Supporting youths targeted agriculture programmes to address youths unemployment : the case of the coffee value chain in Uganda
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Creation of better youth employment opportunities is a key policy challenge across the globe leading to high rate unemployment and this affects youths’ welfare, economic performance and social stability. In Uganda, it was estimated at 62 percent and above in 2017. Coffee contributes approximately 20-30 percent to foreign exchange earnings and supports over 3.5 million people across the entire value chain. But the participants in the sub-sector are majorly elderly people operating a poor production chain and youths are not motivated and do not see job opportunities in the sub-sector due to limited access to productive assets and a general negative attitude towards perennial crops, which negatively impacts the development and sustainable contribution of the sector. It is thus imperative to seek innovative avenues of supporting interested unemployed youths to grasp opportunities in the coffee value chain. Therefore, the general objective of this paper is examination of youths targeted agriculture programmes intended to address youth unemployment in Uganda. Subsequently, three specific three objectives were set out to identify: (i) growth prospects of the coffee sub-sector in the Uganda; (ii) Youths’ competences and capabilities in the coffee value chain activities and (iii) Avenues through which interested unemployed youths can be supported to engage in coffee value chain activities. Beside, three research questions were generated namely: (i) What are the growth prospects of the coffee subsector in Uganda? (ii) Do youths have the competences and capability to engage in coffee value chain activities? and (iii) What can be done to support interested unemployed youths to engage in the coffee value chain activities? A mixed-model research design applying both quantitative and qualitative approaches was employed both in data collection and analysis. Online sources were employed to obtain the relevant data and information. Objective one involved evaluation of: Uganda’s total production, domestic consumption and export of coffee data from 2010/11 to 2016/17, performance of the top ten formal Agricultural export commodities and the gross value added by the different actors in the coffee value chain. In objective two, the key competences and capabilities for each stage of the value chain, challenges faced, the recommended solutions, the missing chain links and the constraints that prevent youths from coffee value chain engagement were identified and a SWOT analysis was used as interpretive filter. Under objective three, two key existing interventions for youth employment namely: The Youth Capital Venture Fund and the Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) programmes were evaluated and strategies were accordingly proposed. Study findings under objective one revealed that 93 percent of the average annual coffee produced is exported and the export value of coffee is more pronounced than all the other formal agriculture export commodities over the 7-year horizon which is quite significant. The annual domestic consumption of coffee averaged at 6 percent only and this is still too low. In addition, the volume of coffee produced is quite unstable and its quality is still poor across the value chain notwithstanding the obtaining low level of value addition. Besides, the coffee brand is still not yet known in key coffee consuming countries and it is still used as a blend despite its superior quality. These present growth prospects for production expansion, revenue expansion and domestic consumption expansion through value addition and effective engagement of youths with relevant skills across the entire value chain. Under objective two, findings show that youths are quite competent to engage in the sub-sector given their ability to adapt fast to new and advanced technologies; proficiency in using ICTs, vast knowledge and skills and strong team work skills. However, they have notable weaknesses of higher preference for: white collar jobs; work in urban areas; quick money, inadequate knowledge, skills and financial constraints. Besides, youths face quite a number of threats including: the negative perception by Financial Services Providers (FSPs); limited access to information; climate change and extreme weather conditions, prevalence of pests and diseases and fluctuation in the prices of coffee. But there are outstanding opportunities that they can exploit namely: availability of unexploited and underutilized land, coffee value addition, availability and increasing demand for coffee and its value-added products and availability of Technical, Vocation Education and Training (TVET) institutions for bridging the technical know-how gap. Lastly, findings in objective three revealed that the available interventions do not suit and are not tailored to the unique specificities of the unemployed youths, the unique attributes of coffee as a perennial and yet a major cash crop and the seasonality component of the agriculture sector as a whole. To this end, a number of strategies have been proposed basing on the key constraints for youth engagement and these include: development of suitable land reforms and financial products; tailoring education and training systems to the specific needs of the sub-sector and creation of a more positive image of the sub-sector. In addition, effective engagement requires modernization of the sub-sector and calls for collective responsibility and close cooperation by the key stakeholders in the coffee subsector.