Harvest Money Expo – What Next for Agribusiness in Uganda?

harvest_moneyOver the weekend, I took time to go to the Harvest Money Expo (https://www.newvision.co.ug/tag/harvest-money-expo/) with the aim of getting some ideas to stimulate my mind with agribusiness opportunities. I awas fortunate to also meet with Robert Kabushenga, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa and Hon. Rosemary Sseninde.

I did some personal introspection on why agribusiness for a technology slanted and entrenched character like myself? My reasons are wide and varied, but include:

  1. The healthy eating challenge – with the rampant industrialization of the food industry, we are eating more and more hormone driven chemically enhanced meat and vegetables, sugar induced juices. This is an opportunity to start taking charge of my eating, in a small but significant way just like my friend James Wire Lunghabo (https://www.instagram.com/wire_james/)
  2. The investment challenge a long play – agribusiness is the next business frontier. Every one has to eat – you can skip for a day or two, but you must eat! So this is the best place to invest, however carefully & gradually growing a portifolio with focused investment.
  3. Retirement plans – oh yes, in about 15 years I will be knocking on retirement from the daily technology grind as I am not sure if my body will still be able to take the beating. So now is the time for me to start planning on what I will do then
  4. Family bonding activities – with all the technology drivers, concrete streets, walled homes, hustle and bustle, simple farm activities provide a chance for the family to bond, learning and teaching from each other. Let us mis-educate each other
  5. Learning platform – agriculture provides a different learning dimension and perspective, how to play well with mother nature at the same time trying to beat her at her game. GMO vs indeginous, do I need to make that capital investment or structure working capital, unskilled vs semi-skilled vs skilled human resources, business processes, organic or commerical business models, what kind of inputs to use, market approach and segmentation, to-do or not-to-do value addition, local vs foreign, and a hybrid to mix all of them together in one pot.

So did the expo deliver, oh yes, I had no expectations, walked around with an open mind, and obviously the depth and breadth of solutions and distributors was immense and varied.

Given all that, what next?

  1. Focused Agricultural Information provision in specific areas for farmers is truly a missing gap – this is what National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) was meant to be. Not just extension workers going to farmers, but experience, exposure and eduction with the aim of improving productivity. The value chains exist, but how to bring all the players in line without exploiting the farmer
  2. Alternate Financing options are necessary – BOU Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) is only in name, but not available to the farmers in the $5,000 to $50,000 range who are the main drivers of the sector. The commerical banks pay lip service to farmers treating them like lepers without taking time to create specialized vehicles for success.
  3. The need to coordinate players into “assembly lines” from seed/baby animal to plate. This is illustrated by the expo organization, which attracted government, public and private sector players, local and foreign, as well as across the value chains.
  4. In addition to knowledge, quality inputs are a missing link – seeds, fertilizers, chemicals (yes a necessary evil), practices and processes to improve production.
  5. Agribusiness education – the marriage between agriculture and business practices, which is a paradigm shift that is required to drive the sector to new heights. This will lead to the realization that there are multiple models that can be adopted, there is no single right way to approach agribusiness, but its all based on context, location and complimentary advantage.
  6. A need for a sprinkling of relevant appropriate technology (not only IT), but even tools, to spur growth in the new area. The soil stabilized bricks, hyroponics and natural shea butter based beauty & health products, are areas that really caught my eye.

The million dollar question for me is “How to drive agribusiness from subsistence to semi-intensive at a national scale?”

 

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