Uganda is renown for good equatorial climate and fertile soils. These factors make a case for supporting and sustaining agricultural sector in the country quite realistic.
However, Uganda’s agriculture seems to be under performing in comparison to many of the countries that are not as naturally gifted. As of 2018, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Uganda stood at $25.89b, according to World Bank statistics. The agriculture sector contributes 24.5 per cent to GDP and employs 71.9 per cent of the labour force, 77 per cent of whom are women, 63 per cent are youth, with the majority in the rural areas. Although agriculture employs a large portion of the labour force, the productivity levels still remain low due to the continued use of rudimentary practices, and a high engagement in agriculture for subsistence purposes.
It should be noted that the youth unemployment rate in Uganda continues to soar, having reached 62 per cent, with universities rolling out as many as 400,000 graduates annually. These individuals, given the current economic growth, are too many to be absorbed unless other options, especially agriculture, are wholly embraced. According to the Uganda Investment Authority, only 150,000 jobs are created annually of which some are not durable.
The agricultural sector, therefore, can be a potential source of job creation for the growing number of Ugandans. With such a large proportion of people already involved in the sector, improvement to both agriculture and labour can go hand-in-hand in transforming the economy and creating jobs in multiple sectors through back and forward linkages.
Improvement in agriculture can come in form of modern agricultural practices and better inputs such as irrigation, improved crop varieties, assurance of market for produce and land protection to the farmers. Though the government has already taken initiative in that direction through irrigation schemes, providing farmers with better quality seedlings through Naro and Operation Wealth Creation, enough has not been done to bring the youth on board.
The growth of the agricultural sector has the potential to absorb unemployed youth directly through engagement in farming and indirectly through providing services in agro-based industries. Also, this can provide a remedy to the increasing youth rural to urban migration.
Equipping the youth with technical and operational skills in agriculture is the way to go. The government should embrace agriculture as a way of dealing with youth unemployment.