An organization is helping agribusiness entrepreneurs in Uganda and neighbouring countries perfect farming and access markets, local and international, coming at a time when uncoordinated farm to folk practices are affecting farmers ability to reach markets faster and easier.
Having been born to mitigate the challenges faced by most farmers in Africa especially market access and training on new skills and modern age farming, the African Agribusiness Academy now boasts of having impacted on over 1000 farmers in the five countries it has presence so far on the continent. The academy which was established in 2009 by Ugandans Dr. Stephen Birungi and Farid Karama while studying in Netherlands is already registering gains from rural smallholder farmers from around Uganda and the neighbouring countries. “Our aim is to empower, aggregate and offer lucrative entrepreneurs linkages to agribusiness enterprises in order to foster growth of small businesses and commercializing of agriculture.
Innovation, the sharing of knowledge and experience and the attraction of investors are important means to raise the decisiveness and enhance the quality of the entrepreneurs. Ultimately, the AA Academy aims to contribute to economic growth, optimization of rural income and the increase of food security in Africa,” explained Karama in an interview.
The ‘triple A’ organization has reached over 1000 farmers in Uganda based in various agro based ventures including horticulture, cereals, bee keeping among others. Membership into the group is open to individuals as well as organization group. However, entry into the group is stringent a fact that Karama noted is to ensure enrolment of only the most serious and bar one time agribusiness opportunists from joining it. “We have standards that only attract serious agropreneurs who have long term prospects in agriculture. This is in line with our main goal of fostering sustainability in agriculture production within our sphere,” explained Karama. For membership one does an application and is vetted then given a probation period of about one year after which he is enrolled and then pay a monthly fee of about $200.
According to Karama, members in the network are offered assistance in order to grow them into profitable agribusiness entities. “We offer free training to our members although the type training depends on the needs of the individual groups. The training entails both crop and animal management in addition to value addition ventures. In addition, we realize the main market challenge facing farmers in Uganda and Africa as a whole being aggravated by poor network, storage facilities and feasted by the middlemen,” he noted. As a result, the organization links up members to both local and international markets for their produce.
In most occasions, access to the international markets is strict and only a few small scale farmers and agribusiness entities from African countries manage to access them because there are regulations to be met like certifications and licensing. Howevee, while in triple A, according to Karama, one is offered easy access through exporting under the organization’s umbrella. “In addition, accessing the huge international markets in most cases demands sustained large supply which ‘triple A’ offers through aggregating produce from members and supplying as one entity.
For instance there can be 20 mango farmers in Uganda able to supply 200 tonnes per month and yet the buyer needs about 400tonnes per month. We aggregate the produce from Uganda with that of our member organization in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia or Rwanda and supply the whole batch as a single entity thus capturing the market that would have rather eluded us,” explained Karama.
The group which is in its third year of existence has expanded its network in other five African countries marshalling over 100 agribusiness enterprises. Market and expert opinion has transformed several farmers who are members of the organization. We have transformed positively groups and individuals through offering the entrepreneurial and expert opinions in addition to offering lucrative markets.
Lack of lucrative markets has for long worked as a disincentive to many farmers impacting negatively to the practice in many African countries. For instance in Uganda, according to FOODNET, it is estimated that lack of incentive like better markets and knowledge on new age farming has hugely contributed to the country’s lapse in agricultural productivity from 5 percent in 1990s when cooperatives existed to the current 1.5 percent which is way below the envisaged target in Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) 2011-2015.