Development of Agri-skills and ICTs for Youth Employment Generation: AVSI’s SKY Project in Uganda
In the years leading to 2016, economic growth in Uganda showed a slowdown from the 7% it had achieved in the 1990s and 2000s to 4.5% according to World Bank data. This had a negative impact on the country’s contribution to poverty reduction: the Uganda National Household Survey 2016/2017 shows an increase from 20% to 21% in the population living below the national poverty line.
2017 and 2018 figures and predictions for 2019 show a potential increase in economic growth to 5.5% mainly due to information and communications technology (ICT) services, an improvement in weather conditions that have had a positive effect on agricultural production and a greater investment in public infrastructure. However, the country remains highly vulnerable to climate change and political instability in the region affecting the agricultural sector, trade and employment.
Considering that Uganda’s annual population growth and urban growth rate are among the highest in the world, the Government and the international community are focusing efforts on addressing vulnerabilities—including undernutrition which places Uganda among the top 20 countries with the highest prevalence—and tackling the issues that cause rural to urban migration.
The agricultural sector is strategic for the country’s plans for sustainable development as Uganda is rich in natural and mineral resources and is home to wildlife resources that yield direct benefits to local and national income from tourism and that are sources of food and medicine.
In a concerted effort to support the Government of Uganda on its development agenda, in 2015, the Government of the Netherlands and the Italian NGO AVSI initiated a project to strengthen efforts for the sustainable creation of employment of youth in the agribusiness sub-sector. In particular, the project aimed at ensuring that 8,000 youths achieved proficiency in agri-skills and at supporting 4,000 youth to start their own agribusiness enterprise or to find wage employment in targeted regions by the end of 2020. Of these 4,000 youth, the project planned to count with at least 40% female participants.
Throughout the duration of the project, AVSI has implemented a comprehensive and innovative approach that combines good project management and thematic programming practices with a private sector engagement model.
SKY’s private sector engagement model combines a two-pronged cultural change strategy. On one hand, the implementation of initiatives that lead to a change in the mindset of development practitioners to promote the adoption of a highly entrepreneurial and sustainable-business-focused culture. On the other, businesses are trained to look at the design of their business model in a more sustainable and socially oriented manner, incentivized by an increase in their own reputation, a higher influence in the market and access to innovation opportunities.
In addition, SKY puts into action a Skilling Approach to equip youth with skills that are needed and missing in the job market and to support project beneficiaries in the establishment of start-ups and agribusinesses. This approach is accompanied by a Capacity Building element that focuses on creating and/or improving information and communications technology (ICT) skills and on the delivery of hardware in the form of infrastructure and equipment.
According to Samuele Otim Rizzo, Chief of Party of AVSI in Uganda: “The youths in Uganda tend to shun the agriculture sector because it is hard work and risky, yet it has the biggest potential in terms of job creation and employment opportunities. For the youths in Uganda, being a farmer means “failure.” It is the very last venture they would like to engage into. In order to make agriculture more attractive and interesting for them, the SKY project realised that it had to speak a language the youths would understand and appreciate. Thus terminologies such as agri-swag or agri-cool were coined and used.”
As of December 2018, the cumulative earnings of SKY youth beneficiaries had reached €2,370,888 with an average monthly wage for SKY trained entrepreneurs of €151.
Following the most recent project assessment, SKY is supporting Uganda’s national and international development agenda by making tangible contributions to SDG1 (no poverty), SDG2 (zero hunger), SDG4 (quality education), SDG12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG13 (climate action) and by addressing cross-cutting issues such as sexual reproductive health and rights, gender mainstreaming and climate change adaptation. As part of its transparency policy, AVSI makes Monitoring and Evaluation results available to the public through the MEL System Online Platform (www.avsi-skyresults.ug).
Looking at the last year of operations of this phase of the project, SKY faces some challenges which include 1) high demand for skills training by youth matched by a limited availability of resources to respond to the increasing requests; 2) the volatility of the Ugandan economy that affects project operational costs; 3) unfavourable labour market forces that affect SKY graduates due to low-paying jobs; and 4) delays in the operationalisation of the TVET Council, which is affecting the effective implementation of the Skilling Uganda Strategy.
Uganda is the second country in the world with the youngest population. Citizens under 18 years of age make up 55% of Uganda’s population. If this trend persists, the growing youth population and increased levels of unemployment will continue to stress the country’s economy. Therefore, programmes like the one implemented by AVSI through the SKY project are crucial to help the country coping with current and future challenges.
Photo credits: AVSI
World Bank https://data.worldbank.org/country/uganda
African Development Bank https://www.afdb.org/en/countries/east-africa/uganda/uganda-economic-outlook