Below is the solution that I am asking humanity to help me develop.
A quick recap:
As I have already highlighted, where I live, it is a total furnace.
My country Uganda is among the most impoverished in Sub Saharan Africa, but my region Busoga is the poorest in Uganda, while my two neighboring districts Kamuli & Buyende are the worst in Busoga itself.
And the most unsettling thing to me is that there is simply nothing that is happening to end extreme poverty.
For me personally, just recently in 2015 when the UN Global Goals were being launched, I was still finding it very hard to simply get what to eat, and things had been that way for me since my years of childhood.
But the reason I have chosen not to sit back, is the fact that nearly every household in my region lives in extreme poverty.
I also thought the coming of the Global Goals somehow meant a poverty-free world was now possible, and that people like us were now in the company of the rest of humanity.
So, I have spent the last 7 years trying to befriend humanity, with only one goal: using the period 2015 – 2030 both to turn my own life around, and to contribute to a lasting, self sustainable path from poverty in my region.
I wouldn’t want to be trapped in the same life of hunger and chronic poverty even in 2030, and I wouldn’t want to sit and watch the cycle of poverty in my region go unchanged even a decade later.
Help me ensure just that. Help me use my remaining time on earth to broker some lasting change in a rather impoverished remote rural part of the planet where nothing is in place to end poverty.
What I want to change:
The absence of reliable markets for our produce is the single biggest challenge that keeps every rural smallholder farmer in our region in chronic poverty. Farmers have no market linkages beyond village level, yet everyone is very poor, and no local demand exists within the poor communities themselves.
This not only guarantees incomes below the poverty line, but also means, an already impoverished farmer can’t produce beyond a certain point, and can’t scale. It is also the one thing that makes it pretty hard for people like us to rebuild post COVID-19.
When coupled with our OTHER main challenge of poor postharvest systems, the result, as highlighted here, is twofold:
a) zero income, resulting both from poor postharvest handling, and the absence of ready markets,
b) food insecurity, resulting both from poor postharvest management, and the fact that a farmer never realized any income from their produce in the first place, which they would have used to secure food in times of scarcity, yet the resulting food loss now means higher food prices.
It is also worth noting that:
Various antipoverty programs have come and gone, all of them with the goal of moving rural poor farmers in our region from extreme poverty, but all of them have only done the same thing: providing rural poor farmers with seed; fertilizers, and training — not a lasting solution to what comes thereafter (i.e., market access at harvest).
If addressed, many farmers would indeed be able to turn into more productive citizens who are capable of escaping extreme poverty in a self-sustaining way.
How this orchestrates poverty:
Less than 200 meters from my project, the UCF, a group of farmers planted (in 2021) ten acres of cassava that you can see here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
But because there is no market for cassava in our region, these farmers told me they have only planted this cassava for the purpose of selling cassava cuttings (i.e. cassava stems), not the cassava itself.
The cassava cuttings are bought by the Uganda government’s ‘Operation Wealth Creation‘ initiative, for distribution to other poverty-stricken areas of Uganda.
This is a clear indication that, if only these farmers had a guaranteed, viable market for their cassava, they would have definitely produced even more, and they would have certainly been able to build their own path from extreme poverty.
Back in 2017, I even made a presentation before the UNDP Uganda Country Director (and her senior team), about the same thing.
My intended solution is: an integrated agro-processing plant that shall both reverse poverty and create jobs in our region, by minimizing post-harvest food loses, creating new market linkages for rural poor farmers, and linking these farmers’ produce with agri-value chains — like bakeries & confectioneries; bottling companies and breweries, etc.
As shown under “Funding Targets” below, we will begin developing this plant once I only raise $240k, and complete it once I have raised $15m in total. And so, $15m is the threshold I am asking for this plant.
This plant shall be 80% owned by the rural poor farmers who will be growing the crops that this plant will be working on, with the other 20% owned by the UCF as a way of sustaining our underlying work of training and supporting rural poor farmers in our region.
