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Enhancing the sustainability of agriculture and making it a noble profession

The East African Farmers Federation (EAFF) together with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held a two-day workshop on youth space in policy and financial inclusion.

This formed part of the ongoing project of “Scaling-Up Rural Youth Access to inclusive Financial Services for Entrepreneurship and employment”. The project is being implemented in 3 East African Countries: Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. The workshop brought together around 80 youth farmers from Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda and was held on 27th-28th November 2019 in Kampala, Uganda.

It is believed that youth account for a good number of the energetic workforce for Africa especially in advancing the continent's Agriculture Agenda and creating more jobs in this sector to host a significant proportion of youth in on-farm and off-farm jobs. It was discussed several times that unemployment in Africa is hitting a top roof and that modernization of agriculture and involving youth in this profession can significantly reduce the unemployment rate while building their economic independence and creating decent rural employment.

Engaging in agriculture activities at any level of the value chain requires a minimum of investment. One main challenge faced by youth in the sector is the access to financial services including deposits, credit, payments, money transfers, leasing or insurance. This challenge is due to a number of factors like physical accessibility, affordability, eligibility and legislative frameworks. Even though in many cases policy plays a critical role in these crucial challenges, the youth faces a problem of limited involvement in policy dialogue as well. Therefore, they do not have a space to voice their concern and possible solutions to youth-specific constraints.

Representing the Youth Engagement in Agriculture Network (YEAN), I participated in this 2-day workshop that was mainly attended by young people. The participants were given space to interact and share experience on how youth are given space to express their thoughts in policy dialogue in our respective countries; and how unlocking the bottlenecks that inhibit youth access to finance through a dialogue process that was engaging banks, government and development partners. The discussion was around specific topics including:

  • The role of youth in agribusiness and the solutions proposed to solve the challenges that they face
  • Youth in agribusiness and their engagement in policy dialogue
  • Financial inclusion for youth in agribusiness
  • A session of business pitch

Vibrant sessions of panel discussions and Q&A made the workshop very interesting as participants expressed their views on the necessity of engaging youth in policy dialogue. Harrison Ndayambaje and Laura Nakigozi Octavia, thus both poultry farmers from Uganda highlighted that banks give loans at high interest rate, and startup agripreneurs cannot make profit on that money. However, the representative of the government has mentioned that the government has piloted a youth fund with interest-free loan whereby youth will pay only the principal amount. Stephen Muchiri the CEO of East African Farmers Federation pointed out that agriculture used to be taken as a poor man's professional but it possesses many opportunities when it comes to economic development. He added that EAFF is trying to bringing onboard different actors to help young farmers build their capacity in access to finance and policy dialogue. Elisabeth Nsimadala the President of EAFF appreciated the great collaboration with FAO and IFAD that has benefited a number of young farmers including 567 youth groups that were trained and equipped with financial literacy and got capacity building and 35 agripreneurs who accessed finance through this project.

Young farmers presented many challenges in doing agriculture as a business but they were urged by Dorothy Kipsang of We Effect to persist and have an entrepreneurial spirit of never quitting. However, development organizations were also asked to be part of that journey in mentoring and coaching them to facilitate in reaching their dreamed business goals.

The youth regional forum was a good space to get to know better how we can fund our businesses. I met fantastic and enthusiastic young farmers who are really doing an amazing job in their home countries. I enjoyed being with like-minded people who brought light to my farming journey. To youth participant of the forum I salute your commitment and keep your heads up we shall contribute to make agriculture a noble professional for African youth.

Photo credit: Etienne