By Isaac Nuwagaba
The Government is seeking to recruit over a million youth in commercial agriculture by 2030.
The general duties minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Justine Kasule Lumumba, said the move is aimed at ensuring sustainable food security and creating jobs.
“We are targeting one million youth to engage in meaningful and mechanised agriculture for increased food production for domestic use and export. This will increase foreign exchange earnings,” Lumumba said in a speech read by commissioner Timothy Rubanga.
This was during the first national empowerment and development in commercial agriculture conference 2022 at the Uganda Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Nakawa on Friday.
Lumumba, who is also the cabinet focal person on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reiterated the Government’s commitment to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.
The 17 SDGs, which are to be achieved by 2030, include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work as well as economic growth.
The others are industry, innovation and infrastructure development, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, and climate action. Agriculture employs over 72% of Ugandans, being the biggest employer.
Lumumba said the Government has designed initiatives to promote sustained economic growth focused on offering productive employment to the youth.
She urged the youth to utilise a Small Business Recovery Fund set up by the Government to build mechanisms to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture through engaging in research and new technological innovations.
The Government, in collaboration with commercial banks, set up a Small Business Recovery Fund in 2021 to provide loans to small businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to recover from financial distress.
“Small businesses operated by individuals, groups, partnerships, and companies employing between five and 49 people with an annual turnover of sh10m to sh100m are eligible to borrow and demonstrate a capacity for recovery,” Lumumba advised.
“The Government shall harmonise with the Bank of Uganda to see youth getting credit in block allocation to groups who do not have collateral such as land titles, plots of land and buildings to stand in for them,” Lumumba added.
To support mechanised agriculture, the Government identified all commercial banks, licensed credit institutions and micro-finance deposit-taking institutions regulated by the Bank of Uganda to handle agricultural sector financing loans.
Laban Musinguzi, the president of the Youth Coalition for Sustainable Development Goals, appealed to the youth to view agriculture as a source of livelihood and professional success in Africa.
“There is a need for the youth to engage in commercial agriculture, value-addition, industrialisation and manufacturing for our economy to take shape,” he said.
Youth Coalition for SDGs is a youth-led platform that brings together over 200 youth organisations of between 50 and 100 members in Uganda rooting for job creation and political activism. Youth organisations that were actively involved in contributing to achieving the SDGs were brought together under the auspices of the National SDG Secretariat in the Office of the Prime Minister and that of the UN resident co-ordinator to accelerate their attainment in East Africa by 2030.
Musinguzi advised the youth who are engaging in agriculture to start thinking about post-harvest handling of the produce, first-class packaging and preservation, as well as investing in organic food technology to protect local production for export.
Uganda is taking bold steps through relevant ministries, departments, agencies, the private sector, civil society organisations, think tanks and academia to localise and fast-track the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the 17 SDGs.