The Northern part of Uganda was riddled with conflict until 2006, when peace was restored to the region. At its peak, the civil war left 1.8 million Ugandans living in displacement camps, without access to their farmlands. As a result, youth lost opportunities to learn critical farming skills Despite recent progress achieved in agriculture in the region, lack of access to finance continues to have an effect on the use of inputs and other improved technologies that would increase smallholder farmer productivity. The situation has worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as farmers were unable to travel to urban areas to reach financial institutions. Small agribusinesses like agro-dealers have faced higher transportation costs in order for them to bring agro-inputs to farmers in rural areas, making agro-input costs 50% higher than those of the urban agro-dealer. With these high costs of agricultural inputs, youth were not able to invest in agriculture and rural employment has decreased as a result of the negative impact on agribusinesses in rural areas.
The USAID Uganda Feed the Future Inclusive Agriculture Markets (FtF IAM) activity has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by inviting private sector actors to propose innovative ideas on how to address farmer needs during the pandemic. Talanta Finance Ltd, a local private micro-finance institution based in Gulu, has sought to partner with youth tractor operators and Mobipay, an IT company, to market financial services through a digital platform that would increase youth access to finance for mechanization and post-harvest handling services. Talanta will enroll farmers, agro-dealers, commodity buyers, and service providers to interact and sell their products and services on the IT platform. This limits the need to travel searching for affordable products and services, therefore, creating market efficiencies and reducing on travel costs.
So far, Talanta has recruited 285 youth aged 18-30 years old, and in partnership with equipment partners, has equipped them with skills to operate and manage mechanization and post-harvest handling services as a business. Youth who qualify for loans will be able to access them and leverage the Talanta platform to market their services to buyers of grain and other commodities. Talanta Finance and Mobipay have created a partnership which is on track to bring together farmers, service providers, and agribusinesses to enable youth to access the financing they need to invest in agriculture in the midst of a pandemic that is increasing costs and making employment more challenging.