Towards the end of last year, the President challenged them to change their attitude towards agriculture and return to start their own farms, saying “land has been fragmented because people think it is for accommodation”.
First, the President is right when he underscores the fundamental role of agriculture as a means to employment creation, food security and overall socio-economic transformation. About 80 per cent of Uganda’s population is engaged in agriculture.
However, the sector is one of the least funded. This financial year, funding to the agricultural sector is 3.1 per cent of the total budget, with the sector receiving only Ushs 440b out of the projected resource envelope of Ushs 11.93trn.
In line with sector funding, most of the farmers are suffering prohibitive microfinance interest rates which stand at36 percent per annum (about 3 per cent per month). This is very prohibitive to the youth in business. With this, there is need for agricultural bank to offer cheaper credit facilities to the farmers. Not so long ago, the government was mulling the idea of reviving the agricultural bank- essentially the Cooperative Bank; this initiative shouldn’t be left to die!
The situation is confounded by the taxes slapped by the Finance Minister on all agricultural inputs and machinery. Experts have variously argued that this new tax will only kill incentives in agriculture and thus dwindle production and productivity. The farmers will have to grapple with the high costs of production.
The President is also right when he identifies the need for the young people to engage in agriculture noting the heavy dividends thereof.
Limited skills development has been identified as one of the biggest obstacles to youth employment. Deliberate actions by government in partnership with the private sector are needed to expand the scope of training the young people with skills in agriculture. There should be a multiplier effect where for instance the current group of 200 students who are currently in Israel will return and also pass on the same skills to their peers.
The private sector is also key in helping the young people acquire skills in agribusiness. Universities, colleges and other tertiary institutions should form strong partnerships with successful farmers and agro-processing industries to help the youth pick on key skills.
The young people will only change their attitude after appreciating that agriculture as a business works. They need to practically see how successful farmers are carrying on with agriculture, and thereafter carry on the lessons to their individual farms.
The young people must be helped to change their attitude as the President rightly identified that they must change their attitude and farm the land if they are to reap money. Uganda’s agricultural potential is promising, if the youths had the right technical know-how, especially on agri-business, they would turn their lives around.
Statistics show that every year, about 400,000 youth graduate from universities, colleges and other institutions of learning of which only about 80,000 find employment in the formal sector. Here is an opportunity for these youth to get employment in the agriculture sector.
What needs to be done is for the government to work in partnership with the private sector to support the youth in farming enterprises by providing avenues and opportunities for steady or assured markets, access to credit, value addition chains, agricultural insurance, warehouse receipting, etc. The government should also expedite infrastructural developments mainly the roads to facilitate speedy transportation of agricultural products from the production centres to markets and vice versa.