By Jeff Andrew Lule
To combat the issue of unemployment, young people in the Namutumba district and other parts of Busoga have been invited to enter the commercial agriculture industry.
Khalif al-Hadad Babalanda, the District Community Development Officer, claimed that many young people were avoiding agriculture as an under-job in favor of gambling and odd jobs in different town centers.
“As a result, there are many young people without jobs in Namutumba and other areas of Busoga. They only desire rapid solutions. Because they don’t have a consistent source of income, others even wind up turning to crime,” he said.
While speaking to young people at the district head office during the district youth day celebrations, he urged them to take advantage of the many government initiatives available, including the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), Emyooga and the Parish Development Model (PDM).
He emphasised that agriculture will not only contribute to a better standard of living for people, and create employment but will also help to address the issue of food scarcity in the district and other parts of the Busoga sub-region.
Busoga region continues to face food insecurity and extensive poverty as a result of a decline in food-related production.
This is attributed to the majority of households turning to the profitable sugarcane industry, neglecting the necessity for food production.
Babalanda noted that as a result, many houses are now only able to afford one meal each day, while others are forced to sleep on an empty stomach.
The continuing planting of sugarcane in the area is also thought to have had an impact on soil fertility in the sub-region.
However, Babalanda noted that with support from various partners like ActionAid International Uganda (AAIU), they are now teaching youth about smart agriculture and how to apply fertilisers.
107 youth trained
A group of 107 youth under St. Immaculate Foundation in Nsinze Sub-county, in Namutumba, was trained in the production of organic fertilizers and other farming techniques at the beginning of this year.
Yidi Tegiike, the group’s 25-year-old leader, claimed that by using the knowledge they learned, they were able to improve their lives.
“We know our agriculture on less than one acre of land and hope to expand. We grow a variety of vegetables, including unions and cabbage, which we sell to consumers. We also make our own-made fertilizers which we sell to other farmers,” he continued.
More than 205 young people have already been trained and started their own agriculture businesses thanks to this project.
“Many of our fellow youth have joined us after seeing our achievements. Over 205 people, including more than 150 young people, have been trained. Many people are now working on independent initiatives, while others have organized groups,” he says Tejiike.
Babalanda, says they are now working with youth leaders to engage the young people to form all join other groups to benefit from government programs.
“The government can readily support those youth who are already organized, doing something, and the youth can easily drive the youth,” he adds.
In addition, Babalanda blames the region’s growing land fragmentation by families for the problem of food insecurity, noting that the number of households is even higher than the amount of output (land).
Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2020 figures show that Busoga has 1.2 million poor persons of which 0.4 million are living in food poverty/ household food insecurity.
He also highlights that the area has a high rate of stunting and malnutrition, which can occasionally result in mortality, due to lack of enough food in the sub-region.
According to the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the national stunting rate stands at 29% per cent and a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence of 04% for children under five years of age, equating to approximately 2.5 million children impacted.
Additionally, about half of children aged six to 59 months and one-third of women are estimated to be anaemic.
Even if there has been a noticeable increase in the fight against undernutrition, the survey shows that the rate of improvement, particularly for stunting, has been slow.
For example, the rate of stunting decreased from approximately 48% in 1988 to 45% in 2000 and to approximately 29% in 2016.
Babalanda explains that many families have divided land among their children to inherit while others leased their land to sugarcane growers.
“As a result, it is challenging to grow enough food, which is why this youth foundation is crucial since many people will learn how to farm on little plots of land with good yields for food and even commercial,” he adds.
Since many have no formal jobs and are illiterate, he claims that even farmers who raise their own crops sell everything to make ends meet, leaving no food in the reserve for their families.
He says some people even end up stealing from other people’s gardens and stores, which raises an issue of insecurity in the area.
The AAIU field coordinator for the Eastern Region, Shibah Namulindwa, underscored the value of youth in advancing national development and the necessity of providing them with the necessary education and training to realize their full potential in various sectors like agriculture.
“We are collaborating with partners and the government to empower young people to access decent opportunities and employable skills like in agriculture. This is the pathway to Uganda’s sustainable development,” she noted.
Namulindwa said if they are empowered, they can deal with other structural problems that have an impact on their lives, such as gender-based violence, the effects of climate change, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and unemployment.
Globally, 783 million people are estimated to be food insecure, according to the 2023 United Nations National Report on Food Security and Nutrition.
Additionally, it suggests that women, particularly in Africa, are more affected than men are.
According to Namulindwa, if nothing is done to address the issue, the nation may not be able to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eradicating hunger.
According to the World Food Program’s (WFP) Hunger Map, a total of 14.9 million Ugandans live with insufficient food consumption as of July 2023.