Bringing communities together through football, and using the beautiful game to create jobs and opportunities in local agriculture.
The Agri-Football League
In 2015, Football for Good ran Uganda's first ever 'Agri-Football League' in Paicho, a rural sub-county just 40 minutes northeast of Gulu. The pilot project, in partnership with the AVSI Foundation and AgriSkills4You, provided an opportunity to reach a new male youth audience (18 to 25) with the lucrative, and often ignored, livelihood opportunities in local agriculture. With over 160 direct participants and another
1-million people reached regionally through radio and events, this six-month pilot was a successful test case and learning tool that will allow for expansion and regional replication throughout northern Uganda, and possibly beyond.
THE PROBLEM & APPROACH
According to the 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, which is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income per capita, Uganda ranks 163 out of 188 countries in the world, and is below the average in sub-Saharan Africa. Even closer to home, a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report, ‘Unlocking the Development Potential of Northern Uganda’, expressed concern in rising youth unemployment and the increase in the region's poor to over 5.1-million.
Reaching youth, especially young men who are out of school, is a global challenge -- and in northern Uganda, selling off land and looking for 'fast cash' is a growing issue that needs new approaches, education and investment. Local agriculture, with the right education, training and support can open the door to a new, stable economic future.
With that in mind, the Agri-Football League used football as a tool to draw a youth audience and get them excited about hitting the pitch and tending to their 'team plot' every week. The pilot engaged a demonstration site, which was donated by the county office, and skilled agriculture practitioners who worked with the youth, community leaders and coaches in regionally relevant farming skills and market-focused capacity building. Standings and ‘league success’ was then tied to both football, and the agriculture training and project engagement.
THE SUCCESS & NEXT STEPS
The number one goal of the Agri-Football League in this pilot phase was to keep the youth engaged. The league did exactly that, with fun and excitement on the football pitch and fast success in the field with their crops.
With the agriculture training and ongoing demonstration site support, all eight teams were earning an income from their small plot in less than three months. Their eyes were opened to the bigger possibilities of farming tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, peppers, eggplant and onions on larger plots of land.
For example, the team that planted and tended to watermelon, on a small 25x25 foot test plot, earned over 250,000 Ugandan Shillings ($75 US) in just two months. A substantial income in such a small space, and in a community where the average household income is less that $1.50 per day.
The biggest success came from the 160 individual youth who were directly engaged in the league. Before the league had even finished, almost half of the youth (76) were already putting their new skills to work at home with expanded personal and group agriculture projects.
The Agri-Football League pilot project delivered, beyond expectation, on it's priority objectives to (i) engage a new young male audience, (ii) increase self-employment and the market potential of trained youth and market oriented farmers and (iii) improve food security for rural households in northern Uganda.
This success and experience has provided the foundation and momentum for Agri-Football to expand across a host of rural communities, who need it most.