3 Questions with Gratian Nareeba and Fatuma Namutosi: Economic Opportunity for Youth


Gratian Nareeba is a partnerships manager for the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture Activity (YLA). Fatuma Namutosi is the founder of Byeffe Foods Company, a YLA grant recipient. In this blog series highlighting youth economic opportunity, these young entrepreneurs reflect on their experience with youth-led private sector development.

Can you tell us about your background working in youth development and your career goals?

Gratian Nareeba: As an entrepreneur and a market systems development scholar, I am passionate about inclusive growth and market-driven social and economic transformation. Since 2010, I have been at the center of initiating innovations, designing and testing prototypes, mentoring start-ups, and nurturing youth-led economic initiatives. These initiatives embrace technological advancements, create jobs, increase incomes, address community challenges, and produce essential goods and services in hard-to-reach and vulnerable communities of East Africa. With a specific focus on young people as agents of market growth and transformation, these youth engagement initiatives place young men and women in a leadership position to champion development in their communities. From a market development perspective and as a professional economist, my goal is to foster an inclusive, youth-led, and private sector-driven functional market economy in the agriculture and information and communications technology sectors.

Fatuma Namutosi: I am the managing director of Byeffe Foods Company Limited, a food processing company involved in agricultural value addition on mainly pumpkins, but also corn, soya, rice, and millet. Byeffe was established to serve as a living example for youth to realize the underlying opportunities in the agriculture sector. The company is located in eastern Uganda and has been in operation since 2015. Our products include nutritious pumpkin soya flour, pumpkin millet flour, rice flour for porridge, and also pumpkin leaves for a quick sauce. Our company also creates jobs through on- and off-farm activities for thousands of youths who have yet to unlock the potential of agriculture and still suffer from unemployment. In addition to supporting youth in product and market identification, we also share entrepreneurship skills that enable them to do cost-benefit analyses.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for you as youth entrepreneurs in Uganda? What do you see as the biggest opportunity and challenge for the “future of work” in Uganda?

Gratian Nareeba: Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 77 percent under 30 years old. But it has an increasing youth unemployment rate that is even higher for those with formal degrees and dwelling in urban areas. Research has shown that the majority of urban youth are not willing to undertake opportunities in the agriculture sector, although the sector employs more than 70 percent of the population. There is a negative attitude toward agriculture, a preference for white collar jobs, and limited skills and access to essential resources like land and capital. As an agri-entrepreneur and development practitioner, I believe agriculture provides the most exciting economic opportunities for youth. However, youth engagement in agriculture is inhibited by limited access to productive resources and technologies. Young men and women don’t own land and other assets that financial institutions require for agricultural financing. Youth-friendly financial services are inadequate. This makes initial agricultural investments costly and prevents most youth, particularly women, from harnessing profitable opportunities. But there are many ongoing agriculture initiatives and strategies in Uganda. There is also a general change in perception about youth by all market actors, who now see youth as champions of social and economic development rather than as a social problem. With the right enabling environment and the continuation of these opportunities, the future of youth leadership in agriculture-led development is bright.

Fatuma Namutosi: A challenge for the “future of work” is that youth — Uganda’s biggest population — fear engagement with the agriculture sector. They need to undertake a cost-benefit analysis that will help them see the benefit of doing farming as a business. There are negative aspects, such as pests and diseases, inadequate markets, expensive farm inputs, and the price fluctuation of farm produce. These all make youth shy away from farming, but production feeds into processing and is an important part of the value chain. With a better understanding of agricultural value addition and with thorough research on product and market information, youth can finally embrace this sector.

How has your relationship with the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture Activity (YLA) helped you work toward your goals as an entrepreneur?

Gratian Nareeba: YLA has provided a unique opportunity for me to build a gender-focused, youth-led development strategy for inclusive economic growth through agriculture. Through YLA, I’ve attended various trainings on gender and social inclusion, gained exposure to innovation platforms and agribusiness incubation centers, and learned valuable business and management tools. All of these tools and resources have enhanced my understanding of gender and social inclusion. My conventional knowledge of women as the most vulnerable gender group has now expanded to include children, trafficked humans, and people with disabilities as equally susceptible groups. I strongly believe that these opportunities for training and exposure will enrich my skills, passion, and competencies to champion youth-led market systems and inclusive growth.

