I spent two days of this week in the western part of Uganda, in search of knowledge. And I got plenty of it. Plus a lot of wisdom. As I said before, when you start a new journey, you need to learn new things or find new ways in which to use existing knowledge. It is very tempting to think that earlier experiences will work the same magic. It will not.
I started off in Kamwenge at a big cassava plantation of a friend who plans to process ethanol. Here I understood the importance of scale, how to work with outgrowers, the value of processing & the need for sustainability! I also came face to face with challenges. I thought I had farming problems until I listened to these guys. They have to deal with elephants as pests.
! Also malaria is endemic and affects productivity. But they persist & work through the challenges. One day their plant will be up & running and all of this will have been worth it.
The next day I went over to the Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union Ltd in Kabwohe. I met with the General Manager John Nuwagaba & Maniragaba who runs the operations. These guys are coffee experts in all ways. And they took me to school. I got a powerful lesson on what to do & what to avoid in order to build a successful coffee business. These guys really know their stuff & when you are in their presence, you realize how little you know. But I was the better for the visit. It helped to clarify on some of the decisions I need to make.
After this I went across town to the home of Hajji Jomo & Hajjati Hindu Mugabi in Nyakanoni, Mbarara. These are big banana growers. They have roads in their plantation to ease access for trucks coming to pick. As you may know, I have a lot of managerial experience from my past work but this woman took me back to basics that I was not applying at my banana plantation. Now we are going back to where it all starts. She reminded me that I am no longer running a big organization with functional systems. I am now working in a place that needs constant diligence.
And it was off to Kebisoni in Rukungiri to see what my friend Rugaba Kashillingi has been up to. This guy is something else. Talk of people who made good use of the Covid lockdown. He now has 18 acres of bananas under cultivation & is fattening cows for beef on a small area. But it is the work he has put in that I found impressive. For once I went to a banana plantation and had nothing useful to say. I also took away lessons on how his kraal is constructed & the storage.
Now it is back to work. Yesterday we were ferrying maize to make silage for cattle feed. That will continue today. Next week, some big decisions.
While I saw and learnt many things on this trip, what was most valuable about talking to all these people is their wisdom. And how generous people can be with their experiences, if only you ask. You will also be surprised how invested people can be in your success.