Youth as Agriprenuers in the Perspective of NURI Programme
In the context of Uganda, youth perceive farming as an unworthy lifestyle. Some even perceive it as a punishment since in most schools, working in school gardens was used as corporal punishment. This paradigm is gradually changing since in the contemporary world, being a farmer is perceived as an honour as many lives are dependent on them. Additionally, farming has been defined by some scholars as a basis for human sustenance (Harris and Fuller 2014), meaning farming is a lifestyle and source of livelihood. It provides employment, food, enriches culture and creates wealth and development.
In a statement by the President of the African Development Bank Dr. Akinwumi Adesina “The future of the rural world depends on the future of agriculture sector”. To achieve that, the long-term farming constraints facing farmers in Uganda including; limited access to improved crop varieties, existing gap between farmers and researchers, limited extension services, and inadequate market linkages amongst the value chain actors should be addressed. In spite of the aforementioned bottlenecks, the contribution by development interventions that support implementation of the GOU national development strategies (G.O.U 2020) specifically DANIDA funded programmes like Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI) has contributed to improvements in the farming households especially in Northern Uganda through interventions aimed at enhancing resilience and economic inclusion of the smallholder farmers in the region.
The future of the rural world depends on the future of agriculture sector
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) which is one of the three outputs of NURI programme that aims at addressing the production gaps among the rural farming communities in the programme areas. Implementation of CSA envisages increase in the agricultural cash income of participating farming households. The programme uses a holistic tool called Production and Marketing Plan (PMP) to track progress of individual farmers while incorporating concepts of business skills to enable each farmer self-evaluate him/herself on the achievement of his/her production and marketing targets.
The production and marketing plan concept was introduced in 2015 during the DANIDA programme “Development Assistance to Refugee Hosting Areas Phase III” implementation. Overtime, the tools has been improved and now integrated into the NURI programme database, it is used as a benchmark not only to assess the farmers progress over the programme period but also embedded in the programmes result framework for achievement of programme goals. The idea of using the tool by the farmers is premised on the fact that the smallholders have poor record keeping skills (Mukwaya, Bamutaze et al. 2012) therefore, having a consolidated group PMP will address the poor record keeping challenge.
Generally, the uptake of this tool has been relatively slow right from the start because of its rigorous paper work and it was exacerbated by the more time required to understand by the users. Eventually, with frequent reviews of the tool (PMP), the tool has been refined and easy to understand. Consequently, the farmers have gained insight of using the tool in guiding household farming decisions and marketing activities.
Farming from a youth perspective has always been viewed as a longer investment compared to the instant cash earned from nonagricultural activities for instance ridding boda-boda. To negate such notion, the programme introduced the use of PMPs in participating farmer groups which has changed the perspective of the youth in farming since the tool forecasts production in terms of acreage and yield (output) against resource needs and the resulting income based on the prevailing market prices. Better yet, the production and marketing committees (PMCs) elected by the farmer groups to enable the process of collective marketing play a key role in identifying potential buyers and bargaining for fair prices on behalf of the groups. The NURI collective marketing approach has demystified the notion of agriculture being a nonviable venture and the common say of lack of market for agricultural produce and persistent middlemen challenge in the agricultural value chain. Additionally, the PMPs concept envisions the transition of the farmers in relation to their production and marketing activities through the period of the programme support
Many farmer groups and surrounding communities in the NURI programme areas have benefited from the using this tool (PMP), a case in point is Driciru Alima, a Ugandan youth and single mother who ventured into production of beans in half an acre of land, using seeds received from the group’s learning and multiplication sites that NURI programme supports. She has been able to progress from half to 3 acres of land under bean production. Additionally, Driciru has been involved in seed loaning business to members of her group and nearby community. The interest of over 2,000,000 Ugx earned in one year on the seed loans has contributed in stabilizing her family. Driciru’s business augment addresses some of the challenges rural smallholder farmers including limited access to improved seed varieties in the community, marketing challenges and low yields. Interestingly, in the group PMP, Driciru’s performance has been among the highest of producers and competing with the male counterparts.
To bring this to perspective, the NURI CSA approach breeds innovative young agripreneurs, incorporates financial literacy, youth involvement in the value chains of the NURI programme strategic crops. Finally, to the youths who do not envision participating in direct agricultural production, many opportunities exist in the value chains especially agro input and agro produce value chains basically targeting the local market for inputs and produce. A case in point is the seed loan business Driciru Alima is engaged in, which is a perfect and affordable startup strategy for the youth.
In conclusion, embracing a tool such as the PMP, will not only guide farmers in implementing production and marketing plans in a specific period but also give them business skills. This is a point of appeal to development partners and government to support and create linkages for youth with innovations and viable startups in order to elevate the agricultural sector.