Agricultural Trade shows and expos have become a common phenomenon in agribusiness industry. They encourage practical training and ensure that various agribusiness services such as input manufacturers, financial institutions, among others meet on a common platform.
Every year, a group of farmers and farmer organizations supported by MAAIF, organize an agribusiness expo which they call The Annual Farmers’ Expo and the one for this year (The 3rd Annual Farmers’ Expo) will be held from 28th – 30th June, 2019. Our reporter caught up with Joseph Ruhakana Taremwa, the Chief Executive Officer for Agro-Tourism Association, one of the organizers of this expo. He explained how far they have gone with the preparations of this event.
Good day Sir? Could you please introduce yourself?
Ruhakana J. Taremwa is my name, am an enterprise development specialist focusing on agribusiness enterprises. I am a professional and practicing farmer also engaged in Agro-Tourism enterprise but also encouraging and supporting many farmers to engage in the same
Tell us about The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo
The 3rd Annual Farmers’ Expo under the theme “Farming is a Business” is a 3-day expo that will be held at Nama Sub-County Headquarters, Mukono district, and will take place on 28th – 30th June, 2019. It will consist of technical training by practical experts, exhibitions of agribusiness chains in crop and animal sections (inputs, equipment, tools, technologies, feeds. etc), promotional literature, value addition/processed product samples, among others. Having gained experience and lessons learnt from the previous 1st and 2nd Farmers’ Expos, together with the organizers, we will ensure a conducive environment especially in terms of noise pollution to enable ample discussion between different exhibitors and revelers. The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo is organized by; Nama Balunzi Multi-Cooperative Society, Agro-Tourism Association. Del Youth Group. In conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries (MAAIF).
The objectives for which The 3rd Annual Farmer’s Expo is organizing include; Inspire, Attract and Retain youth in agribusiness value chains, provide farmers with a platform on practical and relevant information, knowledge and skills on how they can engage in Farming as a Business (FaaB) and Provide a platform for joint advocacy actions and amplify farmers’ voices to interact with policymakers on issues that affect the agribusiness sector.
Over 2,000 revellers daily for 3 days and over 100 exhibitors are expected to participate in this event whose chief guest is expected to be Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Hon Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja.
There are many Expos that are organized by various organizations, how different is The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo?
The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo is organized by farmers and for farmers. In this Expo, you’re able to interact and there after appreciate what a true and hands-on Ugandan farmer is. Unlike many expos that are organized at national or regional level, our Annual Farmers Expos are always organized at sub county levels and so is this. This gives an opportunity for many farmers within that region who always find it difficult to attend the national events. We are organizing this expo in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) – the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, Production and Marketing department – Mukono district, the department of production – Nama Sub County, and Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MUZARDI). These partners will enable us to have some well-organized farmers that will be able to address some of the challenges faced by their colleagues. These departments will have their technical persons in various fields training farmers during this Expo and addressing some of the policy related challenges that are faced by Ugandan farmers.
In your own perspective, how do you describe Uganda’s agribusiness sector?
Agriculture has been and will continue to be the spine of Uganda’s economy in terms of GDP, employment, raw materials for industry among others. Despite its relevance, a lot need to be done in terms of ensuring candid agricultural inputs, agricultural value addition/processing and ensuring sustainable and profitable agricultural markets, increasing farmers’ revenues, and ensuring increased production and productivity.
For thousands of years, many farmers in Uganda have been practicing Traditional Farming. They have served the primary purpose of providing food for their families; the traditional farm is not a business, but the main livelihood of the family. But now, as the world changes into a cash economy, our farmers are faced with the need to become more entrepreneurial and run their farms as businesses. To make this transition, they need more than technical solutions to production questions for example developing their capacities as agripreneurs (that’s why we currently trying to promote the notion of agripreneurship). Extension workers are always looked at by farmers for agripreneurship information; for many of these extension workers however, business management is often a challenge as their experience and practice has largely been focused on agricultural production and technology transfer.
In my opinion, Uganda’s agriculture can be described as a sector that directly and indirectly employs a huge population that brings a lot of foreign exchange for the country, the only sector that once harnessed can transform Uganda to the middle income status ASAP. Note that Agribusiness is projected to be a US$ 1 trillion industries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030 (compared to US$ 313 billion in 2010), and it should be at the top of the agenda for economic transformation and development. Agribusiness can play a critical role in jump-starting economic transformation through the development of agro-based industries that bring much-needed jobs and incomes. Agribusiness directly contributes to the achievement of three key Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), namely; Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (MDG1), Promote gender equality and empowers women (MDG3) and Develop global partnerships for development (MDG8). Of course it indirectly contributes to all the MDG’s. History reveals that growth in agriculture has tended to be followed by broader economic development.
