Youth’s engagement in agriculture and livestock sector is critical for the transformation of the sector into a vibrant business, officials said.
The remarks were made in light of reports indicating that there is an ageing farmer population in the country.
The average age of farmers in Rwanda is 55 years old.
This was said during a one-day workshop on ways to engage youth in agriculture, last Friday.
The workshop in Kigali brought together officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), 68 youths in agribusiness under Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), and various institutions in agribusiness interventions.
The workshop’s objectives were to assess the recent youth achievements and challenges, listen to youth’s successful stories and highlight agribusiness opportunities for the youth.
RYAF is a national platform that comprises all youth engaged in agribusiness related activities across Rwanda.
Today, RYAF which was established in 2016, has 1,265 members grouped into five clusters namely crop production, livestock, agro-processing, ICT for agriculture and other agriculture-related services.
The forum aims to change youth mindset towards agriculture, attain nutrition and food security and create decent jobs through on and off-farm jobs, according to Jean Baptsite Hategekimana, the forum’s chairman.
“As youth in agribusiness, we want to ensure increased agriculture production at farm level and revenues from agricultural produce and exports through addressing production and transport bottlenecks,” he said.
He cited lack of trust from financial institutions for youth’s agri-business, inadequate certified seeds, market, insufficient capital, and expensive agriculture and livestock insurance products among their challenges.
Rwanda’s vision for agricultural transformation and development is to achieve food security and attaining per capita income of US$1240 by year 2020.
Agricultural transformation has been identified as one of the major vehicles to the Vision 2020 goals.
The country targets annual agricultural sector growth rate of 8.5 per cent, up from 5 per cent in 2015/16.
The ministry said it is deploying more efforts in engaging youth in agribusiness to ensure increased agricultural output and decreased post-harvest losses.
This, according to officials, will, in turn, contribute to reduction of unemployment rate at macro level.
Speaking during the event, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, observed that youth constitute a formidable force that can transform this country’s agriculture.
“The reason is that the average age of farmers [in the country] is 55 years. Having young people, especially these ones who studied, will ensure that things done better and faster,” she noted.
Agri-business presents job opportunities from production to transportation, and value-addition mainly through processing to sale of agriculture and livestock produce.
The minister encouraged youth to optimally utilise Government’s developed marshlands.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s assistant representative to Rwanda, Otto Vianney Muhinda, noted that the world is faced with a challenge to feed its growing population by 2030.
Rwanda’s population is projected to be 15 million by 2030.
“To meet the food demand for the growing population will require moving from subsistence agriculture to technology-driven agriculture and to achieve this goal we need skilled young people,” he said.
He pledged FAO’s capacity building interventions.
The demographic structure of Rwanda is characterised by a youthful population, the majority of which (28%) are aged between 16-30 years.
Each year above 300,000 Rwandan youths seek to enter the country’s workforce.
The Acting Director General for Labour and Employment at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, Faustin Mwambari, said that the Government has come up with a project intended to support university graduates with profitable agri-business ventures.
The fund provides up to about Rwf10 million for each profitable innovative business meant to create jobs.
Mwambari said the project was initiated in response to high unemployment among university graduates, which is at 14 percent, according to the Fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey – 2013/14 (EICV4).
“This year, we will support at least two projects per district. The Government cannot give Rwf10 million to a person for personal gains alone. We are looking for a young business person who will help others to get jobs,” he said.
Investment & Portfolio Manager at Business Development Fund (BDF), Diana Kareba, reiterated that BDF offers 75 percent of the guarantee for banks to give loans to young entrepreneurs in agri-business.
Information from BDF shows that, the financial institution has so far used Rwf20.9 to guarantee agriculture projects.