This week has been somewhat calm. I found an ultimate Frisbee club that plays three times a week and I’ve been taking tennis lessons once or twice a week so my schedule remains relatively busy but not dramatic.
I thought I would take some time to write about my job at TechnoServe and explain some rather unfortunate and fortunate events. To give you some background, TechnoServe’s mission is to bring business solution to rural poor farmers through means of trainings, extension services, developing and strengthening farmer aggregation groups, linkages to buyers, markets, credit along with a ton of other things around donor needs. The goal is to bring more profit back to the rural poor as they are the most susceptible to getting taken advantage throughout the value chain. With all that said, my job specifically is to build a strategic plan for maize (fancy word for corn) and dry beans for TechnoServe to implement with tens of thousands of farmers (through farmer aggregation groups) to increase quality and quantity of production while linking the farmers to markets. How do you go about doing this task? It starts with lots and lots of research and data crunching around the country and the industries, interviews with key stakeholders in the value chains and field visits to different farmer areas. After that, it’s really about understanding the key constraints farmers face and figuring out solutions and outcomes of solutions to make recommendations that can be sustainable and effective. It’s been a really unique and challenging task, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
In the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview quite a few people whether that be a director at the World Food program to the marketing manager at a seed company. This week, I had the chance to spend the day with the CEO of the most successful farmer association in Uganda managing 6000 farmers with maize yields around 6 times the average yield of Ugandan maize farmers. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I scheduled the field visit to make the drive totaling about 5 hours to his town in Eastern Uganda. The day before my departure, I phoned him to confirm our visit and found out that he was actually in Kampala, so I offered him a ride with us. Our driver was running late, so I decided to meet him and have coffee before departing on our trip. Two and a half hours later, my driver calls and says that he isn’t leaving until the next morning. I was devastated as I had offered him a ride, but had no opportunity to follow through along with it being 2.5 hours later and nearly dusk. It got worse as he had to be back the following morning for meetings. I apologized frantically and offered to pay for his bus ride home, but he refused politely and said that everything would be okay. He was so gracious with the circumstances that it threw me for a loop. To top everything off, he was nice enough to meet with me the following day and even took me around town to show the newly designed 2000 metric ton maize storage facility. When it was finally time to leave, he asked if I would be able to come back to visit his home and family. It was so nice! Wow, I love Uganda!