For the second year in a row, Farm Week reporter and Guild Member Chris McCullough was picked as one of 15 journalists from around the world to report on the agri-food industry in Africa.
Following a trip to Kenya on the Exposure-4-Development tour in 2012, Chris travelled to Uganda to report on various aspects of the industry there.
“Ugandan farmers are blessed with extremely high fertile soils and an excellent climate meaning they can grow almost any crop any time of the year anywhere.
In quite different circumstances from other African countries in the continent, Uganda is quite unique in its altitude, climate and growing seasons.
“Travelling around the country it is encouraging to see the amount and diversity of crops that are being grown there. The colours and size of fruit and vegetables are a good indicator of their quality. Livestock, too, are mostly in very good condition thanks to the lush green grass in most parts of the south and west.
“Two growing seasons certainly boosts productivity in Uganda but could all these qualities make Ugandan agriculture a victim of its own success?
“The IFAJ/Agriterra group of 14 journalists from around the world and three Agriterra staff visited many farms, co-operatives and micro-agri food companies. The passion that the Ugandan people have is second to none I have seen in my many treks across Africa.
“Full stomachs make the people very relaxed, helpful and friendly, but a lack of money still exists to create poverty in some parts. But that is where Agriterra comes in. The Dutch company embarks on support work across developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia to create stronger structures for farmers to succeed.
“Taking a stroll around the streets of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, you are met with scenes of chaos, but organised chaos. Shop produce pours out onto the streets along with open drains, animals and people. The infrastructure is decades behind developed nations, but things are improving…I saw three traffic lights in Kampala!
“On a visit to the city’s farmers’ market, row after row of fresh produce was for sale. But there were very few buyers, as the majority of people grow their own. Fish and meat were also on display, unrefrigerated and unsightly, but freshly killed.
“With the intense heat the best before date of all the produce came and went in a day, and a huge pile of waste food was created, even in Africa!
“And this is the sole purpose of Agriterra. The company does not send a blank cheque to Uganda. It actually places staff in the country to liaise with farmers’ organisations, with societies and co-operatives in order to strengthen them.
“According to Agriterra strong farmers’ organisations can solve part of the problems on behalf of their members. This should hopefully secure better and more efficient market logistics to help sell produce quicker, for a better price, and reduce so much unwanted food.
“It is true, Uganda is rich in food, the people are not hungry, they just need a helping hand to improve the systems, reduce inflation and create more wealth within more of the population.”