Dorothy and Moses are among 90 other youth who proudly flashed their smiles and certificates in September 2021 after completing their one-year course in the Kaweri Youth Development Project (KYDP) which is implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) in Mubende District, central Uganda. Due to the pandemic, the youth didn’t have a big graduation ceremony that their parents, community and local government leaders could attend – which is the KYDP norm – but they still celebrated their success in small certificate giving ceremonies in batches of 20. Before the project, many didn’t have the ability to secure their livelihoods but now, they are equipped with agricultural knowledge and skills that will change the trajectory of their lives.
Uganda has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations worldwide, with about half of the people being under the age of 15. As a result, the nation faces the challenge of meeting the needs of its youth – many of whom reside in rural areas and have limited education, skills, and work opportunities. According to the latest census, youth constitute 80% of the country´s unemployed.
It is increasingly recognized that professional agriculture has the potential to generate income and drive economic growth in Uganda. However, the participation of youth in agriculture is limited. They often have a poor attitude towards farming and lack access to land, technical skills as well as knowledge on coping with the effects of climate change.
Since 2016, HRNS has been running KYDP with the objective of changing the mindsets of rural youth in Uganda towards agriculture. In partnership with the NKG Kaweri Coffee Plantation, every year about 90 early school dropouts aged between 15 – 25 from communities in Mubende District are trained and exposed to improved agricultural practices. In training cycles of twelve months, participating youth receive both theoretical and practical training, covering a broad range of topics including agricultural skills, financial literacy, and gender aspects. The trainings are held twice a week where practical sessions take place on so-called demonstration plots with both food and cash crops (coffee, maize, beans, tomatoes, vegetables etc.) that are selected and managed by the youth themselves. The tools, seeds and other agricultural inputs are provided by KYDP.
Key Project Outcomes
1. Youth have more access to land through improved generational change
As some adults do not trust youth regarding their agricultural skills and intentions, they are often reluctant to share resources with them – including land to farm on. Through KYDP, parents are encouraged to visit the youth demonstration plots and see the application of more advanced agricultural techniques and their higher yielding potential. This builds the credibility of youth and their parents become more willing to make land available to them for farming.
After I joined KYDP, my uncle gave me half an acre of land, and my dad gave me two acres of land to farm on. I have planted 389 coffee trees on the two pieces of land and my parents and uncle are proud that I can support myself and my daughter. They believe in my agricultural skills because I am also transferring my knowledge to them. My dream is to buy my own land so I can expand my farming business and educate my daughter.
2. Youth have improved access to financial services
KYDP established a youth loan facility for young people to start agro-businesses where 61 youth have taken loans which combine to a total value of 30 million UGX (USD 8500). So far, the youth have successfully invested the funds in their agro-businesses and are all on track to repay their loans as their income generation ability continues to grow.
I graduated from the KYDP Programme in 2016. Although I had mastered how to farm coffee and other food crops, getting the resources to begin my own venture was just a nightmare. After one season of not doing anything other than helping my parents to manage their coffee farm, the HRNS Field Officers and project coordinator told me and other youth in my similar situation about the possibility of getting a loan through the KYDP youth loan facility to start my own venture. I borrowed 1 million UGX which helped me hire land for 2 seasons at 400,000 UGX. With the balance, I bought improved tomatoe seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. That season went very well for me – I got 2.2 million UGX which helped me pay back the loan and I then reinvested 1 million UGX in expanding my tomatoe and irish potatoes business and I have never looked back. I have saved some money and acquired my own piece of land, on part of it I have planted 350 coffee trees. I feel economically empowered!
3. Youth unemployment reduces as they start lucrative farming businesses
To promote employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men, KYDP’s training program includes business and financial literacy components. This supports youth’s establishment of agro-businesses. Other linkages to genuine agricultural inputs, finance and other essential services further strengthens youth’s ability to maintain their businesses and generate income.
Before the program I didn’t have a dream and now I have direction. The main challenge that youth face is not having opportunity to be trained in skills to help them have something to do. Now that I have the skills, my dream is to expand my coffee garden to support my single mum and younger siblings’ education.
4. Youth participation in farmer organizations increases
Some young KYDP graduands have established a youth Cooperative Society where they took the initiative to also jointly raise funds to invest in a Coffee Nursery and Mother Garden. The Cooperative has distributed 5000 coffee seedlings to youth and 11,000 seedlings have been sold to their community.
As one of the founding members of our Cooperative, I am proud to say we are supplying the community with improved coffee seedlings.
5. Young people’s attitude towards agriculture improves and mindsets change
Many youths have a bad perception of farming – it comes from seeing our parents struggle. They struggle to pay school fees and other expenses. I never thought agriculture could sustain my life but now after being trained, I see a future in farming, and I am looking forward to many years of farming.
Key Project Achievements
- To date, 390 students (157 female and 233 male) have successfully graduated from the one-year KYDP course
- Youths’ attitude towards agriculture has dramatically changed – the exit assessment indicates that all youth have now chosen to remain in agriculture
- 84% of youth reported that they are now involved in agriculture and have started earning a living from it
- 65% of youth have been lent land by their parents to start farming and earning income
- 23% of the participating youths have acquired their own land (0.5 -1. 5 acres on average)
- 61 youth have borrowed from the youth loan facility to boost their income generating activities
- 130 youth have borrowed from their Village Savings and Loans Associations VSLA to boost their income generating activities
- 30 youth have established a coffee Mother Garden and Nursery as an income generating activity
It is safe to say that the youth who have gone through KYDP in Mubende have improved their livelihoods and prospects. As young people make up the majority of Uganda’s population, it is HRNS’ mandate to support the generational change in agriculture by empowering young Ugandans to overcome the many challenges they face – not only for their future, but for the future of the nation.