Big Ideas and Unreasonable Plans

Big Ideas and Unreasonable Plans

It’s been weeks since we last blogged, and I must say this is not because we were being lazy. We have been incredibly busy the past few months, full of learning and laughter as we attended the first Unreasonable Institute to be held in Africa. This was truly a life changing experience; we got to meet a great group of entrepreneurs from all over East Africa, and a handful of mentors and investors from all over the world. For Rebecca and myself it was amazing to be in a place with people that shared our passion and were willing to also take a leap into the craziness that is being a social entrepreneur.

Unreasonable Fellows 2014

Some of the Fellows from the Unreasonable East Africa class of 2014 (and Baby Benjamin ‘The Unreasonably silent baby’)

The range of the work being done by these inspirational young entrepreneurs was so broad that it enabled us to look at KadAfrica from many different angles; we met people in sectors that were both similar and very different from the work that we do. I feel that through our experience at the Unreasonable we haven not only learned a lot about scaling our businesses, but we have also managed to form life long friendships.

A month of awesome courses and great meetings with so many people has helped us develop a plan for KadAfrica’s future. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to go through such a beneficial program; and are so thankful to all of our readers and supporters that made this possible. We can strongly recommend that any East African entrepreneurs who have the opportunity to be part of this program should embrace it with open arms. Hopefully they will be able to leave the Institute with similar experiences to those that Rebecca and I have gained.

The Unreasonable Climax 2014, where all the fellows got a chance to showcase the work they do

The Unreasonable Climax 2014, where all the fellows got a chance to showcase the work they do.

Now that we are back on our grind we have a lot to get done. With our final cohort of GAIN Girls beginning to plant this week and the continuous harvest from the previous girls, KadAfrica has been busy on all fronts. We are moving forward with the goal to scale up our support staff on the ground so that the girls—both those entering the program and those who are already harvesting—can garner the highest yields possible. That they get the support they need from us to ensure that they can learn and earn the most from their budding farms. We want to put more field staff on the ground so that the ones we currently have are not spread so thin. We want them to have all the agro support that is possible in order to help them identify problems before they affect the progress of their sites.

 We could not have imagined how amazing the Unreasonable experience has been; and we are so thankful to everyone who challenged and supported us and helped us to identify what we need to get where we want to go. It is now up to us to make big changes happen—and we are excited to do so!

Life Comes Full Circle

A GAIN girl harvests two baskets of passion fruit. She was able to keep her orchard alive through the dry season by utilizing a water bottle irrigation methodology taught by KadAfrica. We would like to thank The Imago Dei Fund and Vero Water for generously making over 20,000 water bottles available for the GAIN girls!

A GAIN girl harvests two baskets of passion fruit. She was able to keep her orchard alive through the dry season by utilizing a water bottle irrigation methodology taught by KadAfrica. We would like to thank The Imago Dei Fund and Vero Water for generously making over 20,000 water bottles available for the GAIN girls!

Apologies seem to be the one thing I have become accustomed to when blogging. However I will say that apologizing for being too busy isn’t the worst thing on earth! We have had a roller coaster ride in the first few months of the year. After winning the Agriculture Award at the 2013 Young Achievers Awards it has been a very busy time. With Television and Newspaper exposure, KadAfrica has been propelled into the national scene here in Uganda. This opportunity has enabled us to develop our business in a direction that we had always hoped we would go in.

The dry season finally came to an end. Agriculture is a constant reminder that the world moves in circles—the seasons are cyclical and though at times it is hard to imagine through clouds of dust that the rainy season will come, the year progresses and it always does. It has been a relief to us at KadAfrica and farmers all across the country who have suffered through what has been recorded as one of the worst dry seasons in the past few years. Here in Fort Portal we have begun to experience the wonderful rain that this region is famous for. And I must admit while this has had its effects on many of my social activities such as golf and my two weekly football games, it has been good for the crops.

Seedlings are packed for delivery.

Seedlings are packed for delivery.

KadAfrica has always been keen on spreading the idea of passion fruit growing in Uganda. We have begun to develop larger passion fruit seedlings nurseries, as there has been a huge boom in the demand of passion fruit in the past few weeks. We have had customers from so many different areas of Uganda, including places like Mityana, Mukono, Jinja, Luwero, Masindi, Soroti and of course regionally in and around Fort Portal. This paired with the distribution of seedling to the next round of 600 GAIN girls means that our network of passion fruit growers is spreading countrywide… which we are very excited about!

This dry season came with various challenges that have taught us numerous lessons. We were able to deal with the most extreme weather conditions and also to learn how people who are not as fortunate as us with irritation are able to deal with the lack of rain. After a visit to one of our GAIN girls sites we were very excited to see the innovations and hard work that some of the girls had put into their sites so as to maintain them through the worst of the dry season. I feel that for them to be able to cultivate their orchards to the point that they are now harvesting and making money as the rains begins is commendable. It is good to know that the first cohort of GAIN girls will be pave the way for the new members who have joined.

