My name is Titus Kisauzi, aged 34 years. I am a Ugandan living in Kampala. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Extension Education from, Makerere University.
I wish to boost the Agribusiness Centre initiative, which was started in 2014 in Busukuma Sub-County, Wakiso district, Uganda.
The district neighbours Kampala City but is still rural to a large extent given that many people are engaged in farming activities.
The overall objective of the centre is to provide comprehensive agribusiness services to the surrounding farming communities by building mutual business relations with farmers through farmer organizations or groups that are enterprise based.
At the outset, we organize farmers based on the market opportunities identified to create a critical mass of farmers to produce for that market. At present we have decided to concentrate on vegetables and mushrooms as these bring returns quickly and the nearby capital city and export companies guarantee the market.
After organizing farmers into produce groups, we train the farmers in the identified enterprises with regard to both technical and business aspects, which are followed by periodic coaching and mentoring to ensure that the right quantities and quality are obtained.
In addition, we stock the centre with quality agro-inputs (seed and agro-chemicals) for them to use to ensure quality. At harvest the centre acts as a collecting point where the produce is sorted, graded, packed and then delivered to markets, and farmers paid their agreed price.
To ensure sustainability, the centre retains a small commission for marketing services, sale of agro-inputs and a further initial membership fee as agreed upon with the farmers.
This project was tailored in response to the problems (which we see as opportunities to serve) farmers identified in our earlier dialogues with them. The problems included pest and diseases, poor seed, declining soil fertility, inadequate user information on seed on the market, limited knowledge on crop agronomy to maximize yield, disorganized markets, lack of market information, and low prices.
Prevalence of these problems is indicative of the inadequacies in the agricultural services in such farming communities. In such conditions, the potential of agriculture to improve livelihoods cannot be realised. But also, the lack of comprehensive services in an area often leaves farmers stranded at some point, which leads to frustration and losses, making agriculture less competitive and unattractive especially among the youth.
Nonetheless, the problems identified offer great entrepreneurial opportunities for creating employment and training for students, while genuinely contributing to improving livelihoods of many through agriculture.
As earlier alluded to, we have had several dialogues with farmers to establish issues to be addressed by the centre but also to be clear on what should be expected of the centre and farmers in turn. We have thus identified over 35 potential members, with three who have so far paid up membership. We have set up the centre and maintained it since it started.
Being practical and leading by example, we have also established demonstration plots of assorted vegetables, and mushrooms so that we engage with farmers from both an informed and practical point of view.
We have also developed links with suppliers of quality inputs and technologies and connected with potential buyers, taking stock of their specific requirements. A maize demo to showcase the quality of improved seed was set up at a farmer’s plot last season and some of the seed at the centre were sold out during the previous season.
Knowing the dynamic nature of agriculture, we have kept abreast with the latest trends in the practice through participating in relevant trainings. We have also registered a company and a business name for the produce distribution channel, which will be used in branding of our products.
Training of farmers, first in the business side of farming (business orientation) has been done. A nursery for producing quality seedlings has also been set up to avail initial seed capital for the vegetable enterprise, and to those who may be interested in buying seedlings in future.
The measures for our success are simple and straight forward. They include:
- the number of farmers who have paid up membership fee
- volume of business in terms of inputs and produce transacted by the centre
- number of farmers served by the centre
- profitability of the centre and
- Increase in farmers’ incomes as a result of engaging with the centre.
In order to boost the initiative, the USD 5,000 will be distributed as follows:
- USD 1,875 will be used to procure a motorcycle which will facilitate farm visiting for effective farmer coaching and mentorship at the farm level to ensure concepts taught are practised.
- USD 1,000 will be injected into further stocking of the centre with a variety of inputs for farmers to buy, including the initial seed capital for establishing demo farms on selected farmer premises.
- USD 900 will be used to procure and install drum irrigation kits (adapted from the Chapin bucket) at three sites as an affordable irrigation technology to facilitate production of vegetables during dry seasons (and drought) so that farmers can fetch even better prices on the market.
- USD 775 will be initial capital for buying farmer produce, and in order to supplement the income of the centre, groundnut paste making and packaging machinery will be procured and installed at USD 450.
- The groundnuts processed at the centre will be obtained from farmer groups in Eastern Uganda where plenty of groundnuts are grown.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Titus Kisauzi (Uganda): tkisauzi[at]yahoo.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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