Enhancing group sustainability and innovativeness of youth in agriculture : a comparison of government and non-government interventions in mid-western Uganda
Loga, Dorcas Elizabeth
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Whereas agriculture presents the highest potential to employ the bulging youth population in Uganda and other developing countries, there is a growing dislike for agriculture among the youth albeit the challenges they face in attempting to find a livelihood in agriculture. This phenomenon exacerbates the social and economic challenges associated with youth unemployment. Several government and non-government (NGO) agencies are investing in interventions to support youth engagement in agriculture for a livelihood. Whereas both government and NGOs target youth who are organized in groups for efficiency, their interventions are founded on different conceptual models and subsequently the nature of support they provide. It is therefore imperative to analyze the two intervention models to explore areas for better coordination and complementarity for holistic support to youth to engage in agriculture. The study objectives were to characterize the government and NGO intervention models for youth engagement in agriculture; establish the potential for sustainability of existing youth groups; and describe the innovativeness of the youth groups. The outcomes of the study are used to propose a framework to guide the systematic design and implementation of youth interventions. The study was conducted in Hoima and Masindi districts in Mid-Western Uganda where numerous government and NGOs are focusing on supporting youth to take advantage of new opportunities for agriculture created by the recent discovery of oil in the region. The oil development has stimulated a rapid increase in population and urbanization creating higher demand for diverse foods and other agricultural services. A mixed methods research design combining a cross-sectional survey and case study was used. The Producer Organizations Sustainability Assessment (POSA) model was used to assess the potential for sustainability of the youth groups, and a case study for establishing the innovativeness of the youth groups using the Klerks framework for measuring innovations. It is established in this study that while the government-supported interventions conceive the youth initiatives based on the assumption that youth lack financial capital and access to inputs, the NGO interventions are founded on the assumption that the youth lack entrepreneurial and technical capacities to productively engage in agriculture. Consequently, the government interventions focus on the provision of credit like in the YLP and the provision of inputs like in the OWC, while the NGOs focus on capacity building through training and facilitating market linkages. Neither government nor NGO-supported interventions provide all needed support and would gain more through cooperation and complementarity, but unfortunately, they operate independently. Based on the POSA model, the NGO-supported groups were likely to be more sustainable than Government supported groups. The likelihood of group sustainability is largely determined by financial health, member loyalty, and leadership. There are numerous challenges faced by the youth, such as soil exhaustion, limited access to extension services, and access to land. The case studies reveal that the youth groups are innovative with an average innovation index of 0.536. However, most of the youth are more innovative at the production level than at the value addition and marketing levels, which limits the benefits from their production. For the future design of youth interventions, a framework based on coordination, multi-actor engagement, and emancipation of beneficiaries is proposed. This framework is informed by analytical questions namely; who is planning for sustainable youth engagement, how do actors position themselves, what are the structures in place, and who is mentoring the youth for innovativeness.