There is this struggle I’ve always had with my young sister when it comes to giving directions around Kampala. She often does it based on the shinny buildings she sees around but because I have been around much longer than many of the buildings I keep telling her that the first point of reference should be the name of the street. This is because many times I don’t know which new building, shopping arcade or club is located in which spot. So when she uses them as points of reference I get more confused. For the streets, I know most of them and I know they have been there for years.
However using street names can also come with some challenges since we have some streets where the street name signpost was knocked down and never replaced, we have some where the signpost is there but it is also serving as a hanging spot for the Boda boda guys’ jackets. And in some bizarre twist we have roads with the wrong names. I am talking about the ones that the city council renamed but when it came to putting the signpost they used the old name.
The roads in Kololo and Nakasero can be quite confusing especially since many carry names of our ‘colonisers’ and if you are not a resident of the place or work there, they tend to look the same with huge houses or office blocks at every turn. The way my mind is set up, street names are memorised better if I can associate the street with something else.
If for example you asked me about Mackinnon road, I would tell you that it is the road that had that posh nursery (or is it kindergarten) school that this young sister of mine who is bad at directions, studied from. I didn’t know much else about the road until I was there to locate Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC) which occupies plot number 1 on that road. Theirs is not one of those imposing structures but their work is what is really imposing as I was soon to find out.
ADC is an organisation that supports Farmer Based Organisations (FBOs) to become better organised, profitable, bankable and eventually self sustaining. In other words, they identify those FBO that have potential but lack organisational or other skills to operate in sustainable way and they help them on that front. It is one thing to go into farming and another thing to run it as a business.
Many farmers in Uganda hear about banks that offer loans and other financial services to farmers however many of them do not have their books in order. Some don’t even have any books to talk about. They just grow crops or keep livestock and everything about the farm is in their heads. So when they approach a bank for a loan they are asked about the status of the farm and they have nothing much to show besides their memory.
Others seem to have the paperwork in order but lack the skills to keep the farm running well enough for them to be able to pay back what they have borrowed from the bank. This capacity deficiency is where ADC comes in. I had to sit down with Aaron Chandia who is in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation to get to the bottom of what exactly ADC does for farmers in Uganda and how it does it.
Aaron was quiet patient with my ignorance and answered all the questions I had and more. It is always good to find someone who can do a good job at explaining what they do without falling for the temptation to use the moment to just brag about it. According to Chandia, ADC covers three main areas of governance, financial literacy and marketing.
The capacity building trainings that ADC offers start with facilitating FBOs, which maybe set up as cooperatives or Saccos, with setting up a clear governance structure. A well run FBOs needs to have a clear structure of how leaders are chosen and what is expected of them. The second intervention is the one about financial literacy. This one is for all members of the FBO because it is very important for them not to only be knowledgeable about agronomy but also agribusiness.
In addition, financial management training is also offered to the finance staff and management of the FBO. These are the people supposed to make a case to the banks for more money so they need to be skilled enough to do it well. And to ensure that this well run organisation keeps their cash flow on point, Marketing is the other area that ADC trainings cover. It is not enough having a garden with the juiciest tomatoes or fattest chicken if you have no skills to market them well.
These people at ADC are so systematic, once an FBO has been identified they start by assessing the skill levels using a scoring system so as to know the best level at which they should intervene. They have a curriculum they follow for these trainings and many who have benefited are the ones that end up spreading the word around. They also have a component of innovations where they have developed e-learning platforms and other applications that help farmers like Simu+, Kuza that can be used by more farmers.
To be able to pull off this amazing work, ADC has funding from dfcu Bank and Rabo Foundation. dfcu Bank is aware of the fact that agriculture is a key pillar of the Ugandan economy and therefore understands the need to play a role in the capacity building of farmers in the country. It is also not surprising that their other organisation that funds ADC, is Rabo Foundation, the social fund of Rabobank which is a Dutch multinational banking and financial services company. Rabobank is a global leader in food and agriculture financing.
In short, both dfcu and Rabo foundation are committed to empowering farmers and ADC was fitting the bill as a partner in this regard. Apart from the money, these two esteemed financial institutions also bring a wealth of financial experience and networks to the table. Their financing has enabled ADC to cover four regions in Uganda and work with 114 FBOs with a target of reaching 375 by the year 2022.
ADC takes the trainings to where the farmers are and works with district agricultural officers to identify those in need of trainings with the goal of ensuring that they can eventually have access to credit and market for their produce. There have been clear improvements in the way many FBOs operate. Many now have bank accounts, do book keeping, hold annual general meetings and are generally more bankable now than before.
“For us, focus is on adoption and practice.” – Aaron Chandia