Going back to the roots: Why the youth needs to come back to farming

December 3, 2015 by


Not often does one come across a girl who is interested in chasing a career in agriculture. Paradoxically, research shows that more than 60 per cent of women worldwide are responsible for putting food on the table. In that case, why aren’t more people, notably young women taking up a profession in agriculture?

Meet Saudah, a 19-year-old from Uganda, where 50 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line. Saudah joined empowerment and livelihood for adolescents (ELA), a BRAC initiative which provides safe spaces for girls. Also known as ‘clubs’, these spaces allow them to socialise and flourish through mentoring and life skills training. In Uganda, ELA targets adolescent girls between the ages of 13 and 21, especially those who are out of school.

To encourage and support adolescent girls to take up productive agriculture, the ELA programme rents out land close to the clubs and leases them to those who show interest, reaching a total of 1,463 people in more than eight districts of Uganda. The main reason was to empower girls and find out if providing technical assistance through agriculture would help them in the long run. They were provided with essential equipment such as seeds, hose, and fertilisers.

Saudah (pictured left) at the Young Africa Works Summit.

Saudah (pictured left) at the Young Africa Works Summit.

“I always knew the basics of farming but I still needed proper training on how to weed my crops along with cultivating half an acre of land for one whole year,” says Saudah.  After completing the training, Saudah began to grow maize, beans and ground nuts, and slowly her crops showed yield. She began to earn a steady income every month. Saudah does not only contribute to her family’s wellbeing, but is also recognised for her work.

Saudah was chosen to attend the Young Africa Works Summit in South Africa in October. Hosted by The MasterCard Foundation, the summit focused on finding practical solutions for youth employment and entrepreneurship within the agricultural sector. Key influencers, including youth and representatives from government, development organisations and the private sector shared insights on effective approaches for creating economic opportunities for young men and women in agriculture.

A recent study in Mali describes the growing phenomenon of thé-chômeurs- literally, the tea-drinking unemployed. These people have had some years of schooling but cannot find the kind of non-manual work for which their schooling has prepared them. This increasing phenomenon has given rise to a new category of ‘working unemployed’. Encouraging youth to take up professions in agriculture can go a long way in tackling the problem of unemployment.

The Future Agricultures Consortium (2010) concludes: ‘Young Africans are increasingly reluctant to pursue agriculture-based livelihoods’. The reasons behind this could be aplenty; perhaps it is to do with access of land. Perhaps, it is a profession that does not interest the younger generation.

“I want to help my family and I wish my younger sister also becomes a farmer like me one day,” says Saudah. With further support, this project can help build the future of many more girls like Saudah and can be expanded to other regions in Uganda.

Here’s hoping Sauda’s story will inspire her generation to understand that farming with its business potential can transform lives of families.


Syeda Samara Mortada is senior lead, communications, BRAC International.