We will also make sure this plant’s work is as green as possible.
How this plant shall change lives:
One of the main challenges highlighted in the government’s 2021 report about the scale of poverty in Busoga, is that most farmers here depend only on sugarcane, which takes two years to mature.
Moreover, the more farmers turned to sugarcane because it was the only crop with a ready market, the more food insecurity increased as a result of monoculture, yet sugarcane can’t be eaten as food.
Not only shall our plant create new market linkages for more than one type of crop, and thus help rural poor farmers diversify their incomes, but also, the plant will help minimize post-harvest food losses, while creating new jobs, and will enhance our ability to work with an unlimited number of fellow poor farmers across a wider geographical area (providing them with initial inputs, training, and a ready market) in a self-sustaining way.
Most importantly, ALL the crops that our plant will be getting local farmers to grow on a large scale (cassava, sorghum, maize, pineapples, mangoes, passion fruits etc), are food crops. In the process, this plant will not only help poor farmers diversify their incomes, but also, it will contribute greatly to food security in Busoga, Uganda’s poorest region.
Each beginning farmer will be provided with initial inputs for 1 – 4 seasons (depending on the type of crop they are growing), plus lifelong training. Others will intrinsically get the self-motivation to secure the needed inputs using their own money, because of a new market.
Either way, with a ready market and an established business model now in place, all farmers will ultimately gain the self-urge (and the ability) to secure all the needed inputs using their own resources, making our overall work self-scaling, and self-sustaining.
See our planned Business Model here.
Why I am so into this plant, than short-term solutions:
For the most part, there is usually nothing whatsoever that is happening to end extreme poverty in our region. The few antipoverty programs that have showed up over the years, however, all of them have taken the same approach: give rural poor farmers things like seed, training, fertilizers, etc, season after season, and that’s all.
But I can tell you this: I live permanently in Namisita, a village formerly in Balawoli Sub County, but now part of a new Sub County called Kagumba, in Kamuli. I also know precisely every other remote rural corner of our region.
No single farmer has ever exited poverty because someone gave them these inputs and went away. Farmers have been given everything, but they never ever become self-sustaining; many do not even have food, and live in eternal hunger. They can’t afford new seed on their own in subsequent seasons, and need to be supported continuously.
Various poverty alleviation programs have worked with rural poor farmers in our region this way, but no farmer has ever moved from hunger to being food secure on a sustained basis, or from being a subsistence farmer to a commercial farmer, because someone helped them this way.
By contrast, while sugarcane growing* is known to bring monoculture and hence famine, a sugar plant came to Kamuli around 2013, and gave farmers initial support for the first few years. Today, every part of Kamuli and Buyende is full of sugarcane, and farmers do not need anyone to help them get started. Because a ready market is there.
That is why, our intended plant, which will create market linkages for at least six (6) different crops, is the kind of thing that can move rural poor smallholder farmers in a place like ours from extreme poverty.
*Our intended plant won’t work on sugarcane. Nope. I only used sugarcane, and the Kamuli sugar plant, as an analogy.
As shown here below, we will install a specific portion of this plant once the money we have raised is at intervals of $240k; $620k; $1m and $15m. That is, we will begin developing this plant once we only raise $240k, and complete it once we have raised $15m in total.
1). With $240k, we will install a cereal/grain sorting, grading and threshing system, ideally from Alvan Blanch UK, and then provide rural poor farmers with seed, training and market linkages for two crops: sorghum & maize. This will help put our sorghum and maize on a standard where it can be used by all breweries, and many other big buyers, across the East African region.
2). With $620k, we will install a cereal/grain cleaning utility described in number #1 above; a cassava starch/tapioca facility, and then provide rural farmers with seed, training and market linkages for three different crops — sorghum, maize and cassava. Starch alone will link us with buyers from the fields of beer, bakery, pasta, the pharmaceutical industry, textiles, paperboard and adhesive industries, biscuit makers and yogurt producers etc.
