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A Potential that Churches bring to Agriculture and Livelihoods

Opportunities in agriculture to youth and women groups, (photo: UEM/Africa).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that Africa's yuth unemployment rate will exceed 30% in 2019. Young people will continue to be 3.5 times more likely than adults to be unemployed, has ILO announced. Most of them live in rural areas where there are few job prospects and where agriculture remains an essential driver of economic development. In helping to address this challenge, the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) encourages African communities from member Churches in horticultural crop produce of higher biomass than field crops per unit areas resulting in efficient utilization of natural resources. This method is thought to be highly remunerative for replacing subsistence farming and thus alleviate poverty levels in rainfed, dryland hilly arid and costal agro-systems. It is believed that many individuals and families migrate from rural areas for economic reasons as they see no viable option for moving out of poverty within their own communities. UEM creates and promotes better living conditions and opportunities for all people and in which the African community takes the lead.

The UEM Africa Regional office planed a follow up workshop from the 27th – 31st May 2019. Twelve development and agricultural officers from African member Churches met for the purpose of sharing best practices and experiences on Commercial Producers Group (CPGs) in particular improved horticulture techniques. The workshop was hosted by the community of Baptist Church in Central Africa (CBCA), in Goma, DRC. The session examined how to integrate CPGs with the existing micro-credit services through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). Through sharing of experiences, it was reported that youth and women CPGs have grown and increased their incomes as a result of UEM support in collaboration with churches’ facilitators who were trained on the CPGs on various horticulture commercial production techniques. Youth and women CPGs produce passion fruits, carrots, tomatoes, onions, water melon and seedlings for environmental conservation strategies.  

Said Ramadhan shared his success story by saying: “I managed to pay school fees for my children with the money we got from tomato sales. Before engagement in tomato production, I was struggling to meet the deadlines at school and was receiving reminder letters from school administration but now, I saw the way to reply to this need! I also bought 4 acres of land’, one of the group members”.

Apart from the success mentioned above there is a number of challenges identified by CPGs facilitators during the whole process of empowering youth and women groups. Among others, it was mentioned insufficient funds to empower more youth and women CPGS, diversification of needs and demands of the group member, limited extension services to CPGs from available extension officers and unstable cost of agricultural inputs.

The agriculture sector in Africa needs committed people but it continues to suffer from an image problem among them. Participants to the UEM workshop say there is a need for successful role models or references which attract people to agriculture and encourage them to stay in the sector. They also emphasize the need for appropriate and relevant training, knowledge-sharing and guidance to help communities to prepare better for opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness.

The workshop is conducted by Mr. Zakaria Mnkai, UEM Programme Officer in Africa.

Report summarized by the Rev Dr John Wesley Kabango, Africa Executive Secretary.

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