US government that seeks to encourage the youth to seek careers in the agriculture sector.
For the past two years, the US government has supported the Generation Agripreneur Summit & Expo held at UMA show grounds with the objective of encouraging young Ugandans to bring their initiatives in agriculture to the attention of the general public and investors, while also interacting with different agricultural players from the US and Uganda.
These efforts, complemented by the latest boost in the agricultural budget by the government as well as several other innovations are indications of improving prospects for Uganda.
These efforts come despite declining interest especially among the youth towards the sector as seen by rapidly rising youth unemployment especially in urban areas.
The loss of interest in the sector is however attributed to the low productivity existing in the sector that has made agriculture a largely a loss making enterprise.
According to Dr. Lawrence Bategeka, the former Director of the Economic Policy Research Centre EPRC at Makerere and now Member of Parliament for Hoima Municipality, majority of the youth loath farming because it it not profitable.
He says that unless deliberate interventions are take to ensure that farmers, achieve higher yields and better prices for their output, the youth will not venture into the sector, yet it is the most viable.
And Bategeka argues that anyone seriously thinking about supporting agriculture in Uganda has to try to change the mentality of the youth towards farming since they constitute majority of the population. Recent statistics from the 2014 census showed that 55 percent of Uganda’s population is below 18 years while 77 is categorized as youth.