By Solomon Kalema Musisi
“We need government to give us employment,” is the much expected conclusion of any current debate amongst youth in search for solutions to the high unemployment rate.
However, the suggestion of fields of work points to a number of majorly office employment opportunities.
The Agricultural Sector, as the most potentially extensive, presents more than many may perceive.
Unlike other fields of work, job creation in agriculture can be easier transformed into income generation without much demand for special skill impartation.
As the sector continues to grow into one based on value addition and agribusiness investment for both domestic and export market production, there are more expansion options which do not require on-farm work.
The required techniques for value addition are not too complex to be comprehended by graduates in search of employment and job creation and if better publicised can be of much worth to the graduates in this nation whose economic support source is predominantly agricultural.
Despite all the available employment and job creation opportunities, the appreciation of agriculture by the youth as a potential investment and employment field is still very low.
From a questionnaire based survey on attitude of youth towards agriculture I conducted among 200 youths in the nine Colleges of Makerere University from October 9-13, 2013 the need for more insight on agriculture is crucial for student youths.
59.5% of the participants are male and 40.5% are female.
Of the female participants, 38.3% own agricultural projects and 42% of the male do.
The major national challenge to investment in agriculture which was pointed out by 32.5% of the students is lack of capital followed by low value addition to agricultural products which was considered by 20.5% of the participants.
On the whole, 96% of the youth consider agriculture potential field of investment and 94.5% think agricultural investment can fund their education.
However, 2% did not consider agriculture a potential field of investment and 3.5% did not think it could fund their education, pointing out changing seasons and lack of sufficient input to operate large scale investments as the reasons.
As regards what the youth think should be done to attract more of them into the agricultural field of investment, 51% considered provision of startup capital, 18.5% conferences and seminars and 11% opening up of more youth associations.
The difference in willingness to participate showed that there is need to put more effort in encouraging female youth to develop more interest in agriculture.
25.9% of the female participants pointed out insufficient extension services as a major national challenge compared to 13.4% of the males. This shows a variation in receipt and hope of receipt
This also indicates the need for women empowerment.
Only 5% and 4% of the participants considered rice and fish respectively as potential enterprises as of 2013 with the majority 56% choosing livestock and 20.5% maize.
This finding backed the inclusion of the fish and rice seminar on the programme.
The citation of low value addition as a national challenge by 20.5% of the participants indicated the need for more insight on how best to add value to agricultural products hence the need for a seminar on the same.
The finding that only 17% of the participants who own projects run agribusiness projects indicated the need for more insight on the major aspects of agribusiness investment especially value addition and maximisation of benefit from economies of scale.
The field has numerous stakeholders in form of both government and non-government organisations and initiatives including those from the office of the President of the Republic of Uganda.
Along with the crucial ingenuities and projects run by the stakeholders, publicity of the potential in agriculture to the youth can further widen options of innovation and greatly reduce the high youth unemployment rate through a sector where youth can themselves create more jobs for fellow youth with financial and mentorship support from the various stakeholders.
There is more that youth can access through our own innovativeness to join the government in reducing the high youth unemployment rate.
The search for jobs in economies like South Africa by graduates from Uganda is majorly due to the attractive state of the economy there which benefits from having the youngest youth population in the world in the labour force.
Attaching youth interest to the dependable sectors of a nation’s economy is therefore the ultimate means of empowering the labour force to contribute favorable input and also promoting job creation in which the youth who are supported to start up projects can employ fellow youth.
Agribusiness investment in candidate enterprises such as fish and greens can be coordinated by pioneer teams of youth to grow the production to scales large enough to employ other young people regardless of the level of education achieved.
The graduates possess the information of business management and computer use while the youth who have not obtained as much education also possess the much needed practical skills and ideological input.
The high rate of youth unemployment can, therefore, best be reduced by the youth with support from other stakeholders especially funding agencies and central government to empower graduates to apply classroom knowledge for the benefit of the rest.
The writer is a student’s Council President
School of Agricultural Sciences
Makerere University Kampala