Skip to content
Start of page content below the header

Q&A from the webinar about youth in agribusiness in the context of COVID-19 and climate

Photo: Charles Nambasi / Pixabay

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed unsustainable systems and inequalities within all countries, affecting vulnerable groups the most. In Africa, the pandemic has disrupted agricultural value chains, which threatens food- and nutrition security and causes loss of income for rural communities. Young rural people, especially young women, are among the most vulnerable groups and are at high risk of disproportionately suffering the pandemic and its aftermath. The youth already face higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, and are overrepresented in the informal economy with casual work arrangements.

However, many young people are implementing innovative ideas to address the current food availability crisis, and it is evident that youth are acting fast and clever to cope with the effects of the pandemic. This was clearly showed during a recent webinar organized by The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), 2SCALE, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO), AgriProFocus, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) and Practical Action.

The webinar explored how young people working in agribusiness are coping with the effects of the pandemic in the context of climate change, and gathered an online audience of 200 youth from different countries. Read the rundown on the main points of the discussions at the event. The engagement was high and it was not possible to respond to all the questions from the audience during the webinar. But we have collected the most pressing questions and asked the panelists to reply via email. Click on the questions below to see their responses.

1. How has inter-country trade been affected during COVID-19? Especially trade of ex milk from Mbarara, beef and fruits?

Due to travel bans, inter-country, inter-region and inter-district trades have all been greatly hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the products for agricultural traders are perishable by nature, meaning that they need to be delivered fresh and have short shelf-life, and the negatively pressing effects have thus been felt by many agricultural traders. Other products, such as construction materials, have not been affected as much since they have longer shelf-life and can wait longer for delivery.

Hotels, Restaurants and institutions such as schools are the biggest consumers of agricultural products such as beef, milk and eggs. However, due to the closure of these facilities, the markets have greatly reduced. For example, a tray of eggs that was previously sold for 10,000-15,000UGX is now reduced to 5,000-7,000UGX. This is a direct result of the lock-down. A Liter of milk has gone down from 1000-1200UGX to 500 UGX in most parts of Uganda.

Additionally, many developing countries face challenges of loss of income, and through that, a lowered purchasing power. A huge population that used to spend their income on necessities such as food are now unable to work and therefore lack income to purchase foods. So even when agricultural products are available, there are no buyers. Farmers have thus made countable losses, and there is a need to build the capacity of these farmers to engage in processing at farm level to extend the shelf-life of agricultural products.

Answered by Ruhakana Joseph Taremwa, CEO Agrotourism Association Uganda

2. How will digital agriculture help farmers through this period?

First and foremost, Digital Agriculture, also referred to as e-agriculture, is the way to go given that people now are constrained to move freely to carry out their farm operations. During this COVID-19 pandemic, Digital Agriculture enables farmers to obtain agricultural extension without physical interaction. With proper extension services, farmers are able to acquire good inputs (seeds, fertilizers, etc.), follow the recommended practices and obtain markets for their products. With Digital Agriculture, all this is possible.

Agriculture extension has been one of the biggest challenges facing farmers, and due to the lock-down, this has hit even harder. In Uganda, the recommended ratio of an extension worker to the farmer is about 1:500, meaning that there should be one extension worker for every 500 farmers. The actual ratio of extension workers to farmers is however closer to 1:1,800. This is a huge figure, given that most of the farmers are distant, and a reliable road network is lacking.

Digital Agriculture can fill this gap by providing extension services through the phone. In Uganda, Ghana and Kenya there is a company called M-Advisory Ltd that contributes to filling this gap. This company’s technology is very effective even for farmers who don’t have smart phones.

Answered by Ruhakana Joseph Taremwa, CEO Agrotourism Association Uganda

3. How does access to financial services/insurance impact on the businesses?

Financial access to business is essential for the development and survival of businesses. Financial access is one of the main setbacks that businesses face, especially those of small size. Without external finance, small and medium enterprises will probably not be able to compete on an international market or expand the business and link it to large firms.

