How a Social Enterprise Fights Poverty through Smart Farming
The Farmers Guide Uganda—An initiative that provides farmers with the knowledge, skills, and technology to modernize their value chain from pre-production to consumption.
Social entrepreneur Stephen Ekoom’s interest lies in the intersection of agriculture, community development, and business. His zest for life and infectious enthusiasm shines through as he speaks excitedly about the untapped potential of agriculture in Africa, particularly the high percentage of uncultivated arable land. He explains the urgent need to progress from feeding the family to feeding the world.
To capture it best, he says that ‘farming means business.’
Against this backdrop, Stephen founded The Farmers Guide Uganda in 2015. It is an initiative that provides farmers with the knowledge, skills, and technology to modernize their value chain from pre-production to consumption. Its mission is to mobilize the youth and wider community to embrace new farming methods to bring about sustainable economic growth. Having spent some time in the USA on the Communicating for Agriculture Exchange Programs (CAEP) learning all there is to know about hydroponics and greenhouse farming, he continues to apply these skills to The Farmers Guide Uganda and is steadily reaping the rewards.
Reflecting on how his journey started, Stephen recalls the first time he carried out rural research on smallholder farmers and saw first-hand their low output, dependence on unsustainable farming practices, and lack of participation in food markets. He also noticed that the burgeoning youth population showed little interest in farming as a means of reducing the high rates of unemployment. He emphasizes that these problems still exist today and that there is a lot more good work to do.
No doubt, The Farmers Guide Uganda has already achieved so much through its various services. For instance, it links farmers to in-country buyers that need their produce and is willing to offer great prices. Stephen explains that
‘the farmers produce knowing that there is a market. We win, and they win’.
They are currently working on an app to automate this service. Also, their team of experts delivers capacity training to agribusinesses to help them combat their daily challenges. Amongst other things, guide those starting their career in farming, host regular workshops, and accommodate volunteering at farms.
Stephen speaks fondly about the various organizations they have partnered up within the last few years. While working with African Village Support, they trained women in Bulambuli District on various areas such as post-harvest management, financial literacy, and climate-smart farming. In another project with Apopong Youth Citrus Growers Association, they assisted youth groups growing and selling mango, citrus, and passion fruit seedlings with marketing support.
When asked about his future plans for the social enterprise, Stephen optimistically mentions his team’s desire to move beyond the local market. In the first phase, they will export potatoes, banana, and cassava flour. The long-term goal is to diversify crop production to meet global demand while adhering to fair trade principles.
Ultimately, Stephen’s big ambition is to break the cycle of poverty through farming. With so many rich resources in Uganda and the wider continent, he sees no reason why people struggle to feed their families. He believes that ‘poverty is man-made; with the right mindset and strategy, it can be overcome’.
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