Experts call for Ugandan youths to embrace careers in agriculture to confront pandemic

BUNJAKO ISLAND, MPIGI DISTRICT, UGANDA - SEPTEMBRE 25: Farmer sun drying coffee beans in an organic farm on Septembre 25, 2018 in Bunjako island, Mpigi district, Uganda. (Photo by Camille Delbos/Art In All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)

Experts stressed the significance of the agricultural sector and encouraged the Ugandan youths to seize opportunities to improve their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Agriculture is an important sector and there is a lot of money to be made. I believe that the Ugandan youths can get a lot of opportunities in agriculture in different commodities, value chains for them to realize their dreams,” Antonio Querido, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) country representative told Xinhua in a recent interview.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer sun drying coffee beans in an organic farm in Bunjako island, Mpigi district, Uganda. /Getty Images

Querido said the youths need to consider agriculture as a business that can improve their livelihood.

A new World Bank report published recently showed that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers in the African country lost their jobs because of the devastating pandemic that forced businesses to close, which has pushed up the unemployment rate.

Many of them resorted to agriculture and exploitation of natural resources to fend for themselves and families.

At a rice farm run by Chinese firm Zhong Industries Limited in the central Ugandan district of Kalungu, over 1,000 employees from different parts of the country did not lose their jobs during the pandemic, said a local manager Isaac Ocen.

Querido said the government and other stakeholders should guide the youths to appreciate modern agriculture which is different from the “hand-hoe” agriculture practiced by their forefathers.

“We have more technology, more use of sophisticated machines like drones. The focus has to be on the business side of agriculture, how we manage to do agriculture that looks at what the market needs, and the return on investment will be high,” Querido said.

The FAO expert also said a resilient agricultural system is critical for ensuring food and income security even when pandemics like COVID-19 hit.

With support for the youths, Querido said, they can be critical labor forces that can revolutionize agriculture to increased food supply and ensure income security.

Peter Muhimbo, an expert at Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture told Xinhua that several projects have lined up that the youths can embrace to improve their livelihood.

In the new financial year which started on July 1, Muhimbo said, Uganda and China have started the third phase of the China-Uganda South-South cooperation project through a tripartite agreement with FAO.

Through the project, small scale farmers in rural Uganda will benefit from the on-the-farm training to boost production. Chinese technicians and experts will continue to share skills and technology on the agronomic practices with local farmers. Local youths can take advantage of this project which could create a complete value chain with access to the market.

At the end of the second phase of the project in 2017, about 3,000 farmers were trained in cereals, horticulture, aquaculture and livestock in Uganda, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The expert said Uganda can learn from China on how it transformed its economy through agriculture and dragged millions of people out of poverty at an unprecedented level.

“It is important that this population (youths) is lifted out of poverty. China has done it in the past 40 years,” Muhimbo said.

Ocen said many youths who learned to run rice farms from the Chinese have started their own farms because they have gained the skills of planting and harvesting the crops.

The sector has given them an opportunity, he said.

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