Policy for the youth and not by the youth is not a policy of the youth!
At a workshop organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in preparation for a report yet to be released, a participant asked with a loud deep voice, “What happens to the good policies with recommendations to empower youth in Uganda?”
This is a fair question, one that highlights the existing gap between those who are making policies and those affected by these policies: the implementation of policies. The failure to implement such policies is due to multiple reasons including the lack of enough capacity of youth to implement and benefit from responsible investments.
From 29th November to 1st December 2017, FAO team organized and facilitated a workshop aimed at strengthening the capacities of youth to implement and benefit from responsible agricultural investment in Uganda. The participants were diverse and included representatives from selected youth organizations, entrepreneurs, government officials, young farmers and others. Paul Zaake- the country representative for YPARD Uganda and some YPARD members participated in this workshop.
The key output from this participatory workshop included twenty prioritized recommendations:
- Build capacities of youth-in-agriculture-organizations and platforms. There is a need to empower youth platforms so that they can effectively empower the youths. A key example is YPARD which is aimed to serve as a collective platform through which young professionals can realise their full potential and contribute proactively towards innovative agricultural development.
- Tax incentives for youth agri-enterprises/ start-ups. One participant who with internal tears, explained her dilemma with the tax body. “My agribusiness of UGX 5 Million capital was sent a tax invoice of UGX 4 Million,” said Fatima Namutosi, a youth entrepreneur. There are many other youths affected by unfair taxing. This should be replaced by tax incentives to encourage youth in agribusiness.
- Establish and strengthen existing digital agricultural extension platforms: These digital platforms can deliver timely, targeted, localised, translated agriculture information and services and hopefully make agriculture profitable and sustainable while enhancing food security. Dr. Gudula Naiga Basaza the co-founder of Gudie’s Leisure Farm elaborated her model of training farmers using videos. Fhiwa Ndou, the country manager of We-farm explained her model of using SMS, Web and Android App to enable farmer to farmer learning. Esther Karwera’s Akorian has already equipped 480 youths with smartphones and serving 60,000 farmers in Uganda. Such digital extension platforms should be scaled up. Others are outlined below:
- 30% quota for youth on each investment mechanism
- Support the upscaling of agribusiness of incubation model across all regions.
- Grassroots one-stop-centres to support youths in agriculture with mobile investment hub
- Provide relevant market infrastructure for produces by youths
- Agriculture be mandatory in the education curriculum
- Agricultural equipment be provided to youths on loans, hire, or be subsidized
- Establish an easily accessible sustainable youth-agriculture-fund
- Youth inclusion in formulation of agricultural policies, strategies and laws
- Training youth in climate-smart agriculture value chain management
- Sensitization of communities and youth to change attitudes towards agriculture as a profitable and gainful employment
- Youth training, support and mentorship of product certification to compete on local and global markets.
- Strengthen working group on agriculture and advocate for a creation of a thematic area for youth
- Identify and publicize successful stories and investment models for youth in agriculture
- Create funding lines to provide affordable and sustainable funding to youth in agribusiness
- Promote and support research and development on enterprises based on competitive advantage and innovativeness
- Build capacity of actors providing financial literacy and agribusiness management
- Promote collaboration among various actors
These recommendations have a central purpose of strengthening the institutional setup, organizational capacity, individual capacity, policies, strategies, laws and incentives. The recommendations are directed to all actors including private, government and non-government actors.
A detailed report will be prepared and shared by the FAO team soon. However, this should not be business as usual with the addition another report to the already existing reports. Instead, all participants representing the various stakeholders selected actions that they will be focusing on.
I understand that reports and their recommendations, particularly when they seek to advocate changes that management is not accustomed to, tend to be pushed aside. But the bright side here is that the recommendations have been developed by the key stakeholders, and so I hope the implementation will be smooth and swift.
Photo credit: Paul Zaake