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Empowering young farmers through the YPARD Uganda Café

From the Central to the West, to the North and the East, the YPARD Café caravan traversed Uganda with the main aim of empowering and training young farmers to be incorporated into the food value chain systems to foster food security across Uganda and Africa as a whole.

On 22nd January 2021, the bus was set for Kagadi District in the Western part of Uganda, to the Doers Youth Farm founded by Mr. Charles Goodyear Kisembo, a young farmer, who in 2019 was named an FAO Youth Champion and has trained and inspired hundreds of young farmers. At this farm, the attendees were taken through a lecture on business success emanating from the success story of Charles who at one time lost over USD 5,000 in one season due to swine flu that hit his piggery farm but never gave up on his dream of being the best in the sector. He advised the youth to value and love agriculture just like any other sector of the economy. He also took the youth through practical experience in farm setup processes, farm management, pests and disease control, marketing of agricultural produce and the need to capitalize on digital innovations available on the market. The youth had a guided tour of Charles’ farm and were equipped with skills to help them effectively run and manage their own farming projects.

Like a lion in the jungle on a mission to get the best prey, we returned to the Central region to yet again empower youth from the central region. 23rd Jan found us at Bulamu mixed Farm in Gayaza in the central district of Wakiso. Here, the youth were trained in urban farming practices especially where one doesn’t have vast land for agriculture. Pig farming was the first on the table for the youth to learn. They were taken through breed selection, housing, feed selection, prevention of pests and diseases. The youth were also taken through training on fish farming, dairy farming and banana farming, receiving skills on the dos and don’ts in these sections of farming.

On 25th January 2021, we proceeded to the northern region to find out the magic of food production in this particular region. Our destination was Light Force Farm International in Lira town. The firm is a diversified one with a variety of projects operationalized. At light force, the youth were taken through practical training on silage making, fruit growing, poultry farming, piggery and goat farming. Attracted by the beauty of this farm, many of the attendees promised to start immediately and will invite us to visit “their” farming projects to put on record the skills that they gained from the YPARD Café. They were also taken through a motivational talk by the farm manager miss Prisca, a qualified accountant who gradually developed a love for farming from engaging with farmers at different levels. She challenged the attendees to be ambassadors of mindset change. She was quoted castigating those who undermine the agriculture sector calling it for the poor, village-based and uneducated saying “If you still think that agriculture is for the uneducated, then you are not educated”.

Our last farm tour was in the Eastern region district of Mbale where we met and engaged with another team of young farmers at Kasajja farm. The eastern team was taken through fish farming, dairy farming which included milk processing as well, beekeeping and banana farming. They were equipped with skills on setting up and management of farms.

To wrap up the café, and with all the skills gained from the farm visits, it was time to now show the youth how best they can use digital solutions for the agriculture sector available on the market to gain value from their agriculture undertakings. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and with limited interactions between the stakeholders of the food value chain systems (farmers, resource providers, transporters, sellers and buyers), there is need to explore digital solutions to ensure a sustainable and continued food value chain. It is on this need that YPARD Uganda incorporated a demonstration of digital innovations in the café. On 27th January 2021, YPARD Uganda hosted Uganda’s top agriculture innovators EzyAgric, AgriShare, Akello Banker and Smart Farming Uganda whose solutions can be accessed through both Web, App and USSD modules. EzyAgric is a platform that provides credit services to farmers, agro-inputs, provides a solution for farm records and analysis. Offers agricultural extension services and is also an online market for agriculture products and inputs. AgriShare provides linkages between farm equipment manufacturers, owners, vendors and the farmers. One can hire equipment, land, and other farming inputs through this solution. Akello Banker offers easy access to farm inputs like the hire of machinery, medical services and farm labour on credit by using data and mobile technology to offer structured repayments compatible to user’s needs. This uses both Mobile, Web and USSD access. Smart Farming Uganda is an online supermarket for Seeds, Seedlings, Agrochemicals, Fertilizers, Feeds, Animal health, Fresh farm produce & more.

We were able to engage and empower more than 100 young farmers both physically and online. The videos from these farm visits will be uploaded on YouTube.