IFDC Uganda’s industry-focused internship program: a gateway to a rewarding career

Internships build foundational experience for college graduates. The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) enrolls interns in sectors of intervention to provide employment opportunities and promote work ethic in the lives of young people. Grace, Jockina, Irad and Rebecca are recent graduates that IFDC’s 2SCALE and REACH-Uganda projects employed as part of the Internship Junior Program. 

Grace Namono 1

Grace Namono, Agronomist, Ministry of Water and Environment, Bukedea District

“My career as an agronomist with the Ministry of Water and Environment is a result of my internship experience with IFDC, which placed me right at the heart of agribusiness action through my position at Responsible Suppliers. I gained confidence to mobilize and speak before farmers. I learned to analyze and review record books – not to mention operating the rice packaging machine, operating the weighing scale, and stitching the rice bags after packing.”  – Grace Namono, 28-year-old graduate with diploma in Crop Production and Management, Busitema University. 

Jockina Nyerebire 1

Jockina Nyerebire, Branch Manager, Biyinzika Poultry Organization, Wakiso District

“Working at IFDC was a rewarding experience that boosted my career in the right direction. I am now the Branch Manager at one of Uganda’s leading poultry farming organizations.” – Jockina Nyerebire, 22-year-old graduate with bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration, Ndejje University. 

“Using the internship opportunity as a Graduate Trainee of IFDC at Manafwa Basin Rice Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Butaleja, I gained knowledge while supporting rural farmers in the rice value chain. Because of my excellent performance, I was retained as an extension worker at the cooperative. I delight in seeing the transformation of those in poverty-stricken homes into resilient, income-oriented farmers as a result of my efforts.”  Irad Waswaka, 24-year-old graduate with bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Rural Innovation, Makerere University.

Rebecca Khwaka 1

Rebecca Khwaka, Operations Assistant, Responsible Suppliers of Diner’s Rice, Mbale District

“My internship at Responsible Suppliers brought out energy I never knew I had. It gave me the hands-on skills to operate machinery the way men do. I also trained farmers in rice fields to produce high-quality yields. The organization retained me as an Operations Assistant in charge of production, operations records, repair, and maintenance of the rice mill.” – Rebecca Khwaka, 25-year-old graduate with diploma in Agricultural Engineering from Busitema University.   

Ssekatawa Muhammad, the Managing Director of Responsible Suppliers, noted that his team was satisfied with the commitment and team spirit that Rebecca showed and, as a result, the organization employed her.   

Irad was hired as an extension worker at Manafwa Basin Rice Farmers’ Cooperative Society based on his professionalism and positive attitude toward the farmers. “We thank IFDC for the support,” says Hajj Naleba Ahmad, Chairperson of the cooperative.  

Professional experience, such as the hands-on skills shared by the youth involved in IFDC Uganda’s internship program, is vital for getting a job, and thus mitigating unemployment. Unemployment, as a social and economic problem, causes poverty and is frequently associated with crime, homelessness, suicide, illness, and erosion of confidence and self-esteem among youth worldwide.    

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), Uganda has the world’s youngest population at over 78% of the nation’s total. Uganda has one with the highest youth unemployment rates in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Grace, Jockina, Irad, and Rebecca represent 11 interns chosen from 50 applicants who enthusiastically searched for an internship placement with IFDC to support the 2SCALE and REACH-Uganda projects under the Internship Junior Program. The program is geared toward empowering recent graduates with skills for the future and helping mitigate unemployment in Uganda.

IFDC gives real-world experience to interns placed within the organization and those placed with project partners. In Uganda, REACH project partners that benefited from the internship program include: Responsible Suppliers, millers of Diner’s Rice; Manafwa Basin Rice Farmers’ Cooperative Society; Mengya Integrated Farmers Association; and other organizations in Eastern and South Western Uganda regions of intervention. 

Grace notes that her current job as an agronomist entails training farmers in good agronomic practices and irrigation systems. Rebecca works on the quality of rice produced and operates the machinery at the mill. Irad is an extension worker who carries out farmer sensitization on good agronomic practices in rice production and identification of pests and diseases to help farmers achieve high yields and profitability for household resilience.      

Jockina says, “The people I met at IFDC were willing to instill skills and mentor me on the job. I learned how to handle aspects of administration and grants management and coordinate with different stakeholders and partners at different project implementation levels, among others.” She further explains, “Such experience is helping me in my current job at Biyinzika Poultry in maintaining cash and sales at the branch, training staff, and daily stock-taking”.  

Irad says that as a result of the opportunity to work with farmers, his attitude toward farming as an agribusiness has changed, and he is planning to start growing avocado for industrial use. He advises fellow youth to consider agribusiness skills rather than white-collar jobs in order to curb unemployment. In five years, Irad hopes to upgrade and study for a master’s degree in agronomy so he can continue supporting rural farmers.   

Five years from now, Jockina envisions herself as a managing director in agribusiness. “I advise youth to not overlook any opportunity because such can be stepping stones to the next desired jobs.” She continues, “In five years, I see myself owning a large farm with both crops and livestock. I want to be a mixed farmer, one of the leading suppliers of agricultural produce in Uganda, and to create job opportunities for the jobless youth and reduce the rate of unemployment. I encourage youth to get involved in agriculture since Uganda is an agricultural economy. They should join small saving groups, which will enable them to attain start-up capital.”  

Based on the above accounts from graduates, the agribusiness industry-focused internship program from IFDC’s 2SCALE and REACH-Uganda projects proves that an internship is a practical tool for graduates to experience knowledge and gain skills while establishing important connections in the world of work – a gateway to a rewarding career.  

It is with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that IFDC is able to contribute to reducing unemployment in the agricultural sector of Uganda. 

 

About REACH and 2SCALE  

The Resilient Efficient Agribusiness Chains in Uganda (REACH-Uganda) project is improving farmers’ market engagement, strengthening household resilience, and increasing the availability of agriculture support services for 40,000 farmers and businesses in the rice and potato value chains. 

The Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness through Learning in Entrepreneurship (2SCALE) project is implementing a new approach to inclusive agribusiness development across sub-Saharan Africa, building “clusters” comprising producers, buyers, business support services, financial partners, and others. 

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