Targeting young adults/young households in Central Uganda: Where is the next generation of farmers?

by Anne Rietveld,  Sam Mpiira and Charles Staver

In Central Uganda, in spite of poor soils and high pest pressure, bananas are a primary source of household food and income.  Farmers are increasingly challenged by how to maintain banana productivity and to expand production for nearby rapidly growing urban markets.  In a grant proposal financed by the Austrian Development Agency we posed the question whether on-farm trees and shrubs as a source of fodder and mulch could be harnessed to improve banana productivity. The grant document additionally proposes a focus on poor young households, young adults and youth (defined as aged between 18-35 years) as potential users of the proposed new technology and improved marketing.  Over 60 households have planted banana plots with agroforestry trees and shrubs and are preparing conditions for a zero grazed goat.  However, we are still perplexed about where the poor young households, young adults and youth, are.  Here we review our databases and activities and pose several hypotheses about the next generation of banana farmers in Central Uganda.  Our starting point for field work was the existing farmer groups of our field partners who guided us to certain districts, Kiboga, Nakaseke and Sembabule.  We conducted a baseline, drawn from the list of members in the local farmer organization with additional households in the surrounding community, on household resources, household livelihood strategies, decisions about land acquisition and use and the current techniques to maintain banana productivity. Of 203 households surveyed, the mean age of household head was 47 years. 13.9% of household head were under 30 years of age and only 4.8% and 0% was under 25 and 20 years of age respectively. Although only 29 youth headed households are present in the sample, more youth were identified as spouse (41 persons) or as dependant (71 persons). The total number of youth in the sample population of 825 persons (household heads, spouses and dependants) is 141, or 17 %.  Among the 75 households participating in the farmer experimentation groups, 16% are under 30 years with 5% and 0% under 25 and 20 years.  Among these households 15% are youth. In spite of our efforts to emphasize youth and young households, why did we not have greater numbers of young households in farmer groups?  Based on additional data from the survey, we explore several explanations. Young households and young adults are little interested in agriculture and are working in local towns and larger urban areas.  Young households have facultative livelihood strategies based in local towns, possibly due to lack of access to land, but will return when inherited land becomes available or resources are accumulated for land purchase.  Young households and young adults are located within the household setup of their parents, but are not reported as part of the household since they have some economic autonomy.  The baseline survey and organization of farmer experimentation groups missed poor rural households of all ages, since partner organizations target households with above average resources with time and resources for group participation.  We are currently gathering additional data to address these points.

File: Rietveld et al Targeting young adults.pdf