I realize this is another post about weather; but instead of one with pictures of dust and floods it marks how excited we are to learn through the changing seasons. As the rains begin, so does the first round of GAIN harvests. And as harvest begins we are in the process of delivering seedling to 600 girls who have joined out program.

In May 2013 we launched the GAIN program with CRS. A year later it has all come full circle…

Unreasonable Marketplace

The Unreasonable Man

Please forgive us in advance… posts over this month might begin to get repetitive. We are very excited to have been named Unreasonable Fellows for the 2014 inaugural class of the Unreasonable Institute East Africa. The Unreasonable Institute uses the following model:

Unreasonable Model

To participate we are required to contribute for our tuition… meaning that we have one month to raise $4000. We are hoping that you all—our family, friends, and followers—can help us achieve this goal. Unreasonable is registered as a 501c3 in the United States, so donations are 100% tax-deductible. Any contribution helps!

Unreasonable EA

Yes, we have already posted this on our Facebook page… and you can probably expect an email over the next few days. We appreciate everyone’s continued support and hope that you can pass on the below link to the Unreasonable Marketplace to your friends and family as well to help us expand our network. Please read about the Unreasonable Institute and track our progress!

Click here to support KadAfrica on the Unreasonable Marketplace

Pictures Speak Louder than Words

Comparing our growth over the past year reminds us of how far we have come, and where we would like to go.

Comparing our growth over the past year reminds us of how far we have come, and where we would like to go.

For my birthday on the 11th of January, I received my annual singing call from my grandparents. After 27 of these I look forward to them every year. I would go as far to say that my birthday does not feel complete without it! The traditional happy birthday complete with high pitched sound effects was then complimented by a few minutes of reminiscing about what a wonderful child I was; my grandma also added, “and Rebecca, you are such a wonderful writer!” She proceeded to tell me that she loves reading this blog; and that it has been so long since I blogged that she now spends her time rereading the same posts over and over again. “Rebecca, it is getting a bit boring. Can’t you give your grandmother some new material?!”

So with much pestering from my husband and a loving plea from my grandmother, I have finally sat down to write to you all. So much has happened since our last blog that I honestly am not sure what to write. How do I put three months worth of trials and tribulations, failures and success, and a never ending learning experience into words.  So instead I have decided to turn this blog post into a photo essay detailing the progress, changes, and challenges the farm, the GAIN girls, and Eric and I have faced in the time since our last post.

Enjoy!

Where training the passion fruit to grow upwards on trellises was important, pruning and maintenance has now become the daily task at the farm.

Where training the passion fruit to grow upwards on trellises was important, pruning and maintenance has now become the daily task at the farm.

In November, KadAfrica was nominated for a Young Achievers Award Uganda in the Farming and Agro-Processing category. #YAA2013

In November, KadAfrica was nominated for a Young Achievers Award Uganda in the Farming and Agro-Processing category. #YAA2013

The GAIN girls gather to discuss their experiences at a quarterly meeting in December.

The GAIN girls gather to discuss their experiences at a quarterly meeting in December.

A GAIN girls stands proudly with her passion fruit. It has been so long since our last post that the GAIN gardens have started bearing fruit.

A GAIN girl stands proudly with her passion fruit. It has been so long since our last post that the GAIN gardens have started bearing fruit.

With fruit already on the vine, the GAIN gardens in Kyarosozi Parish can look to begin harvesting this February

With fruit already on the vine, the GAIN gardens in Kyarosozi Parish can look to begin harvesting this February.

At the Young Achievers Awards Ceremony on December 19, 2013 at the Serena Hotel.

At the Young Achievers Awards Ceremony on December 19, 2013 at the Serena Hotel.

We won!

We won!

A cold and cloudy rainy season slowed down the ripening of fruit and meant that extensive pruning was needed to expose the fruits and flowers to sunshine.

A cold and cloudy rainy season slowed down the ripening of fruit and meant that extensive pruning was needed to expose the fruits and flowers to sunshine.

A new year brings sunshine,  growth, challenges and opportunities. KadAfrica has kicked off January in full swing, with two U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers and a new agronomist joining our team. To my amazing grandmother, I hope that these pictures will provide you with an update and enough entertainment until our next post. While it is not the longest or most detailed post, I think these pictures will speak louder than words.