Access to financial services can also make a business more efficient in its operation through access to efficient assets and technologies. Businesses can safely acquire a more productive asset portfolio where the infrastructure of finance is in place, and they are also able to choose more efficient organizational forms. Generally, financial and insurance services impact businesses greatly by:

  • Ensuring that the uncertainty of business losses is reduced
  • Enhancing the credits
  • Ensuring business continuation
  • Guaranteeing welfare of the employees

Answered by Ruhakana Joseph Taremwa, CEO Agrotourism Association Uganda

4. Where do you think there are most opportunities for youth/entrepreneurs to engage in farming? Industrial farming that rely on chemical inputs, or environmentally friendly farming practices?

There is no doubt that the youth should focus on environmentally friendly farming enterprises and practices. This because;

  • It contributes to environmental conservation
  • It prevents pollution
  • It enhances biodiversity and sustainability
  • It provides competitive prices for the produce
  • And it’s beneficial for environment

Answered by Ruhakana Joseph Taremwa, CEO Agrotourism Association Uganda

5. Innovations should set us free, not chain us. How do we support young people to develop and use innovations in farming that reduce dependence on international corporations for inputs/ fertilizers and harmful agro-chemicals?

First of all, innovation is costly. The most expensive part of an innovation is marketing and making sure that people know about the product. We therefore need to help the youth by financing and marketing their products.

Most people don’t have capacity to market their products or showcase what they have innovated, so support from governments and agricultural financing institutions is key to ensure the innovations reach the markets. We also need to create awareness and make sure the farmers who it’s aimed for know these innovations. We thus need to promote the innovations and make them known to the public. Use of Radio, text messages and social media marketing is the best way to make people aware of the products, especially in the rural areas.

There should also be agricultural hubs so that young people who have good ideas can be incubated, trained and mentored, and the programs should contain support to market the innovations.

Answered by Antony Malovi, Assistant Country Coordinator CSAYN Kenya, Entrepreneur, and board member of Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry

6. In terms of preparedness, do you think there is need for climate proofing of agricultural projects for financing?

Definitely yes. This is one significant way of de-risking agricultural projects so that they can attract financing. The costs associated with climate change impacts have increasingly made agricultural ventures to be regarded as risky for agricultural finance. This because farmers tend to lose on production and markets when the climate is unpredictable.

Integrating climate information in agricultural systems is one way to climate proof agri-investments, just like taking indexed based insurance for agricultural projects. Use of appropriate climate technologies depending on scenarios, looking at costs and contexts, are also handy.

Answered by Jacob Ochieng, Practical Action Kenya

7. Significant changes in the climate are expected for the rest of the century, while many farmers are ill equipped to cope with risks. How can we provide farmers with a first insight into the impact climate change may have on agriculture?

We should start from where we are, by gathering evidence of agricultural loss as a result of climate change hazards such as floods, recurrent droughts and even locusts. This evidence should be presented to farmers in a simple functional language that they can comprehend.

For example, many farmers can identify with losses they have undergone due to total crop failures or loss of livestock livelihoods as a result of these hazards. This is important, but we should not stop here. We need to project these losses while factoring in future climate trends. For example, if a farmer was food insecure for 50% of the year, this probability may increase to 70% in the coming years if the current climate change trends are not revered, meaning their families will go hungrier, and more agricultural income will be lost.

Since almost 25% of greenhouse gases come from land use management, such as burning farm crop residues, farmers should be educated and encouraged to change such practices as a way of making their contribution towards mitigating climate change.

Answered by Jacob Ochieng, Practical Action Kenya

8. How are we youths in Agribusiness getting out of this Webinar having hopes of getting support financially?

This depends on where the youth are. There are variances in the levels of ‘enabling environment’ from country to country. In Kenya today, there are various forms of opportunities within county and national governments, and also in programs run by non-profits. However, surprisingly, most of the time the issue of finances isn’t the greatest inhibitor to youth engagement in agribusiness. The issue may lie in their readiness to competitively attract financing. Skill building and linkages to micro-finances (MFI) and other opportunities are sometimes the key issues to be addressed, and not necessarily the availability of the finances per se.

Answered by Jacob Ochieng, Practical Action Kenya