17 of 100: Ag and COVID-19: AgTech, An Opportunity for Employment.

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UBOS Uganda Nations Household Survey 2016/17 indicated that the national unemployment rate was 9.2% with the unemployment rate for youth between 18- 30 at 13.3% https://www.hiretheyouth.org/wrong-about-youth-unemployment/

There are a number of strategies aimed at creating employment for young people including skilling and teaching them to be job creators as opposed to job seekers.

As we look for sectors where to engage youth, it is necessary to look at the ones critical to the economy. During the Presidential speech announcing the COVID-19 lock-down on 30th March 2020,  the President mentioned several essential services including media, medical, agriculture and finance.

The agriculture sector has the ability to become a major source of employment for youth https://www.independent.co.ug/how-ugandas-agriculture-and-food-system-can-create-jobs/ Ordinarily when we think about agriculture, farm and farming activities come to mind and these are currently the focus areas for skilling in agriculture for our youth. These programmes focus on teaching the youth better on-the-farm practices e.g crop spacing for increased productivity and book-keeping skills. However, in this generation of millennial’s, we are seeing more youth opt for jobs that are technology based and not the traditional jobs as we know them.

But how do we integrate agriculture with technology to create employment for the youth.

Agriculture is more than just work on the farm and this crisis has brought attention on the reality that we have to turn to technology for business continuity. We need to change the way we teach agriculture in our tertiary institutions, adjusting the agriculture curriculum to sync with existing trends that Technology in Agriculture is taking.

To give contest to changes that need to be made, lets review a few courses currently offered in agriculture institutes:

Bukalasa Agricultural College courses include: Diploma in Crop production and Management and Certificate in Floriculture. Ndejje University has courses like Bachelor of Forest plantation and Agroforestry and B Sc. Sustainable Agriculture and Extension.

Compare this to courses like Agricultural engineering, Agriculture consulting and Data Science, Plant Biology, Soil Science etc. being offered in the same sector, in different countries. http://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Importance-Of-Agriculture-As-Career-Stream-For-Millenials-/18-04-2020-189459/

A shift in the approach to Agriculture education shall make the sector attractive to more players. Additionally, technology can be used to efficiently solve existing agriculture problems in Uganda like land fragmentation and dependency on natural weather patterns.

Integrating Technology in agriculture education is definitely one sure way to encourage youth participation in Agriculture.

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