Uganda Adopts Popular ‘Songhai Model’ to Address Youth Unemployment

Growing tomatoes at Songhai in Benin
Growing tomatoes at Songhai in Benin

    By: Giles Muhame

  • Dec 13,2016
  • 941 Viewed

Dressed in a West African traditional wear, a tiny old man walks into Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala for a key event.

Carrying two white I Phones and a laptop, this man quietly takes a sit in the front row of a conference hall. Very few know who this guy is.

In the hall are Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya and Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana; high ranking government officials and lawmakers.

The man is Prof. Godfrey Nzamuzo, Director of Songhai Regional Centre in Benin.

Prof Nzamuzo

Prof Nzamuzo

The reputed engineer, whose works have won acclaim from world leaders including Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan, Dlamini Zuma and Goodluck Jonathan among others; boasts expertise in ecology and microbiology, soil fertilization, natural systems and energy pathway in water sub-systems.

Earlier, Ugandan officials comprising Bigirimana and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had a tour of Songhai Regional Centre in Benin, West Africa.

They couldn’t believe their eyes.

“I thought this was not happening in Africa,” said Bigirimana on return to Uganda.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, was equally amazed by what she saw: “It was unbelievable. What we saw in Benin must be implemented here.”

Population growth vs Job creation

While the population growth in most of the African countries south of the Sahara has remained relatively high at about 3.6 percent, the productivity per capita (especially in agriculture), continues to be very weak.

This has resulted in the aggravation of poverty and rural decay, high urban growth and rural exodus.

Uganda’s situation remains grim.

According to Mukwaya, 80 percent of 34.6 million Ugandans live in rural areas.

It is anticipated that Uganda will have a staggering 40.4 million people by 2020 and 46.7 million by 2025.

Mukwaya says Uganda’s overall unemployment rate stands at 9 percent with youth unemployment at 18 percent.

83 percent of the youth have no formal employment.

The Minister further revealed that while 700,000 people enter the labour market annually, only 300,000 can be absorbed, with majority taking informal employment.

This also is characterized by skills mismatch, inadequate capital, inappropriate technology and workplace accidents.

Faced with these shocking statistics, government is now working around the clock to find sources of livelihood for the fast growing population.

Songhai model

When Prof Nzamuzo arrived in Uganda this past Wednesday, he was taken to State House Entebbe where he addressed Cabinet chaired by president Museveni.

Nzamuzo stunned Cabinet with an impressive presentation on how a systematic blend of technology with agriculture can create jobs, spur economic growth and protect the environment.

Plant production, animal production, and fish farming are key links in the primary production system at Songhai.

High quality eggs are produced at the farm

High quality eggs are produced at the farm

All of the things done in each of these sectors energize one another.

After harvest and / or processing of food crops, vegetable, and perennial crops, the residues (by-products), which are commonly thought of as waste, are reinvested back into the production.

How is this done?

The by-products generated by livestock – litter and droppings – go to the composting unit where they become raw materials.

They turned animal by-products into compost for use instead of chemical fertilizers to fertilize and maintain the life of the soil on which new food crops are grown for humans and animals again and again.

The water that is used to clean the concrete and earthen ponds where fish are raised is recycled and used to irrigate crops.

In addition to their use in plant, animal, and fish production, residues are a valuable raw material.

They add value by using these residues by producing energy (bio-energy) in the form of domestic biogas with use of a gasifier.

This bio-energy can be used for cooking, lighting, and heating — and without the risk of polluting the environment or damaging eco-systems.

Poultry farming at Songhai

Poultry farming at Songhai

Agricultural processing on the site

Agricultural processing on the site

Dlamini Zuma touring Songhai

Dlamini Zuma (R) touring Songhai

“The merits of a development strategy based on this type of agriculture is not only safe, affordable, high yield, high quality and sustainable, it also addresses environmental problems in both rural and urban areas and builds a strong base for an inclusive and broad-based economy,” said Nzamuzo.

“We must recognize that conventional farming is inefficient. This is due to the low utilization of solar energy. In general, the utilization rate of photosynthesis is less than 3 percent even under optimal conditions,” Nzamuzo told Ugandan lawmakers at Imperial Royale Hotel.

At Songhai, the environment and nature are key allies that are treated with respect. This principle explains the decision to implement “Organic Generation” and “Total Production Zero Waste.”

Primary production without further processing minimizes value, fetching meager revenues from the world market. This is an important obstacle for Uganda’s economic development.

To overcome this obstacle, at Songhai, they have invested in agribusiness, mechanical and machinery manufacturing as forms of secondary production.

The pigs produce as many piglets as possible

The pigs produce as many piglets as possible

Energy (Biogas) production and fertiliser using agricultural wastes  - Copy

Energy (Biogas) production and fertiliser using agricultural wastes – Copy

Processing is done on site, the products of agricultural production using simple and natural processes and effective technologies that are easily accessible.

This does not only create jobs but encourages innovation.

Palm-nuts, for example, are processed into palm oil and palm kernel oil that is used for various purposes, such as making soap.

Cake residue from feed mills is reused by mixing it with other materials to make feed for animals and livestock.

This is accomplished through the ingenuity of technicians in the Machinery Department, who develop and manufacture all kinds of machines that are adapted to needs and various products (rice, palm oil, fruit juice, palm kernel oil, gari [from cassava tubers], animal feed, drying, etc).

High value corn at Songhai

High value corn at Songhai

The finished products from Songhai farm

The finished products from Songhai farm

At Songhai, they do not manufacture these machines only for their own needs. They are made available for sale, at reduced cost, so they are affordable and others are able to acquire them to boost their own production.

In order to preserve the environment, most of the pieces used to build machines – aluminum or other materials – are the result of recycling and fusing together metal objects collected. This is the creative work of the Songhai Foundry.

In addition to mini-food production industries, some years ago Songhai installed a new factory for producing fruit juice and drinking water.

“Based on what we have learned and implemented, we have developed a reputation for high-quality products. Products such as tomatoes, mangoes, and pineapples which are marketed under the Songhai label have been preserved in accordance with the highest standards,” said Prof Nzamuzo.

“Our industrial zone also includes facilities for manufacturing unit packaging such as bottles for juices, and other plastic products. To makes these products, we collect plastic wastes from the environment and process them for use in our plastic recycling unit. The latest achievement in our industrial park is a new factory for producing floating pellets for fish. We can produce one ton of these pellets per hour.”

The bulls at the farm are of high quality

The bulls at the farm are of high quality

Nzamuzo’s presentation compelled Museveni to direct that pilot projects be implemented in Namulonge and Kampiringisa.

Mukwaya was equally supportive of the idea, saying, “We need not to starve or destroy our environment. Let’s buy the Songhai model.”

She further stated that such a move would create millions of green jobs in the entire value chain; improve energy and raw material efficiency; minimize waste and industrial pollution and restore the eco-systems.

The Songhai model will be implemented in Uganda with the support of UNDP, with Bigirimana saying a national roll-out of the programme can create about 2 million jobs.

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