The International Youth Day was celebrated on the 12th August 2021. In Fort Portal, the celebrations were held at Kicwamba Technical College, organized by KRC, the Youth Innovation Hub, Y-Factor, Ile De Paix, the Youth Councils of Kabarole District and Fort Portal City and supported by GOAL under the Young Africa Works; Markets for Youth Program. In Northern Uganda, the Day was commemorated in Bodi Bidi Refugee Settlement, under the ausipiecs of KRC European Union funded peace programme.
This year’s International Youth Day theme placed young people at the centre of the Food System, and sought their ingenuity and innovation to fix the current food system’s deficiencies.
As KRC, the message of the International Youth Day addressed two of our strategic elements of our mission; promoting youth engagement for fulfilling and dignified work and influencing system change for food security and nutrition for all.
Mr. Bwambale Bernard, KRC’s Nutrition Program Manager, pointed out that food systems are the heart of many challenges facing the global community, from food insecurity to resource conservation and climate change. He noted that the challenges are interrelated and require a food systems approach.
At regional level, KRC is implementing the Food Systems Lab and nutrition programs for the general population and at-risk groups in the refugee settlements. The Fort Portal Food Change Lab worked to food actors and local leadership to alarming malnutrition rates and stunting for children under the age of five.
At the celebration of the International Youth Day, young people and leaders deliberated on a number of issues concerning the food system.
- The current state of agriculture is not been attractive to the youth due to a number of challenges; including lack of adequate storage facilities, low capacity to add value and increase shelf-life of agriculture products,
- Inadequate markets for agricultural products prevent youths from the benefits of agriculture
- The government of Uganda allocates a small portion of the budget to agriculture. This limits the level of support that can be extended to the youth in the communities. There is need for more government investment in an industry that is considered to be the back bone of the economy and employs majority of the population
- Youths are not aware of the agriculture insurance scheme to manage risks in the sector
- Youths lack knowledge to make informed enterprise and value chain segment choices and as such they are not consistent in what they do
- Limited capacity and uptake of technologies, where government has invested little in irrigation, greenhouses and climate smart technologies
- Low uptake of research and use of open source researched knowledge available through internet and other media
- Many government support programs are small scale because they are done as pilot projects
- Mindsets is still a challenge. We have a responsibility to encourage fellow youth. Use youth role models to encourage others. Many young people have a microwave mentality and want quick results. Youth should have a long-term thinking in agriculture since success does not happen overnight. Young people need to understand what they are producing, what the market wants and who the market is.
- Youths have a victim hood mentality. There is need to understand that Agriculture like any other business is prone to losses. There is need to understand that youths are competing with people who have economies of scale and increase their effort.
- To address malnutrition, young people should be food educators. Many youths have scanned our traditional foods and prefer junk like chips etc.
- Youths in other industries can engage in various activities like marketing, processing etc. Government resources are spread thin therefore at the district level there is need to organize youths into groups to benefit from this support. At the processing stage, Youths should know which ministry or organization will support their cause. Hence the need to create this awareness
- Operationalization of lower district councils remains a challenge. The government gives only 1,150,000 to support youth activities which is not adequate. Challenged the government to operationalization youth structures from the national to village level
Kabarole District Chairperson, Hon. Richard Rwabuhinga reminded the youth that the time is now and that, they are not too young to engage in meaningful agriculture and to innovate. He called on the youth to organize to access support of government. He encouraged them to embrace vocational skilling and participate in building a skill- based economy.
He applauded KRC for pioneering the food systems discourse in the region and influencing people to appreciate the nutritional value of indigenous foods and encouraged young people to be at the forefront of promoting healthy and sustainable local food systems.