Uganda’s population is young, but a high unemployment rate means many young people struggle to build a life for themselves. At the same time, Uganda’s agriculture sector is desperate for practically trained young agripreneurs and labourers. With the average age of farmers around 60, Uganda’s farmers of the future are in high demand. Supported by the government of the Netherlands, NGO AVSI trains young Ugandans to become successful agripreneurs and agricultural employees.
Uganda’s fertile land offers many opportunities for prospective farmers. And yet, not many young people consider a career in farming. The Skilling Youth for Employment in Agri-business (SKY) project and its successor Skilling in Agripreneurship for increased Youth Employment (SAY) show young Ugandans farming is a great career choice for ambitious youngsters who want to make a good living. SKY and SAY enable young people to gain practical experience, in close cooperation with local and Dutch agribusinesses and education and training institutes.
Bridging the gap between schools and the labour market
“What young people are taught in school doesn’t match the skills required in the labour market”, says Josephat Byahuranga, policy officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Kampala. Through SKY and SAY young Ugandans acquire the skills to operate their own agribusiness or work at commercial farms, for example through internships or harvesting their own fruit and vegetables in school greenhouses. Further training on work readiness, such as work ethics and business communication, turn them into some of Uganda’s most attractive employees. The result? A win-win situation, where participants gain the skills to build a life for themselves, while participating businesses get access to a pool of well-qualified and trained agricultural experts.
In addition to practical agricultural training courses, the project also focuses on entrepreneurship and other soft skills required to grow a successful agribusiness. Participants learn to identify new business opportunities, develop products and create viable enterprises. Training courses on business planning, modeling, record keeping, marketing and networking help youth turn ideas into reality. Whether they decide to go for wage employment or scale their own businesses: SKY and SAY graduates are able to make better business and investment decisions.
“What young people are taught in school doesn’t match the skills required in the labour market”
An Ugandan-Dutch partnership
In addition to providing funding, the Dutch are also involved in organising the training courses. Dutch NGOs and educational institutes such as Edukans and Nordwin College (now Aeres) work with Ugandan schools to improve the quality of their training through active teaching and learning, while private companies such as Holland Greentech, SolarNow and Koudijs provide input on useful skills to teach, and help assess the training programmes. They also act as coaches and mentors, providing internships and jobs for graduates and access to knowledge and new innovations and technology, from greenhouse technology to solar energy.
Meet Uganda’s farmers of the future
Up to 2024, the SKY and SAY projects combined aim to provide some 25,000 Ugandan youths with the tools to farm their own future. Success stories so far include Bashir, who managed to increase his income tenfold by switching from driving a motorcycle taxi to passion fruit farming. He not only built his family a house, Bashir also succeeded in sending his children to school. He is now a partner in the project, training other young farmers.
And there are many others like him. Darius, another participant, is a certified plant doctor who runs an agro-input shop with a fellow SKY trainee. He is also a consultant for Dutch company House of Seeds. After following SKY training courses, Samuel started his own farm. He managed to expand his farm from 2 to 5 acres and trains three other young farmers. Eva was trained as a crop farm manager and now manages a staff of 20+. She has initiated several successful projects, from installing a biogas installation to rabbit and fish farming. To supplement her income, she sells banana plants and breeds pigs.
And it is young Ugandans like Bashir, Darius, Samuel and Eva that are taking full advantage of the prospects the SKY and SAY training courses have to offer. The projects “offer young people hope, showing them that it’s possible to build a future in Uganda,” concludes Mr. Byahuranga.