“Praise the youth and they will thrive”. The saying couldn’t be truer than in rural Uganda, where a Self Help Africa project supporting young people to become successful agri-entrepreneurs is giving thousands a better hope for the future.
With one fourth of Uganda’s population aged under 19, young people have the potential to be key contributors in the growth of the local communities and economies. However, in remote rural areas such as the West Nile region in the north of the country, many young people see little future for themselves on the farms that their parents and grand-parents have worked for decades . On the majority of Uganda’s small farms, work is done by hand, under baking heat, and opportunities to make an income from farm produce are limited.
Over the course of four years, Self Help Africa will work to change that by supporting 3,000 young people to become productive farmers, initiate employment and drive small enterprise development in their local communities, in the Maracha, Nebbi and Zombo districts of the Western region.
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In its first year, the project has already supported 1,500 young people with agricultural inputs, training and access to finance.
So far, 900 rural youth have received starter kits – seed, watering cans, drip kits – which they can use to establish their own horticultural plots. More than 420 young people have attended short courses in local agricultural colleges and 20 youth groups have been created, promoting peer-to-peer training with a view to disseminating knowledge in the area. It is expected that, in total, 1,000 young people will go to agricultural college over the first two years of the project.
Furthermore, with the creation of a village savings and loans group, some participants have started accumulating modest savings that they will then invest in small enterprises.
In Nebbi, a small town on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the initiative is already changing the way the community perceives its young inhabitants: “The young people are our most important resource. They are our future. They are the ones to build and strengthen us in the future,” the village headman said.
For the 3,000 young farmers involved too, there is new belief that there can be a future for them in this remote, rural corner of Uganda.
Photo: Self Help Africa’s Executive Director David Dalton visited the project in January 2017 and met with young farmer Denis Orichi.