Youth Direct: Young People’s Participation in Agriculture – Stories and Experiences

Reaching young people is a fundamental goal for Producers Direct and for five years, we have been working with youth groups across our network to provide platforms and opportunities for young people to interact with their peers and other strategic partners and establish thriving agri-enterprises in Kenya and beyond. 

One of these groups is The Youth Innovation Hub in Kayonza, Uganda, which was created to work with young people, inspiring them to start their own agriculture businesses and supporting them to create thriving enterprises. Started in November 2016, the youth-led initiative has continued to be a place where young people share ideas, learn and continuously innovate solutions to show their peers that when powered by a generation of young people and with the right support, the youth can make a significant contribution in this crucial sector.

This September, a few members of the Youth Innovation Hub shared what their experience has been since becoming part of the network.


Saviour Natukunda  

Age: 27

Location: Kayonza

Before I joined the Youth Innovation Hub in 2019, I had just completed secondary school and was at home. Becoming part of this network was one of the best decisions I made because I felt like my eyes were opened. I have learnt about leadership, about different modern techniques that can be applied in farming so that smallholder farmers can benefit from their enterprises. All of these lessons have made me change my mindset about agriculture. Right now, I know that there’s a lot of value in agriculture and it is possible for farmers to make profit through farming.

As a youth agent, I act as an intermediary between farmers and buyers by enabling farmers to sell their produce to buyers in different markets. Through the platform FarmDirect, farmers in Kanungu district have sold bananas, vegetables and avocados.

I’m glad that I am able to help farmers and at the same time add a little more money in my pocket. I have learnt a lot about agriculture and through the trainings I have attended, I see a lot of opportunities that young people like me can explore in the field of agriculture and so I always try and share some of these tips and lessons with some of my friends to encourage them to be part of the Youth Innovation Hub.


Birahira Joachim

Age: 29

Location: Kyeshero, Kanungu – Uganda

I became a member of the Youth Innovation Hub in 2021. Before that I was a student. I have learnt a lot since joining other young people in the Youth Innovation Hub. Here, we work together as a team to conduct  farmer training for our farmers in Kayonza and we also encourage communities to participate in different activities that are agriculture related. Being part of the YIH has enabled me to build my confidence, because we are always interacting with different people every day, and I’ve built relationships with the community around me and beyond.

I have also learned a lot about saving and about agriculture. Some of the things I’ve learnt are how to grow vegetables in kitchen gardens, I’ve learnt about using plastic bottles for irrigation, growing vegetables in sacks especially where acquiring land is a challenge and I’ve also learnt about fish keeping. I have also managed to save some little money in my bank account and now I am sharing this knowledge with my friends and other young people like me in my community.

I love the YIH because our teamwork has helped us to achieve success in our projects and I am grateful to Keneth for his leadership and I look forward to continuing to build more innovations and learning more from my team, because together we all win. My goal for the next three years is to start a union where I’ll continue to work with farmers where I can support their work and engage even more farmers. 

Niwahereza Abias

Age: 28

Location: Kayonza

I have been a part of the Youth Innovation Hub (YIH) since February 2018.For these past four years, I have been inspired by other young people like me to grow my leadership skills because we are always exchanging ideas, and trying out new innovations. I have also had the opportunity to represent young people in agriculture conferences and forums in different regions in Uganda.The opportunities I’ve had to travel through the YIH have given me a chance to see the many amazing innovations in the agribusiness sector, some of which we’ve also tried to implement here in Kayonza. 


My network continues to grow because I now interact with more people and because we are always learning from each other, I keep meeting new people as I build my network. In these four years, I have attended many farmer demo-trainings, where I have learnt about urban farming and how technology can be applied in agriculture. One of my biggest lessons is about the power of teamwork. It is through teamwork and being in a group like the YIH that I’ve had all these opportunities to learn and meet new people and so my encouragement to other young people is to not shy away from being part of a community or a group like this, because there are many opportunities to share, learn and grow. 


