Would you be surprised if I told you Ugandan kids don't want to be farmers? Probably not. Kids in the United States don't often mention agriculture as a career goal, either. Unfortunately for us, we've had kind of an "oops" moment as our farmers grow older, retire and die off, having passed on little or none of their agricultural knowledge. Granted, much of the farming done in the United States is on huge (huge!) farms using enormous machinery, so we're already far removed from the time when most of our population was directly involved in agriculture. In fact, agriculture only comprises 1.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product and accounts for less than 0.7 percent of our labor force.
In Uganda, however, agriculture makes up 22.5 percent of the GDP and occupies 82 percent of the labor force. In a country with more than a third of its population living in poverty and one of the highest population growth rates in the world, being able to feed its own people needs to be a priority for Uganda.
So what's Uganda to do when the reality is that their youth are showing a declining interest in agriculture?
That's the question taken on by Shamim Okolloh, a Clinton School of Public Service student. In her most recent blog post, she wrote:
The Challenge: How do we get the youth interested in farming vs. office jobs and change their perception from viewing it as a dirty job for old people deep in the village to one that can be a source of livelihood and food security, a means to create jobs, and opportunity to make Uganda a food basket for the region?
The Idea: Get the students out of the classroom where agriculture is theory based (and mostly geared towards just passing exams) and have them meet with farmers in the area (peri-urban) who can share their stories on the benefits, opportunities and challenges of farming.
|Heifer farmer demonstrates banana plant propagation.|
Two wonderful Heifer International project participantsMrs. Makoba & Mr. Wamimbi were more than happy to Pass on the Gift of knowledge to the next generation of 33 students and nine teachers. Here is a little of what the six-hour experience was like.