3). At the $1m mark, we will develop all the work in 1, 2 and 3 above; install two greenhouse-type solar food dryers, plus an assortment of equipment/accessories, and provide farmers with seed, training and market linkages for three crops — sorghum, maize and cassava — with at least four different products (including High Quality Cassava Flour & Cassava Starch).
4). With $15m, we will roll out all the work in 1, 2, 3 and 4 above; install a 6 ton/hour fruit processing facility; provide farmers with seed/seedlings, training and market linkages for six different crops — sorghum, maize, cassava, mango, pineapple and passion fruits.
This money will only get us a plant with a very small capacity, and it barely includes a budget for farmer support.
Considering a) the geographical vastness of, and the scale of poverty in, our region, and b) the fact that all our target farmers will need to be provided with initial inputs (considering their social-economic status) to enable them participate in this work successfully, $45m is what will do the best work. Details here.
Budget breakdown at the $45m mark:
A 3 ton/hour (or 72 ton/day) cassava starch facility: $2.4m
A 12 ton/hour fruit processing plant: $28m
A cereal/grain sorting, grading and threshing facility: $240k
A High Quality Cassava Flour facility: $200k
Farmer support (planting materials, training & ongoing extension services): $2m over 4 years.
Green energy (i.e., a 500 kW – 1,000 kW solar system): $600k (this will only supplement Mains electricity, and will help with the frequent load shedding in Uganda, and also cut our emissions by at least 25%).
Working capital: $12m over 4 years.
I can even cover the whole of Busoga:
Ideally, if we only raise $15m, we will work with rural poor farmers in only our 2 neighboring districts of Kamuli & Buyende, which together make up ~ 3,300 sq km, with over a million people.
And if we raise $45m, we will have a slightly bigger plant that will work with farmers in 4 districts (Kamuli, Buyende, Luuka, and Kaliro) which together make up over 5,000 sq km, or half of Busoga.
But, considering the kind of poverty in our region, I can even scale my intended work to cover the whole of Busoga, a region the size of The Gambia, if humanity could help me raise as much money as possible.
Overall, my idea for stemming extreme poverty is two-pronged:
a) provide rural poor farmers with a hand-up in the form of initial inputs, along with sufficient agronomic training & ongoing extension services, and b) place these farmers on a self-sustainable path from poverty, by creating new market linkages for these farmers’ produce.
But, as regards market linkages, the plant that $15m or $45m will get us will be roughly of the same size as the 6 ton/hour Soroti Fruit Plant whose capacity was outrun by farmers [in Teso] in only its first year of operation.
By comparison, the Benfruit Plant in Nigeria, which was developed by Tony Elumelu, has an annual capacity of 26.5 million tons, equivalent to 3,025 ton/hour, enough to support as many farmers as possible.
If I am to scale my intended work to cover the whole of Busoga, Uganda’s most impoverished region, I would need a) to install a fruit plant the size of Benfruit, b) a starch facility of a good capacity, c) a system for High Quality Cassava Flour, d) a cereal/grain cleaning facility, and e) the ability to provide initial inputs, technical training & ongoing extension services to rural poor farmers across the region.
To do so, I would need humanity to help me raise ~$200m.
Remember, we are talking about the most impoverished region, in a country that is among the poorest in Sub Saharan Africa, and globally, and a region where simply nothing is in place to end extreme poverty.
Budget breakdown at the $200m mark:
Farmer support: $9m
A cereal/grain sorting, grading and threshing system — complete with its own silos, elevators, conveyor belts etc — at a cost of $12m.
A cassava starch/tapioca facility: $15m
A High Quality Cassava Flour facility of ~200 t/hr, enough to work with farmers across Busoga, alongside the starch facility above: $9m
A fruit processing facility: $130m
Working capital: $25m