Name: Turyakira Bruce,

Age: 27 

Location: Kataburaza kayonza, kanungu District


Before I became a part of the Youth Innovation Hub in 2016, I was a student. At the time, I had very little knowledge about agriculture, especially knowledge about how a young person like me can have a business in agriculture. My network of friends was mostly the people I knew around my village and very little beyond that. Literally, my whole world existed in my village and it ended there. 

When I joined the Youth Innovation Hub, it opened my world and I began to have a different view of the world. I started attending agribusiness tours and leadership seminars sponsored by the hub. I was among the few members who got selected to attend a one-week agribusiness tour in 2017 in Kenya. It was one of my most memorable experiences because that’s one of the events that really gave me a different view of agriculture and helped me change my mindset. The exposure I got from the trip was amazing, and I learned a lot and by meeting different people from across East Africa, I began to build my confidence. 

From this conference, I was able to raise money that paid for my first semester in university. The Youth Innovation Hub  has given me a chance to meet many people both young and old, who I’ve learnt a lot from. I now have a strong network of friends beyond my local community, which is great. From the many agribusiness tours and training that I have received, I’ve been able to start my own enterprises. I grow coffee and keep poultry and pigs.

When I joined the youth innovation hub I didn’t think that I would be part of this network of other young people like me. I remember our coordinator Keneth would encourage me to work hard and that if I continued to be persistent, I would join him and other young people and that we would work together. Now, I am here as an employee of the YIH and it feels really great because this is something that I love doing. I really don’t know what I’d be doing if I hadn’t become part of the YIH.

I encourage other young people like me to join such networks where they can engage with other young people like them, share ideas and set long-term goals which together they can achieve. Being part of the Youth Innovation Hub has made me see that when people work together, they can achieve even their long-term goals.


Smallholder farmers in our network are organised into cooperatives or producer organisations which we refer to as Centres of Excellence (CoEs). Our CoEs are a farmer-run enterprise hosted by producer organisations. They ​support farmers through ​farmer-led training, ​funding through a farmer-led credit fund, ​market ​access, and farmers accessing applicable data to help them make better farming decisions. Through this model, we continue to grow thriving smallholder communities where each smallholder can realise their vision.

Agaba Keneth is a manager at one of our Centres of Excellence (CoE) – Kayonza, Uganda. Keneth has vast experience working with farmers and young people in Uganda and together with a team of youth agents, Keneth leads the day-to-day management at Kayonza. We spoke with Keneth who shared with us his experience working with smallholder farmers in Kayonza, the highlights of his work and the ways farmers can be supported to strengthen their enterprises and why more needs to be done to encourage youth participation in agriculture.


Take us through a day with you as a CoE manager. 

I am a passionate farmer and enjoy learning about farming, sharing my experiences with farmers and anyone interested. I am keen to understand the impact we can make in our communities, especially in agriculture. I enjoy working with young people and I work closely with the farmers in my community every day to understand what they do,  their challenges and how best to support them. I also like working with agriculture-related organisations that support smallholder farmers. I have previously worked with farmers in different communities as well as young farmers here in Uganda.


How many farmers are in your network in Kayonza?

Kayonza Growers Tea Factory has around 8,000 smallholder farmers, and we have around 3,000 smallholder farmers in our network. Some of these are part of the Youth Innovation Hub. They grow bananas, avocados, vegetables and do poultry keeping, dairy farming and beekeeping. There are also farmers who have ventured into value-added products like using bananas and pineapples to make wines.

Kayonza is mainly known for tea production, but farmers have begun introducing diversification products. Has this had an impact for the farmers?

Farmers have seen increased production because they’ve been applying a lot of the learning from the training sessions we have been having. They are selling more and adding a little more money into their pockets. Working with the youth agents has also been a great way to provide market access for these products. Through peer-to-peer learning, farmers can build a network of farmers they can learn from.

I’m also glad to see many more farmers in our network keeping records to help track the progress of their businesses. Another thing that has worked for us is our zonal groups. Grouping our farmers into zones has made training more structured and effective and we are able to monitor the progress and support the farmers more efficiently. The best thing about these zonal groups is that they were all created by the farmers. They mobilised amongst themselves and formed groups that work for them, and selected a committee that is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of all the activities of all the zones.


What challenges do smallholder farmers experience and in your opinion, what can be done to help break down these barriers?

