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.

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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.

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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.

Rain brings change…..

It has been so long since we have blogged, I have again watched the season change back to what I like to call ideal weather—rain! It has enabled us to slow down on the extensive water pumping and allow nature to take control of the growth of the passion fruit. The drive to the farm has also become a lot more pleasant. The dust has disappeared and I am afforded the opportunity to open my windows and take in the fresh air. It also gives me a chance to take a break from the frequent gas station stops, where I found myself on a regular basis cleaning out air filters or getting the car washed.

 

The KadAfrica Estate has started to look more and more like farm from outside of Uganda. In one of his weekly updates, Alfred, our Farm Manager and Head Agronomist explained:

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 View of the KadAfrica Estate

“After weeks of dry and dusty weather we have finally been blessed with lots of rainfall and great temperature for the passion fruit to continue their rapid development. So far, 96% of the plants in section one and two have established a solid growth paten and there are at least five to six fruits on every plant.”

 

The farm has attracted many visitors, one of which happened to be from the National Agriculture Advisory Services Board—NAADS as it is commonly referred to.

They have expressed great interest in having the Estate pose as a demonstration organization, and offered an opportunity for our farm to play a bigger role in the diversification of crops in Uganda. This is something that we are greatly honored to do and we hope that this partnership plays out in the near future.

 

This week I sat down with Alfred and we briefly discussed a few ideas he had to develop the social side of KadAfrica and action steps he felt we should add to our quarterly goals. He suggested that we look into sponsoring some of our employee’s children by paying for their school fees. Both Rebecca and myself were very excited to see that his aspirations for the community are parallel to our own. In June, KadAfrica will begin to sponsor five children from our staff to ensure that they are able to receive an education at the local St. Philips Primary School in the parish where the farm is located. KadAfrica will also sponsor one local child from the community. We have also begun converting a section of the farm into community football (soccer for all you Americans!) field that will hold weekly games for youth in the area.

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Alfred poses with some of the local children.

Alfred also suggested that we increase our current training schedule from one to two workshops per month to educate more of the community’s farmers; he says that he has been inspired because he notices that education on passion fruit is sparking—for lack of a better word—passion among the community for agriculture.

 

Local farmers, as well as farmers and visitors from outside of our district who grow passion have realized that it is so much easier to bring and sell their produce to the farm gate, than transport goods and hassle with vendors at the market. It is slowly becoming clear to us that we are on a good path and the growth to which we aspire is reflected among the community.

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 Passion fruit brought in by a local farmer this week.

 

Prospects for the year

As January disappears as fast as it came, February brings with it clouds of thick orange dust, and a welcomed sense of security.  We at KadAfrica sit somewhat comfortably knowing that the worst of the season will not affect us as it has in the past. Of course agriculture is unpredictable, but there are precautions that can and have been taken.

 

The hissing sound of water spraying from the drip lines is reassuring to say the least! As well as our staff’s “thank you’s” for the guarantee of water that has been absent years past. Over the Christmas season Rebecca and I were asked to discuss the one thing that keeps us up at night with regards to our business; where my answer at one time was water, I realized this is no longer the case. We enter the dry season dusty, but as confident as can be in Uganda’s unpredictable agriculture industry.

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This dusty Road was flooded a few weeks ago.

 

When I think of what to write for our readers, I notice a positive change. Tales of endless rains and seedlings have evolved into stories of job seekers and individuals who stop by and make statements like, “wow these people have really thought through a good business.” Everyday as I approach the farm I am met with more job requests from people travelling to the Estate from all over the district. And while it’s refreshing to receive such a daily vote of confidence, it is overshadowed by the fact that I cannot hire every single person that comes to the farm. The hope and prospect of job creation in the village—something that myself and Rebecca have longed for—has become reality; as well as the realization that so much more can be done to ensure community impact.

 

Two months in, this year brings the opportunity to create jobs and foster income generating orchards for the members of our community; it also brings about the prospect of new businesses and the potential that accompanies hard work. Several agricultural ventures have materialized in the past month that KadAfrica longs to participate in. Right now, commitment to our model and the finite number of hours in the day means we can only take on so much so fast; focusing on what we know first and expanding later. Four seasons of avidly watching the show Shark Tank have made us realize the importance of devoting 100% to a successful venture; that planning for the future is important, but perhaps more so not expanding beyond one’s means.