Despite 70% of Uganda's population working in the agricultural sector, it is a job considered unattractive by many young people and, therefore, lacks the skilled labour force that would help meet demand and enhance growth.
To encourage youth interest in agriculture for employment and enterprise, CURAD (Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Ltd.) and Swisscontact hosted the National Agribusiness Innovation Challenge in 2019. The challenge awards young people for innovative agribusiness ideas.
David Semugabi, a winner of the 2019 challenge, is a 26-year-old pineapple and chilli farmer from Luweero district, which provides the majority of pineapples in Uganda. In season, there is an over-supply of pineapples which perish quickly, driving down prices and reducing income for farmers.
As such, David's farm was not profitable and he had limited access to the market. In an entire season, he earned only CHF 122, mainly from growing chilli.
David heard about Swisscontact from a friend who attended an awareness meeting about market access in the nearby community. From there, he joined the U-LEARN project, implemented by Swisscontact in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. The project targets the agri-business, construction and hospitality sectors and is aimed at economically, socially and academically disadvantaged youths.
Through a U-LEARN project facilitator in Luweero, David learned about the National Agribusiness Innovation Challenge and decided to enter under the category of ¨Best Start-up Agribusiness¨ in order to gain exposure, expand his professional network and, hopefully, win a cash prize.
David's idea was to add value by utilising machinery to dry and package pineapples. This would extend their shelf life, allowing them to be exported, which leads to a better return for farmers. Making it to the final, David was invited to training on business plan creation and presentation skills in Kampala:
¨The initial trainings were helpful in sharpening my presentation skills and clarifying on the innovativeness of my business idea. Of course, pitching in Luganda against contestants that were fluent in English was not simple. But I had confidence after the mentorship and passion for what I wanted to do.¨
David was awarded second place, receiving CHF 735 for his start-up.
The training in entrepreneurship, health and safety as well as financial literacy provided by the U-LEARN project had enabled David to conduct market research and keep records. He decided to expand his business and invest the prize money in additional equipment.
"Today I have 5 acres of pineapple growing and ready to harvest. I employ 16 casual workers, most of whom are young people like myself. I feel proud that they can support themselves and family by working for me," says David.
Today, his earnings have increased to CHF 490 per month and he has been able to save money as well as improve his quality of life. David became the first person in his community to be connected to piped water, which has eased his wife's burden of walking to the community well and makes sure his family has clean and safe drinking water.
“Because of what I earn today I was able to shift my 2 children to schools where they will receive better schooling than before. I can now afford their school fees.”
David is very grateful to Mastercard foundation, CURAD and Swisscontact for this opportunity:
“I thought that if you are uneducated and a school dropout, you would be left behind.”
The support David received equipped him with the knowledge and skills to explore new opportunities, expand his business, and improve his livelihood.
The U-LEARN project is financed by the Mastercard Foundation.