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Unlocking Agricultural Potential: How dfcu Bank Is Transforming Uganda’s Agriculture Sector Through The Agribusiness Dev’t Centre

Josephine Nakoma Mukumbya, who leads the team at the Agri Business Development Centre

As dfcu Bank celebrates its 60th anniversary, we pause to reflect on its legacy of Transforming Lives and Businesses in Uganda. The Bank has been a pillar for agricultural practitioners across Uganda, from supporting cooperatives, farmer-based organisations, and individual farmers.

 In this exclusive Q&A, we speak with Josephine Nakoma Mukumbya, who leads the team at the Agri Business Development Centre (ADC). ADC is a joint initiative by Rabobank Foundation and dfcu Limited, dedicated to building the capacities of farmer-based organizations and agribusiness enterprises. Their goal is not only to enhance these businesses but also to link them to markets and finance, fostering opportunities for growth, job creation, and sustainable business practices.

 In this article, she shares insights into the impactful programs and initiatives spearheaded by the ADC, and how dfcu Bank continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of agribusiness in Uganda.

 

Qn: What are the key programs and initiatives currently being implemented by ADC, to support farmers across the country?

A: At ADC, we offer a range of programs and initiatives designed to assist farmers and agribusinesses effectively. Our approach begins with a customized diagnostic tool called ERAKOS, adapted from the Rabbo Foundation’s tool for cooperatives, to identify basic training needs and gaps for finance SACCOs and SMEs.

Based on this diagnosis, we provide comprehensive training programs in governance, agricultural marketing, financial management, and literacy. We also address cross-cutting issues such as gender diversity, climate-smart agriculture, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, ensuring our training is relevant and impactful. Additionally, we offer technical assistance with financial reporting and record-keeping tools, and our business advisors provide mentoring and coaching to help enterprises develop comprehensive business plans.

Through our tailored ESG programs, we’re able to help SMEs and cooperatives incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. Through mentorship, coaching, and technical assistance, we guide enterprises in developing business plans that can be used for financing or tracking their progress.

Qn: What makes the collaboration with dfcu Bank personal, powerful, and effective?

A: The collaboration between dfcu Bank and ADC is effective due to the Bank’s strong history of engaging with Investment Clubs, SACCOs, Women in Business, and the agricultural sector. The reach and capabilities of our founders enable us to train and develop these groups.

Our training enhances financial and digital literacy, preparing members to open savings and business accounts and, the Bank’s branches serve as hubs for our business advisors, who provide localized support and guidance.

Our business advisors are strategically placed in key regions where we utilize specific dfcu Bank branches as their operational hubs. This regional presence allows us to provide tailored support and maintain close relationships with our clients.

Beyond localized support, we run a Business Acceleration Program with the Bank, facilitating training for various initiatives. These programs expose entrepreneurs to the bank’s products and platforms, easing access to financial services. We also collaborate with dfcu Bank’s Women in Business and Retail teams; we conduct these trainings to ensure that our beneficiaries are well-equipped to thrive in their enterprises.

Qn: dfcu Bank is a strong advocate for women in agri business and entrepreneurship. How does ADC specifically encourage the involvement of youth and women in agriculture?

A: At ADC, we have specific quotas and targets in our planning to ensure inclusivity for both women and youth. This is reflected in our training programs and in the cooperatives and enterprises we onboard, all of which are mindful of implementing gender action plans. These plans aim to encourage the involvement of both women and youth in agribusiness.

Beyond these efforts, we have been proactive in launching initiatives specifically tailored for women entrepreneurs. For instance, a year ago, we established a Women in Agribusiness School. This initiative continues to yield positive results as we track the progress of these women, linking them to further opportunities and programs. Learning is a continuous process, and we see these women growing and thriving as entrepreneurs, transitioning through various programs, and scaling their businesses.

dfcu Bank through ADC has empowered several entrepreneurs in agribusiness sector

Qn: What opportunities do you see for the growth and development of Uganda’s agriculture sector from where you sit?

A: The opportunities for the growth and development of Uganda’s agriculture sector are vast, and it is crucial for us as a nation to tap into them. One significant opportunity lies in the wider usage and deployment of technology to extend outreach. Outreach is currently expensive due to the inadequate infrastructure, with roads often being inaccessible to where the goods are located, thereby hindering access to markets.

By leveraging agricultural marketing platforms and other technological tools, we can find and create solutions to these challenges, enhancing market access for our agricultural products.

Another critical opportunity is the need to focus on specific subsectors rather than spreading our resources too thin across many areas. The recent focus on dairy, driven by both national and development partner initiatives, has yielded positive outcomes. By concentrating on a few key areas, we can significantly improve market access, exports, quality, and linkages.

Collaborative efforts between the private sector and public sector are essential. If we align our energies and resources, both from the private and public sectors, we can achieve even greater results.

Qn: Any concluding thoughts or advice you’d like to share?

A: Certainly. I would like to offer some advice to farmer organizations and individual farmers aiming to improve their practices and increase their value. It is crucial to cooperate and actively participate in cooperatives. Often, we see many registered members in these groups, but only a small percentage are truly active. Learning from other cooperative nations, such as the Rabobank Foundation, we see the significant benefits of collective marketing, sourcing, and tackling challenges together.

I urge farmers and farmer-based organizations to harness the power of economies of scale through active cooperation. Additionally, it is essential for farmers to be willing to invest time in learning, even if it is unpaid. Viewing this as an investment in their growth will help them advance step by step.

 

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