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Ugandans join young African researchers in agriculture

By Deusdedit Ruhangariyo

When you say that young Africans despise Agriculture and all that goes with it, a few will completely disagree with you and some Ugandans are among them.

Two young Ugandans Dr. Janice Busingye and Dr. Eria Serwajja are among the Young African Researchers in Agriculture Network (YARA), a Network that primarily brings together young and early career African researchers in agriculture in order to cultivate the culture of supporting one another, sharing information, networking and collaborating for research projects, all of which contribute towards enhancing research capacity in agriculture on the African continent.

Dr. Busingye, is the head of the Department of Adult and Community Education at Makerere University and researches on issues such as Community engagement (how the university interacts with communities), Livelihoods, gender and knowledge. She is also interested in work on poverty, specifically seeing how the understanding and practice of education contributes to development.

“As part of the network, Uganda is a new entrant in this network and within this network I am concentrating on livelihoods security and food, in which land tenure is a central theme. In my earlier research for my doctorate, land tenure was a major factor in what people plant or do not plant on their fields depending on the nature of their tenure rights. Therefore in the network my major contribution will be focusing on gender and land tenure rights, understanding and researching how women and girls are affected by their lack of right of ownership of land and how policy is responding or silent about this and the effect of that on people’s livelihoods” said Dr. Busingye.

Dr. Eria Serwajja is a lecturer at Busitema University, he also engages in research with the DRT/NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security based at the Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape. His research interests are land and agrarian change in conflict and post-conflict areas, large and small scale land acquisition, food security and food wastage.

He did his undergraduate at Makerere University, went to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for his masters), and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa for his PhD. He has also been a lecturer at Makerere University.

YARA is an example of the way in which young Africans are increasingly contributing to the land policy space. YARA seeks to produce robust empirical research output, provide input to policy development and deepen understanding of changes in agricultural processes and the implications of these changes for African youths.

The key objectives of the  network is to coordinate, sustain, shape and orient the research work particularly undertaken by young and early career African researchers to provide input to policy development processes that will ensure that the long-term interests of rural young people in Africa are not compromised by current and future agricultural development priorities.

This network was formally launched at the Inaugural Conference on land Policy in Africa that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recently.

The conference was organised by the Land Policy Initiative (LPI). LPI is a joint programme of the tripartite consortium consisting of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Its purpose is to enable the use of land to lend impetus to the process of African development.

Delivering the launching speech Cyriaque Hakizimana said: “the rural population of Africa is growing despite growing urbanization and at the current Africa’s population growth rate of 2.2 per cent and the fertility rate of 5.2 children per woman; the demographic projection suggests that Africa’s young people will increase by an estimated 26 per cent in 2035.”
Hakizimana is currently doing a PHD at the Institute for poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.

“The demographic estimates suggest that about 70 per cent of one billion of African population are under the age of 30, making Africa the most youthful continent in the world as more than 50 per cent of the world’s young people live in Africa. Further estimates suggest that about 70 per cent of Africa’s young people live in rural areas of which, three out of every four live on less than US $2 per day’,” he added.

Hakizimana said that the network undertakes activities like: Publishing together various academic outputs such as research papers, working papers, books, blogs and so forth; Organizing conferences, seminars, panels at the academic and policy conferences to engage vigorously in the debates on issues of common interests for the network; Organizing writing workshops to sharpen and optimize the human capital development of the members of the network; and Mobilizing research funding for short and long term research projects on the implications of agricultural developments in Africa with a particular focus on rural young people.

Speaking at the launch of the network, Dr. Alfred Bizoza an Agricultural Economist from the University of Rwanda congratulated the members for a great initiative but challenged them not to stop at research but also to put the research in practice and ‘make your hands dirty’.

Hakizimana said that the YARA partners are; Future Agriculture Consortium (FAC) and Institute for poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

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