Training is key. Farmers need information and skills about how best to use their land, how to make their farming a business and the many opportunities that exist and they can take advantage of. There are many subsistence farmers with big chunks of land that they can use to grow commercial crops and the thing standing between them and having these enterprises is a lack of training and skills. So in my opinion, this will be a good place to start. 

We also have seen many farmers who have excess produce from their farms, but lack the markets where they can take their produce. For these farmers, we can help provide access to markets and for others like banana farmers, we can train them on the benefits of value addition. 

Because of a combination of customs, policies and laws, young Ugandans are unable to own land. And getting parents, who are the land owners, to trust them with doing any kind of farming on their land is a challenge. And so, some young people lose interest in wanting to start something in agriculture. If young people could access land, they could earn a living from the industry.


From your own observation, what comes to the minds of young people when they think about agriculture as a profession?  Do they see it as an area where they can make money?

In a country like Uganda, with a population of more than 48 million people, most of our food is produced by older farmers – our parents and grandparents who make sure that we have food every day. If you take a look at previous years, despite it being the backbone of our nation, agriculture hasn’t been the sector that attracts young people. But what’s exciting now is the innovations we are beginning to see in the sector. Young people are now getting interested in the modern forms of agriculture, opening up the opportunities for younger farmers to consider this as a field where they can get into and actually earn an income from.  

For example, in the last five years, young people have ventured into a few areas across the agriculture value chain, like marketing and production. While acquiring land is still a challenge for most young people, a few farmers have started projects where they lease land to young people, where they can grow avocados. There are those who run their own micro- enterprises like pig farming, keeping goats, poultry, beekeeping and fish farming in small plots of land that do not require a lot of space. We have a Youth Innovation Hub in Kayonza where about 24 young people are doing commercial farming and they are also shareholders in our tea cooperative.


And what in your opinion can be done so that more young people can consider opportunities in agriculture?

I have been working with people for over 10 years now and throughout the years, we’ve tried different approaches to motivate young people to venture into the industry, and while some approaches have not worked and some have, I’ve learned a lot.

While lack of finance to start is a huge barrier preventing young people from wanting to consider a career in agriculture, I think we can first start by providing a platform where young people have a sense of belonging and they feel they can contribute. It is for this reason that we formed the Youth Innovation Hub in Kayonza. When young people came together to share ideas, we saw many more young people engage and that’s how all the micro-enterprises I’ve mentioned started.

My dream is to have an Africa Youth Innovation Hub, where young people from across Africa can showcase what they are doing in their countries, their innovations and inspire other young people like them. This way, we can learn about the gaps that exist and by working with young people, identify solutions that will enable the creation of more opportunities in the industry. If supported, young people can become successful agri-preneurs, designing innovations that will power the agriculture sector now and in future.

Tell us a little about your experience working with youth agents. 

Working with youth agents has made it possible for us to reach many more farmers in a day. We are able to allocate tasks in a way that is efficient and allows us to best support our farmers. Right now we are able to monitor farmers’ activities and monitor their progress as well. Working with youth agents has made it possible to deliver on a lot of our projects in good time.

Our youth agents facilitate sales between farmers and buyers. Our goal was to ensure that the farmers in our network and the surrounding communities understand the value of our Centre of Excellence in enabling farmers to access markets, and youth agents have been our champions in driving market access and training farmers and buyers about how to navigate the platform. We are proud of the work they do every day.


Please share with us how farmers in Kayonza were affected by the pandemic and how they were able to cope during the difficult period.

Our farmers were not exempt from experiencing the negative effects of the pandemic. Because of the lockdown measures, everyone had to stay home, making it difficult for our farmers to sell their produce and even when they could, they sold at very low prices. Tea prices went down and farmers who depend on a single cash crop were greatly affected. 

One of the ways that we worked together with farmers to reinforce the health measures from the government and to ensure that our farmers stayed safe and protected during the pandemic, was through sensitisation, using the training materials that farmers co-designed with the Producers Direct team. 

