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WPDI young entrepreneurs participate in the Agri-Finance Business Fair for Northern Uganda

“The Agribusiness Finance Fair was an excellent event because as a group we have been able to learn many things. We got in touch with a buyer of honey who was looking for out growers! We would not have heard of him if we had not come to the fair. We also learned many things that will help us in our farming community project. We are thankful to WPDI for such exposure.” 

Those are the words of Daniel, a WPDI young entrepreneur from Uganda, after he returned from the Agri-Finance Business Fair for Northern Uganda.

Daniel attended the fair, held in Gulu on April 26th and 27th, with 9 other young entrepreneurs whom the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) has supported in the design and development of four agri-business projects. It was the first time since the launch of their projects that they could present their work to a wide array of professionals and increase their knowledge of the business environment of Northern Uganda.

Those ten young women and men are part of WPDI’s flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), through which we enroll young people from vulnerable conflict-affected communities and train them in a series of fields including conflict resolution, life skills, ICTs, and entrepreneurship. Upon completing their training, these young people become community leaders who can endorse a dual role as peacemakers and entrepreneurs. As peacemakers, they undertake peacebuilding activities, notably advocacy campaigns, peace education and mediation processes. As entrepreneurs, they design and implement educational and economic projects that benefit their communities through the provision of relevant services and income generation for young people.

In a country where agriculture accounts for over 22% of Gross Domestic Product and employs over 80% of the country’s population, it was obvious for many of our youth to launch businesses in the field of agriculture. While WPDI provides, as an international incubator, initial support and backstopping, the viability of our peacemakers’ businesses will eventually depend on their command of local and national realities and their integration to the business environment of their region and country.

It was therefore imperative for our peacemakers/entrepreneurs to attend the Agri-Finance Business Fair for Northern Uganda especially since the theme of the meeting was “Scaling up Financing of Youth Agribusinesses for Improved Livelihoods.” Agri-entrepreneurs, financial services providers, insurance companies and other value chain actors all gathered for improved youth agricultural production and productivity in Northern Uganda.

The meeting was also attended, as a sign of its significance, by the Presidential Advisor on Agriculture and the Gulu District Chairman and supported by a wide array of partners, including the AgriProFocus Uganda Innovation Communities on Access to Finance and Youth In Agribusiness, Technoserve, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), AVSI Foundation, Save the Children, Straight Talk Foundation, BOSCO–Uganda, SOS, TASO Gulu, WPDI-Gulu, U-Touch Uganda, World Education, CPA (Certified Public Accountants), Northern Uganda Youth Development Centre (NUYDC) and GNED-G.

The Agri-Finance Business Fair provided our youth with a platform for strengthening their businesses, networking and brokering deals with financial service providers and insurance companies. Beyond these specific concrete results, their participation in the Business Fair marked a turning point in the dynamic of the YPN because it signals that our former trainers can gradually grow to be autonomous from WPDI as they become full-fledged players on the business scene of their country.