By Moses Oketayot
Kampala – Richard Byarugaba, the executive director finance, payment systems, accounts and head of the agricultural credit facility, at Bank of Uganda said that food security is very crucial for the country’s security and economic development.
“If there is no food in this city for two days, we will wake up one day when the youth have burnt it down. We need food security to promote peace, and the only way to do that is by encouraging the youth to join commercial agriculture,” he said.
He made these remarks while speaking at the first national empowerment & development in commercial agriculture conference (NEDCA22) on Thursday at Uganda Information and Communication Technology Institute in Nakawa.
About Ugx700b has been lended out to over 500 farmers since the formation of the agricultural credit facility in 2009, according to Bank of Uganda.
Byarugaba called for more public awareness campaigns to be done so that people especially the youth get to know about ACF and join commercial agriculture to access the loans. He said that up to Ugx20m at the interest rate of 12% per annum can be accessed by youth groups with no collateral required.
The UN sustainable development goal number two aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy employing about 70% of Uganda’s working population through direct agriculture and agro-processing. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) also indicated that, in the financial year 2020/2021, agriculture accounted for about 23.7% of GDP, and 31% of export earnings.
He also notes that the government established the small business recovery fund (SBRF) in November 2021 to enhance the capability of small businesses to recover and resume operations at the levels they were before the measures that were instituted to control the spread of Covid-19 across the country.
“It is envisaged that these initiatives will go a long way in boosting the agricultural sector and in specific the small holder farmers and MSMEs,” he said
Laban Joshua Musinguzi, the president of the youth coalition for sustainable development goals (SDGs) in his remarks advised the youth to form blocks and coalitions to get loans for commercial agriculture.
“Creating trust through partnerships makes it easier to acquire loans from commercials because for someone to lend you money, you must have a track record of trust,” he said.
The two day conference is running under the theme: “A decade of unlocking access to finance for micro, small and medium enterprises through agriculture credit facility (ACF).” The conference ends on Friday with minister for general duties Justine Kasule Lumumba expected to officiate at the closing ceremony.
He added that the loans are accessible through the agricultural credit facility (ACF) in partnership with the Bank of Uganda and partner commercial banks in the country.
Musinguzi also believes that the goal to have one million youth farmers engaged in commercial agriculture by 2030 is achievable as he added: “As long as you make commercial agriculture a very viable business for the youth through creating avenues that they can get this money, avenues for their produce then they will be incentified to come on board.”
The stakeholders also called for incentives to be put up by the government so that the youth get interested in taking up farming as a business like reducing bureaucracies like collaterals which most youth don’t have.
Kigongo Robert, the secretary general of the youth coalition for SDGs rallied the youth to have startups, and work together, and to engage in fast-yielding crops like vegetables that have ready market.
He further advised the youth to involve themselves in leadership as he added: “There is nothing for you without you.”
Kigongo underscored the need for institutions like Bank of Uganda to be fully independent, adding that if it was the case, the country would be far ahead in terms of development. He concluded that the government should involve the youth in all their projects if the SDGs are to be achieved by 2030.
Tebyasa Benon, the youth secretary general Makindye division NRM youth league, and member of the youth coalition for SDGs said that the conference was organized so that the youth involved in urban farming get linkages to funding from government and other external funders.
He further said that currently the coalition has over 350 members but they are taking about 100,000 youth in the country to join.
He said that the funds are corruption-free because it is monitored by the office of the prime minister and United Nations as he concluded: “Our role is not us to handle the money but we want to be a link between the funders to the end user who are the youth.