Fatuma Namutosi: Our relationship with YLA has helped us create platforms that lift the image of Byeffe Foods Company and our products. We now have an enabling environment for networking that has led to an increase in sales of our products. YLA also provided the technical and financial support for us to reach a production capacity of over 768 tons of fresh pumpkins per year. This produce is procured from over 5,000 youths within Mbale District, and with it, we are able to produce over 10,000 metric tons of finished products annually. Through our grant from YLA, we have also acquired a solar tunnel dryer for fresh food, which will allow us to train youth in post-harvest handling and value addition. Before, our low-technology dryer would produce 5 kilograms of dried pumpkins every 48 hours. Now, the company will be able to produce 50 kilograms.

Learn more about the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture Activity and Chemonics’ work related to youth and economic growth.

Posted in: Education and Youth
Leave a Comment

Q&A with Christy Sisko on the Revenue Capital Approach (Part 2 of 2)


This post is the second of a two-part blog series, originally featured on Microlinks, showcasing a question and answer session with Christy Sisko, technical manager for Asia and Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices at Chemonics, on the revenue capital approach and its revolutionary effect on the small and medium enterprise (SME) financing world. This post is a follow-up piece to Microlinks' April 25 event, Revenue Capital: Reducing, Rewarding, and Realigning Risk, which explored key...

Read More »

3 Ways Supply Chains Can Modernize to Confront Today’s Health Challenges in the Global South


By Susan Bell and Nilima Mehta A successful supply chain doesn’t only rely on product availability or system management. Responding to the global health challenges of today and tomorrow will require going beyond the foundational building blocks of a supply chain to create a system that can work more quickly, effectively, and seamlessly. Recently, supply chain practitioners from around the world came together at the 9th Annual Conference on Health & Humanitarian Logistics in Copenhagen, Denmark. As...

Posted in: Health
Read More »

Sustained Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Power Hinges on Local and Regional Distribution Companies


Refocusing on distribution sector performance While central governments’ efforts in sub-Saharan Africa — with the support of the donor community — often focus on reducing risks to investment in new generation, the long-term financial and political sustainability of increased energy access depends equally on the success of local distribution companies. As noted in Mark Tomlinson’s earlier blog post, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for electricity access will require some $800...

Posted in: Sustainable Energy
Read More »

What About Unpaid Care?


Around the world, mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters support the resiliency of their communities in the face of adversity and inequality. As a member of the business development team in the East and Southern Africa Division at Chemonics, I’m exposed to the cross-cutting interventions designed to support women throughout our work across all technical areas. There is now a debate within the development community that reducing and redistributing unpaid care work (UCW) is a key factor to...

Read More »

Q&A with Christy Sisko on the Revenue Capital Approach


This post is the first of a two-part blog series, originally featured on Microlinks, showcasing a question and answer session with Christy Sisko, technical manager for Asia and Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices at Chemonics, on the revenue capital approach and its revolutionary effect on the small and medium enterprise (SME) financing world. This post is a follow-up piece to Microlinks' April 25 event, Revenue Capital: Reducing, Rewarding, and Realigning Risk, which explored key...

Read More »

Having Fun Learning: Team Development Games that for Some Reason Work Around the World


In the late ‘80s, I set off for Nigeria to prepare a team of trainers who would eventually facilitate week-long courses on supervisory skills for family planning supervisors under the USAID-funded Family Health Services project. I had never been to Nigeria, or anywhere else in Africa for that matter. By that time, I had a fair amount of training and facilitation experience, but mostly in Latin America. What would it be like in Nigeria? Could I use the same training games that I had used...

Posted in: Chemonics
Read More »

To Bring On Partners, Know Your Pitch


In development, we are constantly improving our ability to do meaningful work and becoming more demand-driven in our approaches. While some improvements are disruptive technologies like digital financial services, others are simple changes to the way we operate. One of the topics from the recent SEEP Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Learning Forum that really resonated with me and has been utilized with great success on our USAID Colombia Rural Finance Initiative (RFI) is the concept of...

Read More »