A Pleasant Distraction

Sometimes it seems like we are constantly apologizing for not blogging. I had always wanted to start a blog, but this was a pressure I felt and had to overcome with It’s Bittersweet. Of course I am now starting every blog with “Sorry…” I constantly tell myself to blog when I get home but as soon as I enter the house I’m just too exhausted. However, with my 29th birthday this past weekend I have made a few resolutions for this year—to do more blogging and to begin cycling. Feel free to send me pestering reminders about both…

In retrospect, the term “breaking even” never really meant much to me until the end of last month when I finished balancing our accounts. For any business owner this is one of those moments where you can finally breath… a bit. It has been just over two months since we began exporting our passion fruit to the UK, and this has kept us incredibly busy to say the least! I think if I were to combine the hours spent on the road visiting sites and coordinating activities with the GAIN project in Kyenjojo with the weekly transportation of passion fruit down to Kampala I may officially have crossed into the hours logged by cross country truck driver.

Image

My life for the past few months, on the road

After weeks and countless hours of feeling like a yo-yo on the road up and down to Kampala, I finally managed to squeeze in an early morning game of golf. I know that may sound luxurious to some of our readers, but it is a healthy addiction I have picked up living in Fort Portal that I have watched slip away with my spare time. It had been a while since I had enjoyed a morning out on the course, and I wanted to play a quick 9 before heading up to the farm.

As I slowly walked the course enjoying an improving game my phone began to ring; it dawned on me that I hadn’t turned my phone to silent as I usually do. Anyone that plays golf knows that there is nothing as irritating or disruptive to your game than the ringing of a telephone just as you are about to take that shot that will determine your score (a very Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm Moment for me!).  Usually I wouldn’t even think to pull out my phone beyond taking pictures of my day on the course, but in this case it was the wife so I figured it must be important if she is calling during my golf game—even if it would ruin my flow.

“Guess what, guess what?” Slightly concerned I asked what happened, and she proceeds to scream, “We broke even!” Now for a second I thought was are you serious, I’m golfing, quickly followed by a haunting feeling that I had done the books wrong. And then came the realization that this was in fact a good thing. “You made an error in the accounts and I double checked and we have finally broken even!”

It slowly dawned on me that we had broken even. The feeling was better than a birdie on the hardest hole; I was so excited that I wasn’t even able to finish my game because it had completely thrown me off.

Image

Fruit selection for export to the UK.

That phone call was not only a disruption to my golf game, it was a wake up call. A sign that the hard work we have put into our company was finally paying off. It’s a feeling that I wish everyone has an opportunity to experience in their lifetime.

Work Worth Doing

A woman learns to trellis passion fruit vines at the KadAfrica Estate.

A woman learns to trellis passion fruit vines at the KadAfrica Estate.

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing”

Theodore Roosevelt (1903)

Thank you Impact Lab for featuring KadAfrica in its July newsletter. You can read the article titled Work Worth Doing by clicking on the following link:

Impact Lab July 2013: Work Worth Doing 

GAINing Ground

It's been that long that this is what our farm looks like now...

It’s been that long that this is what the KadAfrica Estate looks like now…

It has been too long since our last blog post. And even longer since I wrote a blog. I apologize; but we have been busy!

The first weekend in March I traveled to the London Business School to present KadAfrica at the Global Social Venture Competition Regional Finals where we were the first runner up. I meant to blog to you all about that, but one thing led to another and I never made time.

Through the month of March and first few weeks of April my dad Ralph was with us in Fort Portal. Eric, dad, and I had an amazing time full of golf, homemade sloppy joe’s, and the attempted construction of a pizza oven. Again, I swear I meant to blog about that!

Enjoying a family game of golf!

Enjoying a family game of golf!

And then the weekend he departed we were approached with an amazing opportunity, that I again wanted to blog about. But this time I didn’t want to jeopardize anything until it was set in stone. And now I have finally made time to tell you all about the GAIN Project.

It’s official; the beginning of May we signed a partnership agreement with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to become the implementing partner for the Girls Agro Investment Project—GAIN. KadAfrica will be responsible for providing training, seedling, and agribusiness support to 1,500 out of school girls in Kyenjojo, the neighboring district to our home in Kabarole.

Our new partners!

Our new partners!

Each of these girls will be allocated a 240 square meter plot of land from the Catholic Chuch; CRS will then provide entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and life skills courses alongside the training and inputs from KadAfrica. And we will be responsible for purchasing each and every passion fruit at fair market value for transport and wholesale in Kampala.

For us, it’s a dream come true—watching our model scaled up on an additional 85 acres of production, and empowering 1,500 girls to become independent agribusiness owners. It has been a whirlwind month of meetings, driving the countryside looking for viable plots of church land, and writing a manual on the cultivation of passion fruit. But the hours of work are a reminder of how far we have come since beginning KadAfrica; how gratifying it is to witness the scale up of our model, and how we hope to continue GAINing ground!

Eric shakes hands with Jack, the Uganda Country Director at CRS.

Eric shakes hands with Jack, the Uganda Country Director at CRS.