Having been raised on a small rural farm, Allan Busuulwa and siblings worked harder in other fields to some money to get by. This was to supplement the small proceeds yielded from their farm. The reality of poverty was definite. This forced him to think outside the box on how he would change the norm against farmers so that they could get value from their produce.
The idea, Genfarm financial Enterprise, was crafted after a tour visit to the formerly ravaged war area in Gulu amongst different farmers. Busuulwa together with Arnold Katende accompanied a colleague, Collins Kalyebi, to a research study based on the economic viability of agriculture in the region. During the focus group discussions, they identified a gap on financial literacy; farmers were unaware of the basic accounting skills hence suffered rock bottom prices or no profits from their output.
"Many farmers sell their produce to middlemen for next to nothing, who in return sell it at a much higher price to make a profit," Busuulwa the co-founder Genfarm Enterprise," says.
Busuulwa together with his friends integrated the knowledge gained in university both from finance, economics and agricultural science for over six months to create a viable solution to support small-scale farmers.
GenFarm Financial Enterprise, a startup that has breathed new life and opened a window of hope to the formerly disgruntled farmers, aims at unleashing the potential of small holder farmers by empowering them to be financially competent through an all-round supportive system with financial literacy at the core.
The enterprise eases access to agricultural technologies, and end-to-end services that optimise crop yields and labour productivity. GenFarm also develops strategies to improve market access for smallholder farmer's agricultural products in Northern Uganda.
In short, its programmes are tailored to enable farmers fight poverty while ensuring food security among farming communities.
Currently, he is running a pilot case on 20 farmers, with hopes to further understand the region and put the operational model to the test while rapidly scaling up farmer recruitments.
So far, the start-up has a financial operation budget of over $5,000, approximately Shs18 million. However, the team is strategising for rapid upscale so that the investment can increase with time.
A year since inception, the beneficiaries (new farmers) are selected based on a carefully designed criteria; interviewed and farm visits conducted prior to the beginning of the growing season. This allows the team to estimate the quantity of inputs needed by each farmer, inclusive of an agricultural specific financial literacy programme to equip farmers with knowledge on how to manage their personal and production finances with focus on operational cost management and profitability.
Busuulwa confirms that farmers are eased with access to low interest credit to increase farm activities which include purchasing enhanced agricultural equipment for efficient and cost effective production. Farmers also access to high quality inputs on credit to ensure quality outputs.
In addition , access to agricultural technical services is granted to farmers where an agricultural expert checks and offers technical support on their farms twice a month so that they become productive. They also easily access highly competitive markets through value addition to ensure equitable returns for farmers on their produce.
Farmers are able to manage their farming activities while paying close attention to their costs and ensuring profitability.
Busuulwa, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar studying Agricultural Science at Earth University in Costa Rica, collaborates with a team of three that run the enterprise.
In August, the trio won the 2019 Resolution Social Venture Challenge (SVC), a competition that rewards compelling leadership and promising social ventures led by youth. The SVC provides a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders who want to create change that matters in their communities.
Besides offering free agronomic skills, financial literacy training and access to markets; "We only charge 10 per cent commission on the credit offered to farmers which can be both in the form of income or inputs such as seeds and farming tools.
The enterprise has estimated a growth rate of 3 per cent per year and we are benefiting through the Resolution project through the mentorship, getting business experience and we plan to reinvest all of the returns into the enterprise to grow and be able to impact more small holder farmers in Uganda.
On the other side of the pendulum, the enterprise is faced with failure to identify and coordinate the best local farmers for the training and support services as most farmers are scattered around different areas over a long distance.
Given that most farmers do not have prior knowledge on finance management inclusive of proper record keeping, the extension officers continue to check and further advise farmers on how to effectively keep records even after the training, Busuulwa adds.
Busuulwa also anticipate risks such as loss of yields due to unfavourable climatic conditions and as such some farmers may not be able to repay the credits offered to them in form of inputs and equipment.
However, Busuulwa assures, "We have gone ahead to offer technical support since we train farmers on how to deal with diverse climatic conditions to remain productive."
Busuulwa shares a glimpse of the big picture of the enterprise. "We want to enable farmers profit from agriculture and optimise their production capacity by training more than 2,000 farmers to be financially and socially competent by 2022. Besides creating new employment opportunities for both farmers and the young people in the farming communities, the enterprise targets to reach 2 million farmers by 2035."
Strong enough to overcome his fears and striving at achieving the utmost, Busuulwa advises youth to believe in themselves, work hard, try out different opportunities and never give up. "Commitment and resilience are crucial if we want to transform and develop Africa," Busuulwa says.