FAO, govt out to attract more youth into agriculture sector

05Aug 2019
Songa wa Songa
The Guardian
FAO, govt out to attract more youth into agriculture sector

THE Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a unique project aimed at attracting and keeping more Tanzanian youth into commercial agriculture.

Levina Christopher (L) and other members of Umoja ni Nguvu group work on their green pepper field at Msalato in Dodoma Region, as found at the weekend. They are beneficiaries of a youth incubation programme supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Photo courtesy of FAO

Starting with giving the youth basic skills in modern agricultural practices including irrigation, proper use of fertilizer and pesticides as well as value addition, the project focuses on short term crops and animals.

Speaking here at the weekend during the first documentation visit to trace progress of the ‘Support sustainable value chain development for job creation, food and nutrition security in Tanzania,’ the project whose implementation kicked off in 2016, FAO’s National Consultant on Value Chain and Youth Employment, Cypridion Mushongi said that the model is designed such that it can be scaled up countrywide.

It is part of implementation of the National Strategy for Youth Involvement in Agriculture (NSYIA, 2016-2020), which FAO helped develop through its ‘Support sustainable value chain development for job creation, food and nutrition security in Tanzania’ project. Mushongi said the target has been youth groups and young agro-entrepreneurs who are currently engaged in pre-selected value chains mainly sunflower, horticulture, poultry and apiculture in Dodoma, Singida, Morogoro and Coast regions.

Since 2016, FAO has supported training of about 750 youth on hands-on practical agribusiness skills and knowledge, access to finance and markets and access to irrigation technologies such as water pumps and drip irrigation kits.

”This has helped to build agribusiness and entrepreneurial capacities among youth, thus enabling a cross section of the youth and graduates to create and run commercial agricultural enterprises along the value chains,” he said.

As part of project implementation, FAO through its service provider namely the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative Society (SUGECO) conducted youth incubation training to 250 youth at Mkongo Agricultural Youth Camp in Rufiji District from March to June this year. A similar facility is at Bihawana in Dodoma region .

Through the training, Mushongi said, the young farmers were assisted to pursue careers in agricultural value addition by adopting efficient technologies in horticultural and poultry, improve their understanding in life skills to create sustainable income-generating activities.

Among the young people attracted by the project include graduates who see a brighter future in agribusiness rather than the disciplines they studied. One of them is 24-yer-old Levina Christopher. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in development finance and investment planning from the Dodoma-based Institute of Rural Development and Planning earlier this year.

She attended the incubation programme in 2017 and has since persuaded his parents into buying her project. They have helped her secure one acre of land at Msalato area on which she works with her nine colleagues—members of the Umoja ni Nguvu group.

With the support of her parents, Levina has managed to build a store on the farm, drilled a bore hole and put up a water tower for irrigation.

”FAO helped with the drip irrigation kit which has made it easier for us,” she said.

Currently, the group is growing green pepper on the land which they said has a waiting market in the city of Dodoma.

Deonat Kinabo is a group member who was convinced by Levina to venture into agro-based activity. The 24-year-ol graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Technology and Animation from the University of Dodoma this year.

But likely fruitful opportunities were showing up chiefly in agricultural entrepreneurship, he stated.

“All the support we need now is a greenhouse. We also aspire to diversify into poultry for sustainability,” he elaborated.

Mushongi said the overall goal of the project is to improve agriculture entrepreneurship skills and multiply small firms in the sector chiefly through improved self-employment options for the youth.

The programme aims to train over 1000 youth in such ventures, hands-on good agricultural practices in horticulture, beekeeping, green house farming and poultry keeping, leading to self-employment and widely pursued agro-enterprise development.

“The programme is targeting to support youth ability to turn ideas into action in agriculture and the entire value chain by providing practical farming skills using Mkongo Agricultural Youth Camp and the Bihawana Farmers Training Center,” he specified.

Some of the challenges encountered include high expectations of youth, limited financial resources, low levels of commitment among some youth, limited access to land with reliable water flow and sustainability of youth interest in the project.