They descend upon the villages, smartly dressed, driving cars and above all armed with convincing tongues. After meeting some of the local leaders and pitching their opportunty, the next thing is a village meeting where they pitch to the larger populace of farmers.
Their standard approach is to pitch a particular crop, glorify its benefits beyond agreeable proportions and promise a hefty pay off upon harvest. Farmers are then sold planting material and associated products in large quantities.
Eunice (name not real) is a farmer in Bweyale, Kiryandongo district. Sometime last year, individuals approached them through the local leadership regarding cassava growing. They claimed that they were working on behalf of one of the leading breweries that needed the cassava desperately. This led them to promise the farmers UGX 4 Million per acre of cassava harvested.
Excited by the revenue figures, the farmers went ahead to adopt the plan and bought lots of planting material from the deal pushers. People committed a significant acreage of their land to this opportunity. Today, the cassava has matured and Eunice wants to sell. The phone numvber she was given is permanently off and even the LC officials who introduced them do not have any functional contact of the cassava dealers. The actual goal of these conmen was to sell the planting materials, nothing more. Instead, she is being swamped by requests from traders that come and want to harvest an acre of the cassava at UGX 350,000/=.
An old boy of mine upon hearing a reknowned Agribusiness promoter extol the benefits of growing Cavendish and Apple bananas quickly visited the man in his office for further advice. He was bombarded with all sorts of export statistics that he unfortunately didn’t take time to verify.
He immediately became a disciple and went ahead to purchase suckers for a 5 acre garden (not little money). He pumped money in the initiative while dreaming about the day he will start selling to exporters. When the bananas started yielding, as an act of preparation, he called up the Agribusiness promoter who then begun dodging him. With the writing on the wall that his dream of exporting these bananas was farfetched, it dawned upon him that the promoter had initially been interested in merely selling planting material. Out of frustration, he chopped down the entire lot of bananas and opted to plant the ndizi variety which could guarantee him a ready local market.
These and many more other experiences are all out there. You or someone you know may have been a victim and the situation is only getting worse. One day it’s Chia Seeds, Quail eggs, pawpaws, onions then before you know it, Hass Avocado appears on the horizon.
These promoters never seem to have the interests of the farmers in mind and they outrightly play these games to ensure that they reap unfairly.
So, as farmers, it is important to clearly study the opportunities that are brought before us before making rushed conclusions for investment. The “deal” approach towards farming is not ideal at all. WhatsApp calculations of profitability can be so deceptive considering that walking the farming journey is not a linear experience.
James Wire is a Technology and Business Consultant based in Kampala
Follow him @wirejames on Twitter
Email – lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com