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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Obonyo Alphonse Francis
Obonyo Alphonse FrancisCentre for Policy AnalysisUganda

I can only share my experience with my story on how I started to get involved in agriculture.

I had a bad attitude towards engaging in agriculture. I never wanted to take part in anything related to farming. This is because from childhood my parents, friends and relatives raised me to think that the only way to survive and succeed in life was had to read books, get a degree and I will get a good job. It is not until I was facing challenges with tuition, accommodation at university and living expenses that I realized I needed something else to do. No one knew me so getting a job would take time. The most obvious solution was engaging in agriculture because selling it will be easy. Finding the was easy, at least that’s what I thought. So, I used my parents land in the village to plant groundnuts and maize. With help from relatives’ planting, maintenance and harvesting was not a problem. Once I was able to transport the Produce to Kampala the real hustle begun. The market was flooded with produce. The principle that is followed is that the earlier you go the better. Being always late made some of my produce get rotten and I it always discouraged. Most of all having species of produce that was not marketable was also a problem. To add salt to a wound the returns were very low compared to the input.

I actually gave up for some time but later realized that it only required consistency and regardless of the low returns. The rotting of produce did not stop, the market was still competitive, almost every season a new species of a crop that's more marketable than the other. This would force you to engage in growing a variety of crops at the same time just to meet the demand of the market. Today I am happily a distributor pf maize and rice to schools. I even sell pumpkins.

Agriculture requires patience, persistence and consistency. The challenge we the youth have today is that we want quick money fast. This is why youth are not very interested in agriculture and if they are it is only for subsistence.

The diverse and wide market motivated me to get involved in agriculture. I can not fail to sell something out of my produce. Once you get a grip of the basics the market trend as well as the demand chain, all you need is patience, consistency and hard work but smartly.

Today I supply schools in villages with food and to some markets in Kampala. What has helped me is refusing to go by the market prices. If we all compete with the market prices then we may not sell at all in fear of making losses. Yes, for the start there will be a few losses but it was my way of establishing a market for the future. This guarantees you market for your next production. Partnering with other innovative friends and family in the marketing process has greatly helped. Every time we have a harvest, we hire a truck to move around very early in the morning and by 4:00 pm east African time the truck is empty. Also, the civil society space has created a platform to market the produce. This has greatly increased our sales. Using social media like what’s app and Facebook has also expanded our market reach.

Question to the Experts

What advice would you give to youth who despise getting involved in agriculture? and the Parents friends and relatives who demonize the agriculture sector? How can states incorporate agriculture studies to equip youth with skills? What agricultural policies do they think are lacking and how can youth influence the policy-making process?

How best can youth in advocacy champion the need for a favourable market where taxes are equally paid and tax exemptions equally are given? This is because most African states are getting development loans from development agencies and partners but these loans come with strings attached that make the economic environment unfriendly to young agricultural entrepreneur. For example, loans that come with the requirement for exemptions to taxes to imported agro-produce into African states. This diminishes the market and undermines our efforts?