As CEO of Uganda’s Young Farmers Federation and global facilitator for the Youth Committee of the World Farmer Organization (WFO) based in Rome, Denis Kabiito knows a thing or two about young people and farming.
The 34-year-old somehow also finds time to farm in Rakai district - a central area 200km south west of Kampala. Here he grows bananas, coffee, maize and beans, and raises chickens and goats.
His experiences at the local, national and international level puts him in a unique position to offer perspective on farming and the next generation. We asked him for his thoughts:
What are you most excited about in farming?
The world is becoming younger; in Uganda for instance 78% of the population is below 30 years old. This educated, energetic and technology-savvy cohort is going to drive the industry to new heights.
Secondly, our industry is seeing science and innovation at its best, which is helping to increase efficiency, productivity and harness the youth potential in agriculture.
Lastly, world population is growing at a fast rate and as a farmer my business and products are needed more than ever.
What are the biggest challenges in the food system?
There are many: climate change; unfavorable policies catering to consumers but not producers; political instabilities; a disorganized and non-united voice among farmers in developing countries; an ageing farm population that won’t hand over to the next generation; and barriers to young people getting finance.
What can this generation bring to farming?
Dynamism - it can act as a catalyst for change given young people’s propensity and willingness to adapt to new ideas and to have the energy to carry them through.
Young people can bring innovation, knowledge and skills to galvanize the whole value chain of any agriculture product.
How is your generation approaching farming differently?
It is embracing technology, innovation and research easily, as well as the concept of working together as a family, cooperative or association - but with more or a business model. It is also encouraging specialization.
How do we encourage young people into the industry?
There needs to be a multi-disciplinary approach that changes the image of farming into a profession that employs skilled and educated people.
We also need; role models and mentorship; better access to credit and land; to attract more mechanization; and to change education so it includes practical skills.
Lastly, we need to organize youth into groups to amplify their influence.
What would you tell young people thinking about going into farming?
Since we are skilled we can cope with unfavorable conditions in the sector and we can have the chance to harness our potential through innovation and creativity.
Youth can have a significant role in all the stages of the value chain - not only in food production . Let’ s embrace farming , cherish it and show that it is possible to have a decent life from it.