Generation Food: Youth as innovators of Uganda's food systems

Generation Food: Youth as innovators of Uganda's food systems

Changing an unsustainable and exclusive food system into an innovative, sustainable and inclusive one driven by youth to build a strong and resilient Mbale and Gulu.

The importance of the private sector for the economic development of a country is widely recognized. However, the Ugandan private sector remains weak and largely informal. 90% of businesses are small, informal, and collapse in a period of 3 years. Access to credit is also a very big challenge. This does not stop Ugandans from trying, as they are some of the most entrepreneurial people in the world. While currently, agriculture is not very attractive for youth, agriculture and fishery do represent 24% of Uganda’s GDP and 71% of its employment and therefore offer a great opportunity for youth employment in agricultural businesses.

In two cities in Uganda, Mbale and Gulu, Rikolto is promoting sustainable and inclusive food systems by strengthening youth-led innovative businesses and creative solutions. We strongly believe that young people are catalysts of change who bring creative innovations in all spheres of life, including our food systems.

Why focus on youth? In Uganda, 80% of the total population is younger than 30, 80% of Uganda’s youth live in rural areas, and about one in four young people (age 10-24) reside in urban areas where they dream to find employment. Supporting youth to engage in agri-businesses and making it attractive to do so is one holistic solution to tackle unemployment in the country’s rural areas and avoid the outflow of youth to the capital.


Poor performance of the agriculture sector coupled with the lack of agribusiness and entrepreneurship skills is one of many causes of youth unemployment. Young people often lack the necessary skills to start their own agribusiness and are missing skills such as business planning, financial management, accounting, strategic planning, and creating linkages with other chain actors. They struggle to access critical resources for their potential business, including capital, knowledge, land and a network. Furthermore, young people often lack exposure to successful businesses and entrepreneurs, preventing them to learn from more experienced peers. They have a need for coaching, mentoring and feedback on their business plans and ideas. Equal opportunities are needed for both young women and men.

Through the Generation Food Programme, Rikolto aims to come up with opportunities through an array of tools e.g. adapted training, networking and funding to elevate the chance of developing a successful business. All these tools inspire and support young entrepreneurs to impact local food environments with the goal of working towards decent work and safe and affordable food for all.


To tackle these challenges, this project targets young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas in three value chains (grains, horticulture and cocoa) in Mbale and Gulu by setting up an agribusiness incubator. Businesses come from all corners of the food system: From food production and processing to waste management and sustainable practices.

Some examples of specific activities are the following:

  1. A 2-day Hackathon open to 200 selected youth aiming at inspiring youth with new ideas by connecting them to successful entrepreneurs and innovative business ideas. The hackathon also focusses on business solutions for a sustainable and fair food system in Uganda and includes coaching by experts on business skills so that the youth can strengthen their businesses or business ideas. At the end of the hackathon the pitching decks will be reviewed by the jury and 75 participants for the bootcamp will be selected.

  2. A 2-week Bootcamp consisting of training on the following topics: Business Management and entrepreneurship, market analysis, business planning and strategic planning, financial management and accounting, marketing and sales strategy, negotiation, pitch training and thematic training on sustainability, environmental impact and circular economy. All participants will be asked to present their business in 10’ to a jury who will select 25 entrepreneurs, which the program will continue to support in the business incubation phase.

  3. The incubation phase is a 12-month coaching programme for 25 entrepreneurs by experts to improve the success rate of starting businesses and to give entrepreneurs all tools necessary. All 25 entrepreneurs will have access to affordable loans within the programme to ensure that the incubator is linked to improved access to finance to make the businesses flourish.

Want to learn more about how Rikolto supports cities in their Food Smart City journey?

Rikolto supports cities in developing sustainable, inclusive, resilient and safe food systems in 6 different countries. The evidence generated from pilot activities with the cities is documented and turned into knowledge which is then mobilised to foster peer-to-peer learning and contribute to international discussions on sustainable urban food systems.

Discover more

The Generation Food Uganda project runs from January 2022 to January 2024. It will focus on young women and men between 18 and 35 from both rural and urban areas with a strong interest in developing their own business in the food sector, such as young graduates, unemployed youth, and farmers.We strive to attract at least 50% women and 30% of the participating entrepreneurs should be coming from rural areas around Mbale and Gulu.

We expect to target:

  • 400 participants in the total during the hackathon (200 each in Mbale and Gulu)
  • 75 young people in both Mbale and Gulu - so 150 youth in total - during the business development bootcamp
  • 25 teams or individuals in both Mbale and Gulu in the business incubation phase (50 businesses in total)

Expected results by 2024

  • 400 hackathon participants in Gulu and Mbale innovate and co-create business solutions.
  • 150 youth improve their business, administration and entrepreneurial skills during the “Generation Food Bootcamp” and strengthen their understanding of food systems.
  • Up to 50 businesses are supported in the incubation phase and contribute to a more sustainable and fair food system in Mbale and Arusha.

Long-term expected results

  1. Support the development of agri-businesses that deliver sustainable solutions for the most pressing food system challenges in Mbale and Gulu
  2. Increase employment of young people
  3. Enable young people to become ambassadors of safe and sustainable food in their networks and raise awareness about sustainability and safe & sustainable food consumption.

Our ultimate goal is to support the transition towards a sustainable and fair food system in Mbale and Gulu that increases the accessibility of safe and healthy food to all consumers, generates a fair income for all actors throughout the chain and reduces the ecological impact on the planet. We want specifically to encourage the participation of young agri-entrepreneurs in bringing about this transition.


SHONA is supporting Rikolto with the implementation of Generation Food Uganda.


SHONA believes flourishing businesses are key to growing our economies and societies. They create good jobs; produce products & services that improve quality of life; and generate wealth while intentionally building the communities where they are based and protecting the environment. This is good business. SHONA supports entrepreneurs to build flourishing businesses, by: Giving them practical advice and expertise; Helping them secure the right financing; and Expanding their networks to grow their businesses.

DOEN Foundation