The US Ambassador, Ms Deborah Malac, has warned youth in northern Uganda against laziness and dependency if they want to progress economically.
Ms Malac made the remarks during the Youth Leadership Agriculture (YLA) organised by Feed the Future Uganda under the theme breaking the mold, Unlocking your Potential, in Gulu Town, on Wednesday.
The envoy expressed dismay over the manner in which youth in northern Uganda have failed to take up the available opportunities to propel the region out of poverty.
“It will not happen if you just sit there and wait for it to happen, if you sit and wait for government to do something for us, which will never happen because it is all about personal commitment, energy and maximally using the available opportunities to spur development,” Ms Malac said.
“There should be critical steps everybody needs to take, you need to set goals and understand what it looks like when you reach that goal. Young people need to build support teams in order to achieve goals and follow the plans they have in place,” she added.
Ms Malac said despite averagely having all the factors for economic development in the region such as land and reliable rainfall to invest in farming, youth are sitting back.
“You have to restructure and re-frame the way we look at this, because we know that subsistence farming will not get us anywhere today. We should now be thinking of how to create discussions over agriculture as a business because it does not necessarily mean digging or planting the fields.”
The meeting that brought together more than 200 youth from across northern Uganda was meant to increase economic opportunities for approximately 350,000 Ugandan youth in agricultural-related fields, in order for them to be able to increase their incomes and build workforce readiness skills.
YLA is a five-year (2015-2020) USAID funded intervention under Chemonics International that seeks to unlock the potential for winning partnerships between youth motivated to gain income-earning opportunities and workforce readiness skills.
Mr Ricky Rapa Thomson, the director of Safe Boda, said: “Government talks about agriculture as a driver for growth and it has very smart theories of engaging the youth into it but to the contrary, youth and agriculture take a very small fraction of the budget while priorities are served to security and infrastructure.”
Ms Kelly Cronen, the chief of party of Chemonics International, said many youth still look at failure as the end of their journey in life which has bred a lot of hopelessness among the young population in the country.
“Each day is an opportunity for young people to come together and share their experiences, inspirations and network because failure is not the end, instead it is an opportunity to grow leading to even greater success,” Ms Cronen said.