Real Agricultural Solutions for Africa Limited (RASA Ltd) is an idea that was conceived by six young men who were by then second-year students at Makerere University, undertaking the Bachelor of Commerce programme. They had a dream to engage in agriculture through doing large-scale value addition to Ugandan agricultural produce—producing products that are highly marketable and can be sold for reasonable prices on the market. The company was registered under the Companies’ Act of Uganda and is now a private company limited by shares.
RASA Ltd started as a value addition hub for coffee-production value-added products, including the first coffee liqueur produced in Uganda: Legend Dark Coffee Liqueur. There were, however, challenges to supply, with inconsistent quality of coffee, that, in the long run, led to poor quality of our final products. This was an eye-opener and we realized that we had to get into direct contact with farmers and be in control of quality issues right from the field to processing.
Currently, we add value along the coffee value chain to increase productivity and take advantage of profits from different levels. We start our work from production and distribution of high-quality coffee seedlings in partnership with a certified nursery, offered to farmers. We have partnered with a coffee nursery that multiplies these seedlings and it has been certified by the Uganda coffee development authority (UCDA) allowing us sell seedlings to key government agencies.
We also supply them with inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and tarpaulins, and offer processing and transport facilities. These inputs are partly given to farmers on credit and payments are made after harvest. This is a convenient model given that we are also the sole buyers of over 85% of the farmers’ output, which we resell to exporters and other players in the coffee industry. We, in addition, offer access to processing facilities, like bulking, hurling, and wet-processing to farmers, both directly and indirectly. This helps the farmers sell in large quantities and hence get higher prices and enjoy economies of scale.
To create alternative high value sustainable markets, we do value addition by producing highly marketable and new products from coffee like liqueurs, creams, cakes, and juice. We have also planned to set up a few small coffee shops around Uganda that not only brew our coffee but also act as major outlets and distribution centres for the other value-added products, also encouraging local consumption.
Coffee is the leading cash crop in Uganda, contributing to over 19% of the total exports of the country. With drives to further promote local consumption of coffee going on from different development partners, this is a highly sustainable sector to invest in as there is a large market to address. Just recently, Caffebene, a South-Korea-based coffee house with a presence in over 1,600 locations, agreed to buy coffee from Uganda. Such drives show that this is a lucrative trade and all these initiatives can be self sustaining.
RASA is a strong believer in sustainable and profitable social impact and we our entity has the following positive social impacts:
Job creation—massive expansion will lead to more employment in various sectors of our entity. Unemployment figures in Uganda are over 80% and this is a big social problem.
Increased access to inputs—many rural small holder farmers lack access to inputs like high quality planting material due to the high costs associated with them and lack of access to credit facilities from banks and MDIs. We give these inputs a credit basis and they pay back the cost of inputs at the time of harvest and we are the sole buyers of this output.
Increased income to the communities as a result of access to alternative high-value markets for farmers’ output leading to an increase in revenue. A farmer with an acre from coffee with ready market earns about USD 4,500 a season enabling access to social amenities and improved living conditions.
RASA started as a value-addition hub to produce highly scalable value-added products from coffee. But, we took on the project of working with farmers through provision of inputs and processing basically to ensure a constant steady supply of coffee to our enterprise. Through a centralized processing area, we can ensure that we get a constant supply of high quality coffee to use in making our products. We also provide the community with access to processing facilities to add value to their coffee and command higher prices on the market.
RASA Ltd currently has a semi-automated production line that is located in Komamboga, five miles off Gayaza road in Kampala. This is where the premises that house this company’s administrative work are found. Legend Dark Coffee Liqueur has been established in the market in areas of Uganda in five major districts with agents. The company has been certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) a body that is responsible for regulation of all foodstuffs and it has a mark to show that it produces a quality product and also opens up a great window to enable expansion into regional markets.
We are so far currently working with two farmers’ networks: one in an Arabica growing region and the other growing Robusta coffee. In partnership with the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development, we have been able to get access to roasting facilities. This has helped eliminate the high costs of setting up a roasting facility making us be able to achieve our goals faster.
There are plans already underway to expand production by having a wet processing plant in eastern Uganda to ensure steady and constant supply of high quality coffee—that is our basic and most important raw material. Our long-term plan is to set up small coffee kiosks and coffee houses in different regions of the country. These will also double as distribution centres for our value-added products and will also be market outlets for us to sell brewed coffee.
We measure our success by direct impact on the community. Our main major goal is increase in income and this directly follows with amounts off coffee processed and sold through market linkages. Other success factors will be market linkages in new areas. Increase in sales figures directly translates into an increase in production figures and hence increase in farmers income
With the USD 5,000, we will look at increasing the capacity of our project as a whole.
USD 1,100 will be spent in the first month on provision of inputs to established coffee farmers with maturing trees mainly in form of tarpaulins, pesticides, and equipment to make sure they maintain a high quality at time of harvest.
We will spend USD 1,400 on completion of the work on our wet-processing facility. We have worked with a local fabricator to make a pulping machine for us locally.
In the fourth month, we will increase production capacity by spending USD 1,000 on automation of our packaging line.
Within this same month we will spend USD 1,000 to procure processed coffee from the farmers and use it in our production process to increase on our market share.
With this increase in market share, we will invest USD 500 in marketing in the seventh month, as this is a market-driven entity and we have to boost market to be able to expand social benefits.
We hope that we are considered for the global GCARD3 consultation so that we can have a mutually beneficial interaction.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Kyewalabye James (Uganda): mailto:jameskyewa[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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