What are the challenges in the agribusiness sector?
Uganda’s agribusiness sector is faced is with a number of challenges ranging from fake/substandard agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, tools among others. One other major challenge though often ignored is negative perception or ignorance of some Ugandans who even in the 21st century still that agriculture is meant for those who occupy the lower positions on the lower social strata. This form of ignorance is common among st Ugandans who refer to themselves as corporate; recently I accompanied a friend of mine to a certain famous bank in Uganda, I needed to sign for her some documents for she wanted an agricultural loan. To my dismay, she was denied the loan and when I endeavored to inquire from the bank manager why she was denied the agricultural loan despite her presenting all the required documents, the manager shamelessly told me that “Mr. Ruhakana, this lady isn’t a farmer, I have met her 3 times at Serena hotel in the company of other elegant ladies taking coffee, so she isn’t a farmer and so we can’t give her an agricultural loan” The manager said. This ignorance about agricultural sector therefore has affected many farmers in many ways.
To me, due to this ignorance many other problems arise such as difficulties in acquisition of agripreneurship services such as finance, insufficient budgetary allocation, capacity building of agripreneurs.
Is government providing the necessary support to agricultural sector, how can the sector be improved?
Well, Let me give you an example; ALL Ugandan radio and TV stations air sports programs daily including in all their news, all newspaper reserve the last pages most cases more than 3 pages for sports news (much of international sports like concerning arsenal, etc), BUT in all these media houses, you’ll struggle to find an agricultural related program. Is it because sports employ many Ugandans than agriculture. I am looking for a TV media partner with whom we shall be airing an agricultural related program at least one in a week, can you imagine many Ugandans will tell you how much Lionel Mess (Barcelona player) earns but they don’t know how much revenue coffee generates for Uganda?? This must stop and as a journalist you have got a huge role to play and then.
What should people expect from this Expo? Is it part of the initiatives to encourage interest in the field and address the problem?
Yes. To begin with, a very competitive Agripreneurship Contest 2019, display of various crop and livestock value chains, many agribusiness service providers such as banks, agricultural technologies such as irrigation technologies, value addition/processing technologies, agricultural innovation such as ICT in agriculture. We shall also conduct practical trainings on various agribusiness value chains all aiming at enabling farmers engage in Farming as a Business
During The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo, we shall also launch the Tuvekukaveera campaign for greater Mukono region. Polythene commonly known as Kavera has caused a lot of pandemonium to human, animal and environmental health, and so we shall launch a campaign aiming at sensitizing the populace about kaveera.
Tell us more about The Agripreneurship Contest 2019
Due to many innovations, ideas and technologies in various value chains which were showcased during The 2nd Annual Farmers Expo, the organizers thought of how best to recognize some individuals but also help them focus and grow those ideas, and thereafter we agreed to introduce a health completion named ‘The Agripreneurship Contest 2019.’
This contest will be officially launched on Friday, June 28, 2019 by the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and on Sunday, June 30, 2019 winners will be announced and awarded. However, many people and organizations have already been nominated and the exercise is still ongoing. To differ from other competitions, all the contestants other than The life Time Achievement Award will be expected to showcase their agripreneurial ideas so that the show revelers are able to take part. But the whole exercise will be led by a team of 7-member committee composed of men, women of undoubted integrity
The 12 categories for The Agripreneurship contest 2019 include;
1. The Best Agripreneur Group.
2. The Best in Value Addition/Processing
3. The Best Student (s) Agripreneur
4. The Best ICT Innovation in Agriculture
5. The Best Climate Smart Agripreneur
6. The Best Agribusiness Service Provider
7. The Best Innovation that can increase Agripreneur’ incomes
8. The Best Livestock Agripreneur
9. The Best Crop Agripreneur
10. The Best Supportive Media
11. The Best Supportive Organization
12. The Life Time Achievement
The above category winners will be further supported to increase their skills and knowledge in the value chains, they will further be exposed to various agripreneurs including Nairobi International Trade Fair which will be held in Nairobi Kenya from 30th September – 6th October 2019. We are finalizing with some partners and soon we shall announce the cash prizes and other items relevant to the businesses of each category winner.
Where do you see the Annual Farmers Expo in the next 5 years?
It will be the most relevant Expo to agripreneurs. We are spreading to other parts of the country for example next year we shall hold these Annual Farmers Expos in both Karamoja region and Ntungamo district. In the next years, each sub county or region will have the capacity to organize their own agricultural expos where farmers within can be able to go and learn from.
What is your message for the public?
Everyone should endeavour to come and take part in The 3rd Annual Farmers Expo either as an exhibitor, sponsor, and reveller or otherwise.