Lighting up our own passion in ICT4 Agriculture – the youth perspective
The National Newspapers in Uganda reports that each year, Uganda’s Universities and Tertiary institutions passes out 400,000 graduates to compete for 90,000 jobs in both the public and private sector, creating a deficit of 310,000 jobs annually. This is quite alarming but a truthful reality. In May 2013, I met the youthful Ahmed Naleba – full of energy and enthusiasm as we talked about ICTs and Agriculture in Uganda. Ahmed had come to attend one of our web 2.0 and social media learning opportunity in Kampala.
Ahmed’s passion about ICTs and how young people can leverage technology to cause social and economic change on their lives was so strong during our initial interaction. While ICTs and the power of the web became our main interests especially applying ICTs in the overall context of development, we eventually realized both of us had very strong interests and passion for Agriculture.
Ahmed shared with me how he particularly think the current agricultural sector in Uganda can be financed, overhauled and strategically prioritized to drive the economy providing jobs, improving livelihoods and spurring growth. His concern was that the service industry that the Government of Uganda kept emphasizing as a key sector to propel the economy to development did not have a direct impact on the welfare of citizens. He argued that money invested in the service sector rarely go to livelihood enhancement and improvement programs but rather to infrastructural and service development which leaves a lot of people cowed by poverty – lacking even the basic necessities e.g, they would still struggle with access to better health delivery, access to clean and safe water, diseases and malnutrition among others.
Despite the Government announcement each financial year showing growth figures, this growth has not directly impacted on the quality and welfare of citizens. Eventually, many Ugandans have found themselves frustrated by the current political system bogged down with a lot of corruption, nepotism and inequalities in the provision of social amenities. This predicament has created a situation in which youth have found themselves in a precarious condition – always dissatisfied with their leaders – majority have been participating in recent riots and walk-to walk demonstration as they show their frustration of the inability of the state to address the alarming youth unemployment, cost of living and other social evils such as corruption
Ahmed is a graduate of Information Technology from Sikkim Manipal University in Uganda and had been involved for many years in rice farming in his home village. He challenged me how the income he derives from his agricultural practices has enabled him to complete and advance his education. At that moment, we both realized how powerful the opportunity presented by ICTs had connected both of us passionate about ICTs and agriculture for young people in Uganda – remember; we had just met for the first time for a web 2.0 and social media training
I was specifically learning a lot of things from these conversations and also from my own farming practices. I was also challenged to invest more in agriculture and watch the space. In July 2013, around the time for the African Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) held in Accra, Ghana. Ahmed and i sat together for an interview and decided to write an article about how agriculture is well paying and admirable based on Ahmed’s story and a few of my other colleagues i have met in the field along the way. This story was widely disseminated on the FARA’s social media platforms attracting about 50 twitter shares and 53 Facebook shares among other social media platforms
While Agriculture has been of recent the main talk in the media and many online platforms, its one sector that many young people are yet to venture into especially since this may cut across interests and passion along the value chains of agricultural commodity
A few weeks ago, actually on the 18th of March 2014, again i met Ahmed in neighboring town of Tororo, close to Butaleja district on a visit and we shared a lot of ICT4D prospects and future plans for a society in which more young people are able to take up the use of technology tools to better themselves economically – especially with key interests in Agriculture
I have been more challenged by Ahmed’s story and other experiences of fellow youth to continue with farming and i am even more motivated to change the way i do things particularly my farm practices so that my fellow youth and friends can be inspired from my own story as well. Ahmed also shared with me a photo of his pineapple garden among his many other agriculture investments in Butaleja district.
The agricultural sector has for several years formed the backbone of Uganda’s economy contributing approximately 37% of Gross Domestic product (GDP). The sector remains crucial to the Ugandan economy for household and national food security, income generation, employment creation and foreign exchange earnings among others. Close to 18.8 million or 77% of the Ugandan population depend on agriculture for their livelihoods (NARO, 2011).
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