The Ministry of Agriculture is on the verge of implementing a Building a Better Tomorrow Youth Initiative for Agribusiness, an initiative that targets youth aged 18-40 years.
The eight-year project aims to involve more youth in agriculture, as it attempts to address the youth unemployment rate among the key population group in the country through the block farming model approach.
The project has seen more than 100,000 hectares of land set aside for its implementation. This is to be coupled with the best technologies that include irrigation.
So far, ministry-related agencies and institutes have moved forward to stir registration and encourage youth on grabbing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The relevance of the project in the efforts to address unemployment cannot be overemphasised. Half of Tanzania’s population is made of youths who are under 18 and 70 per cent are under 30 years of age.
Generally, 45 per cent of the total population was aged between 14-45 years in 2021 which means with the recent results coming from the 2022 Census, the proportion could increase as it is noted that there is a 3.7 per cent increase in the national population.
This population estimate generally shows that the country is highly occupied by a bigger working/labour force that can be fully utilized to attain economic development from both personal and national levels.
From the Tanzanian perspective, youth are all individuals that fall between the range of 11 -35 years as stipulated in the most recent Youth Development Policy contrary to the UN’s definition that considers youth as individuals falling in the 15 – 24 age range.
A very informal definition of youth in Tanzania has extended to cover a group of people aged up to 45 years, a common thing observed in some social contexts, probably due to a bigger number of people hating being considered old or let’s say hungry for opportunities at the vicinity of the “youth-hood.”
Unemployment: A common challenge
Youth from the global stance have a common challenge, which is unemployment.
In Tanzania, it is to be noted that the population labelled as the working force is highly constrained by a lack of employment and limited income-generating activities which are key in attaining economic freedom, for so many reasons.
A large number of young people are entering the workforce in Africa each year, but there are not enough formal jobs being created to keep up with this influx.
This trend is likely to be exacerbated by the many reasons in Tanzania, particularly, where every year about 900,000 youth enter the job market to compete for less than 100,000 job opportunities.
This is further substantiated by the Integrated Labour Force Survey ILFS report on the status of unemployment in Tanzania, where about 2.47 million persons in the country are unemployed, the majority falling into the youth age groups of 15-24 and 25-35.
The report further explains the gender disintegration of unemployment where more females among the unemployed (1.71 million) than males (0.76 million) are hampered by the situation.
The report, however, hints at a decline in the unemployment rate from 10.3 per cent in 2014 to 9.0 per cent in 2020/21.
This decline is only observed in Tanzania Mainland unlike in Zanzibar where there is an increased rate from 17.4 per cent in 2014 to 19.7 per cent in 2020/21.
The Building a Better Tomorrow Youth Initiative for Agribusiness project aims at responding to this crisis and it has been marked by structured initial implementation stages and shows promise in achieving its desired goals.
To ensure success, the project included participation from government and non-government entities from the beginning stages of concept development.
This has led to practical and relevant project planning that captures and addresses specific agricultural-linked needs.
By utilising available data on agricultural economic activities and the individuals involved in the sector, the project not only addresses a gap but also has the potential to benefit a wider group.
The necessary initial stages such as a call for registration and training are underway. This structure shows promising results for this particular stage.
The slogan Building a Better Tomorrow has been used for many years to promote change and development in various sectors.
In agriculture, the slogan has been used on projects/initiatives with the goal of increasing resilience and productivity among communities.
These sectors include agriculture, energy, natural resources, health etcetera. The slogan has been used by governments and international organizations such as Canada, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Hong Kong, the U.S., and British America Tobacco – Bangladesh, African Development Bank, and FAO.
The common approach is to empower the targeted population with the skills necessary to achieve the objectives of the slogan in a particular country. The main difference is in the implementation structure and the approach.
A notable difference is in the agriculture sector, where the focus is on crop-specificity, for example, tobacco in Bangladesh, wheat in Ethiopia and Sudan, and supply chain development in the U.S.
In Tanzania, this project takes a unique approach to addressing unemployment by connecting youth with agriculture.
The project addresses common barriers faced by youth, such as lack of land, technology, and capital, by providing solutions to create a favourable environment for participation in agriculture.
It is worth noting that similar initiatives can be traced back to Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s regime through “Vijiji vya Ujamaa,” even though they did not fully materialize.
The current demand for youth involvement in agriculture is what led to the establishment of this project, along with the existence of existing incubation programs.
Eight years is a long time for the implementation of a project like this, and there are several challenges that lie ahead. One of my main concerns is how the monitoring will be done to ensure the desired results are achieved.
The project aims to train 200,000 youth, which could be a lofty goal if the youth do not receive what they are expecting. This group is known for wanting fast results.
There is a lack of specificity in terms of key value chains that will be involved in the intervention.
However, horticultural value chains have been given a node, the value chain has a number of challenges that could alter the initiative implementations if at all a bigger number of youth and NGOs linked to the intervention will be focused on.
Probably the implementation areas should be clusters based on the best-performing value chains.
Making the project a success
Additionally, with a history of poor performance of government-driven initiatives, there may be a lack of commitment from government officials. It is important to highlight how the government plans to ensure accountability for those involved.
A good lesson could be from the implementation of the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative where the likes of the same challenges were observed.
Given the changes in the global economy, it is crucial to ensure funding commitment is maintained, as the world is expected to face a recession, as reported by international finance institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
This could affect the budgetary allocations for the organizations involved and further impact the initiative as a whole. A strategy to address this risk should be considered.
Another major challenge is ensuring that the project is environmentally friendly, amidst campaigns for climate change and conservation.
The initiative plans to have more than 500,000 hectares for block farming, which includes land clearing that may have an impact on the environment.
Necessary steps should be taken to ensure there are conservation techniques in place and that the project beneficiaries are informed and monitored.
Finally, the projects should have a well-structured and regular monitoring and evaluation routine to ensure that the project activities and outputs are respectively on track but also allow a change of approach based on the results obtained.
It is from my own observation, not only the youth will be directly impacted through agriculture which is the main objective but the wider nation and other key sectors of Tanzania’s development.
Gibson Mulokozi is an agronomist and trained project manager with over four years of experience in social research, monitoring & evaluation and marketing. He is available at Ggmulokozi@outlook.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.