Agripreneur: Gov’t sets up National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture to Mitigate COVID-19 Crisis

Hon. Sempijja with some of the youth
Hon. Vincent Sempijja with some of the youth

The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) are optimistic that the National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture (NSYEA) is one of the quickest measures to mitigate the adverse effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the economy, especially in regards to unemployment.

According to Minister for Agriculture Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja,

“The National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture has influenced an increase in the number of youth not only on the farm but also in other aspects of Agricultural Science, something that is helping them earn income through direct employment in the agricultural sector.”

Minister Ssempijja revealed this on Wednesday 12th August while marking the International Youth Day 2020 and noted that youth getting engaged in agriculture will not only ensure food security for the country but also decrease the skyrocketing rate of unemployment, especially since many youths lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19, which forced several companies to scale down on the workforce and others to close completely.

The MAAIF started implementing National Strategy for Youth Employment in 2019 as one of 55 member states of the African Union that are signatory to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and other continental and global frameworks for agricultural planning and development.

The strategy is being implemented through a multi-stakeholder approach with the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, line Ministries, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Over the last 30 years, the issues of youth employment have risen high on the development agenda. Nearly, a third of the world population is between the ages of 15 and 34 years and lives in developing countries.

Youth involved in agriculture

In Africa at large and Uganda in particular, over 60% of the population is below the age of 25 years. As a result, youth employment is very high on the global development agenda. Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Full and productive employment and decent work for all sets dedicated targets on youth.

Several UN organizations, including FAO, are actively engaged in global processes and fora on youth employment, such as the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) and its System-wide Action Plan on Youth (UN Youth-SWAP), as well as the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth (DJ4Y).

Overall, numerous metrics point to the fact that the youth face enormous challenges in entering into the labor market, and getting productive and decent jobs, in particular:

• Over 74 million youth (aged 15-24), were unemployed in 2013, an increase of more than 700,000 over the previous and this year due to COVID-19.

• The global youth unemployment rate was about 13 percent, which is about three times as high as the adult unemployment rate.

• There were 37.1 million fewer young people in employment in 2013 than in 2007.

• The global youth labour force participation rate of 47.4 percent in 2013, was more than two percentage points below pre-crisis level, as more young people dropped out of the labour market.

• The share of young people in the 15-29 age group who are neither in employment, education or training, rose in 30 of the 40 countries for which data were available in 2013.

• In developing countries, 60 percent of workers in the 15-29 age group lacked a stable employment contract, 60 percent had below average wages, 80 percent were in informal employment in 2012.

Because of this, several strategies have been put in place to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa, although none seems to be effective the way youth involvement in agriculture it.

Europe 2020, the European Union’s ten-year growth strategy, sets the framework for a coordinated response in order to emerge stronger from the crisis and to improve the long-term prosperity of all people, including youth in Africa and other developing parts of the world.

In alignment with the strategy, more youth are now employed in scientific research across Ministry Agencies and partner projects in both the public and private sectors.

In Uganda, this strategy is an outcome of a highly participatory process that was spearheaded by MAAIF. The technical process was conducted by a Technical Working Group (TWG) and with technical support from UN-FAO.

It comprised of experts drawn from MAAIF, Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MoGLSD), National Planning Authority (NPA), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and Youth Associations, and was chaired by the NPA.

The stakeholders who participated in the strategy development process include MAAIF Officials (led by the Department of Agricultural Investment and Enterprise Development), National Planning Authority (NPA), Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD) Officers; FAO, and other UN-Agencies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local Government officials, selected farmers in crop, animal industries as well as fisheries and aquaculture, Private sector, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Building Resources Across Countries (BRAC), Sasakawa Global 2000 and Gayaza High School among others.

It also included the youth who are currently employed in the agricultural private sector or those affiliated to agricultural projects funded and promoted by both Government of Uganda (GoU) such as the Youth Livelihood Program (YLP) and the Venture Capital Fund.

As part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture, the Youth are supported to engage in not only on-farm activities but also other parts of the value chain and agribusiness enterprises that involve value addition and marketing.

Youth are supported to engage in value addition and marketing
Youth are supported to engage in value addition and marketing

Four regional consultative workshops were held during the period August- September, and these were held in Lira town (for the Northern and West Nile region), Mbale town (for the Eastern region), Mbarara town (for the Western region), and Mukono (for the Central region), to ensure wide national consultations, contributions, acceptance, and ownership.

A number of Agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries were consulted, including the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) that is mandated to develop technologies which youth employed in agriculture can adopt for increased productivity and incomes.

The animal breeding program of the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Databank, the Agriculture Cluster Development Program (ACDP), and other projects were all aligned with the National Strategy and have special consideration for youth-led farmer groups and agribusiness enterprises.

As part of the building process, Universities and other tertiary institutions of learning were also represented in regional workshops alongside Youth organizations working with other development partner programs such as World Food Program (WFP), Purchase for Progress Program, USAID’s Feed the Future program and the Agricultural sector working group.

A number of organizations that have also been involved in the implementation of youth programs were also consulted, especially on lessons learned, such as BRAC and the African Development Bank Enable Youth Program (Enable Youth Uganda).

It should be noted that the Government of Uganda has prioritized the generation of more and better jobs for the youth and the National Strategy for Employment of Youth in Agriculture seems to be the perfect solution in this endeavor, especially during these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, the current policy and strategic framework to promote youth employment are cognizant of the role that agriculture currently plays, and can potentially play to increase youth employment and contribution to national development.

Under the National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agriculture (NSYEA), youth employment priorities are reflected at the macro-level in the country’s National Development Plan (NDP II).

The Strategy was built along 5 thematic areas along which the partner institutions and implementing the recommendations and plans therein.

These include Thematic Area 1 on “Strengthening The Enabling Framework for Youth Employment” Thematic Area 2 on “Support Youth-Oriented Agriculture Extension” Thematic Area 3 on “Improve Youth Education and Learning” Thematic Area 4 on “Support for Youth Entrepreneurship” and Thematic Area 5 on “Adaption to and Mitigation of Agribusiness Risks and Uncertainties.”

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