Farming is about passion. That’s the drive of those ten farmers from Uganda and that’s what brought them to the Netherlands. One of the criteria that made them win this trip was their passion for farming. The farmers met with Agriterra at the farm of the Dutch farmer number one. For him, the margin he makes on his product is the second important thing for a farmer. The most important is passion: ‘You need to feel it.’
Uganda is in the middle of what they call an agricultural transformation. It’s not subsistence farmers that’s needed to feed the growing population with growing and more demanding cities. It’s agricultural entrepreneurs.
That’s why The Dutch embassy, together with KLM, the DFCU Bank and the newspaper New Vision started a competition for Best Farmer of Uganda.
To be among the best farmers one must contribute to this agricultural transformation, tells Josephat Byaruhanga from the Embassy of The Netherlands, who was one of the members of the jury. ‘And they need passion. Because we want them to encourage others to go in the business of farming.’
Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year
The ten best Ugandan farmers got the opportunity to visit The Netherlands. For farmers from a developing country a visit to Agriterra is a logical step; Cees van Rij, manager Agri-Advice was eager to meet them. But instead of showing them their office in Arnhem, he choose to meet them at the farm of Ronald Pelgrom, who won the audience award in the contest for Dutch Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year.
Before Pelgrom showed the Ugandese delegation around, Van Rij explained them about the international agri-agency Agriterra and how they work on making farmer-led organisations such as cooperatives bankable. And about the cooperative background of agriculture in The Netherlands. ‘That’s what made our country strong in agriculture.’
It was the passion in his voice that made his guests enthusiastic. And he had a story to be enthusiastic about. His farm counts 70 cows. Only. For Dutch standards, it’s small. To make money with dairy farming only, one needs a lot more cows. Especially now the quota system ended and farmers are able to produce as much as they can. As a consequence prices will go down, farms need to grow to make profit.
At least, that’s the general idea. It’s not Pelgrom’s vision, he told his Ugandese colleagues. For him it’s not the size of the farm, but the margin that counts. That’s why he decided to make ice cream.
He started with a loan for an ice-cream machine and an instructor; now he’s among the best ice-cream makers of the country. Chefs come to his place with fresh ingredients because they want him to make ice for them.
The farmer gained a big applause from his colleagues. And also Josephat Byaruhanga is excited about Pelgrom. If his farm should be located in Uganda instead of the Netherlands, he surely would be amongst the best farmers, Byaruhanga admits.
He meets all the criteria the jury has set. Such as making margin on the product, Byaruhanga explains. ‘It’s not about how big their farm is, but about the profit they make per acre.’ Keeping records is a criteria, such as the social impact on the community counts; they need to be willing to teach others.
To become best farmer in Uganda, one must work sustainable and take care of the environment, the soil and be aware of climate change. Also hygiene on the farm counts, as well as innovation and creativity.
And above all, farmers need to be passionate about farming. Which means they need to be on the farm. ‘There are many people who call themselves farmer, but live in the city and manage the farm by phone’, tells Byaruhanga. ‘That’s not passion.’
Passion is what Iga Patrick performs. Asked about his farm, he tells about the 400 acres of fruit, of which he exports a part to the UK, to Kenya and Dubai. ‘I even sell cayenne pepper to The Netherlands.’ And he tells about the workshops he gives. Farmers from all over Uganda come to his place to attend them.
And he tells about his son. He is smart and has the capacity to become best farmer somewhere in the future, Patrick explains. ‘That’s why he has to visit The Netherlands one day. He needs to come here for a couple of months, work on a farm and learn about how farmers are organised.’
And that’s where the passionate words of goodbye from Van Rij from Agriterra are about: ‘get yourselves organised. Being an entrepreneur, even being a winner is not enough. If you are not organised, it will bring you nowhere.’
© Marc van der Sterren | Farming Africa