We are grateful that things began picking up after the measures were lifted. As we speak, I am aware that there are some organisations that closed down during the pandemic and they have never reopened. And while some farmers are still paying some of the debts they incurred during that period, they are glad that things are slowly going back to normal.


We’ve seen how climate change is affecting the agricultural sector. How are you helping farmers in your network deal with these negative effects? 

Climate change is a major challenge for farmers and they are noticing the negative effects too. One of the ways we are working with farmers is through reforestation. Farmers are planting trees and are learning about how to conserve natural forests. The introduction of diversification products has also greatly contributed to address food security.


Finally, what have been your highest and lowest moments working with smallholder farmers in Kayonza? 

The pandemic was the lowest moment for me because everything was closed, farmers couldn’t sell their produce like they normally would and things were difficult for them. 

Another low moment for me, which we are working on, is to increase the participation of female farmers. While we have female farmers in our network, their number is low when compared to that of men, and so one of my goals is to work closely with more female farmers to increase their participation and interest in agriculture. 

Our youth agents love working with farmers. It is always great to see farmers learning from the trainings. The peer-to-peer training in the farmer demonstration sites has greatly contributed to farmers learning and putting into practice what they learn in their farms.

One of my highlights is whenever I see farmers working together during meetings and training on the demonstration sites. It always gives me joy because I know that they are not only learning directly, but that they are implementing what they are learning on their farms and in their agriculture enterprises.

Covid 19 and Coffee in Uganda – Nicodemus Bamuhangaine

In an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the communities, the office of the President in Uganda came up with several regulations. These, although necessary, have affected smallholder producer’s lives, including work and financial stability.  

Nicodemus Bamuhangaine is in charge of extension and organic certification in Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU), a coffee producer cooperative in Uganda. He shares with us his experience and how he and his family are dealing with the current situation:

“For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.”

If you want to listen to Nicodemus’ whole testimony, listen to the audio here


I’m Nicodemus Bamuhangaine. Working for Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU) and I’m in charge of extension and organic certification. 

I live in Mbarara in Western Uganda. 

In an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus in the communities, the office of the President came up with several regulations. These include: suspension of all public gatherings; closure of offices; closure of businesses. Then all the schools were closed, the universities suspended. All public transport was suspended. 

All these are affecting day-to-day life. All these regulations affect human life. For example, suspension of the public means of transport, even the Boda-Bodas [motorcycle taxis] which were suspended. People can’t move from one place to another. Pregnant women who want to go to hospital for delivery. It is a struggle. You first  go to the RDC [Resident District Commissioner], we have only one RDC per district who is a Presidential representative in the district. So, it is not easy for everyone to access the RDC. Many people are there. Those that fall sick, it is not easy to go to the hospital because there are no transport. 

Some offices, for example agricultural factories were kept open – they are allowed to operate. But workers don’t stay at the factories, so they need to go home, but there is no transport. Because private cars were suspended, all sorts of movement were not allowed: except a few.  The so-called ‘essential services’ like the electricity, the national water, and the government vehicles,plus the security vehicles, only. That means a civilian or a local person, it’s not easy for us to move 

Personally, these regulations has greatly affected my work. Because I rarely go to the office, much of the time I work from home – because of the limitation of the transport. I can’t move, I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to move with the Boda Boda. So, it is not easy. Only a motorcycle is allowed to move with 1 person, it is in a restricted time. By midday you should be back home. So it is not easy to ride a motorcycle from where I reside to where I work from and ensure that by midday I’m back. 

Secondly, there are other requirements that must be ensured at the workplace, which are standard operating procedures. We have reduced the number of workers, so we have few workers who can accomplish the work that should be done in a specific time. Because we have shipments sometimes, we want coffee to be sorted but it can’t be completed in a limited time because we have limited workers in an attempt to ensure the social distancing requirement. Then we have to buy the protective gears, the PPE [personal protective equipment], like the face masks, the sanitisers, all that kind of arrangement is not easy for the organisation and for us to implement. 

On the issue of the effect of the pandemic on the financial stability, this is greatly being experienced. For example my family, my wife operates a small business, merchandise. But it was closed. It is now almost 2 months. She’s not working at all, so that means she’s earning nothing. So that means the family is completely dependent on me. 

For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.