ACDI/VOCA Gender Specialist Lydia Mbewe

Lydia Mbevi (center) embraced by project leaders

In 2016, I visited northern Uganda to assess the impact on youth of the Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition (RWANU) project, funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and implemented by ACDI/VOCA. I often work on assessments like this as the regional gender and youth advisor for ACDI/VOCA. But this assignment caught my eye because I knew that young, local staff in Uganda drove the project.

Uganda has one of the largest youth populations in the world, with 77 percent of Ugandans under the age of 30, so I expected to find that RWANU contributed to the improved livelihoods of young people. The assessment involved an inward look at institutions, practices, and systems and how they have targeted and engaged youth in agriculture.

What I found surprised me, most of all, because of the assumptions I had made. I assumed that young, educated staff knew how to reach and meet the needs of rural youth because of their shared ages. I assumed that young staff didn’t need special training or soft skills to know how to reach other youth in agriculture, and that they could communicate and support them easily.