Over the years Uganda has been recognized as one of the food baskets of East Africa due to its fertile soil and adequate rain; but now the country faces the biggest food shortage crisis in its history. Bad land tenure systems, drought and outdated agricultural tools are some of the factors contributing to this crisis.
The shortage of food in Uganda has become so severe that South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also been affected as they rely heavily on food supplies from Uganda. Some blame this crisis on the smallholding peasant farmers, most of whom are illiterate, utilize antiquated methods and agricultural tools, and are unable to take advantage of funds allocated to the sector to produce the food needed. So what is the solution, and how do we encourage highly educated, entrepreneurial and environmentally conscious young Africans to create agribusiness start-ups using technologies and business practices of modern farming?
Bear in mind that 21st century consumers know what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Consumers are becoming more and more particular about the quality of the food they consume, and more discerning about its provenance, needing to know which producers it is coming from. Not only do consumers demand real food but they need nutritious, high quality, responsibly farmed food that is not detrimental to their health. In fact, they are willing to pay more for such food.
In the United States, start-ups are beginning to disrupt the way food is produced, distributed, sold and consumed; as well as how land is managed. Zach Wolf, from Stone Barns Centre for Food and Agriculture suggests that young farmers today are environmentally aware and socially active. For them, sustainability isn’t an ideal but a way of life they want to live and a choice as to how they help others to live. Farm to table is becoming a preferred trend; where the food on the table comes directly to the consumer from a specific farm or producer, without going through a store, market or distributor along the way.
Millennials are driving significant changes in the agricultural sector in other parts of the world. It’s now time for them to do the same in Africa.
The Deloitte Millennial 2017 report found that millennials in developing economies are twice as likely to be inclined to start their own businesses compared to their counterparts in developed countries. Essentially the opportunities for young African farmers have never been better; we just need to change our perceptions on how farmers should look.
While farming is without a doubt one of the most difficult industries to operate in, there is a desperate need for innovative and flexible technologies and methodologies that will improve the way we farm in Africa. There are opportunities for millennials ready to build forward thinking agri-businesses profitable enough to create jobs. The time to startup is now.