Rain rain go away??

Rain rain go away…

Sometimes it feels like I constantly blog about rain… Or maybe I should correct myself and say that, when I do blog, it is often about rain. And this year is no exception!

This year we are having another one of those ridiculously long rainy seasons that I often discuss and photograph for all of our readers. With floods in different parts of the country and numerous people being displaced it has been a trying time for Uganda. People always assume that, as a farmer, I would be dancing in the rain. And while I do relish in the coolness of the weather, it has been very difficult time for farmers here, especially those growing Uganda’s more traditional cash crops.. When I visited my grandmother last week she told me how she had lost the majority of her matoke plantation due to a storm that swept through Fort Portal.

KadAfrica also bore witness to the effects of this particular storm, at both the farm and the office/house. One of our green houses was torn to shreds by the incredibly strong winds that gust through the valley at the farm. And one of the trees at our home/office that was planted by my father lost one of its beautiful branches. While I was sad that this lovely and sentimental tree was now missing a branch, it was perhaps my neighbor who bore the brunt of this—as it unfortunately landed on her house. Luckily the damage was not that serious and we were able to repair it.

Aside from the heavy rains it has been an incredibly busy few months for KadAfrica. As you know we spent some very fruitful weeks at the Unreasonable East Africa Institute, which seemed to be the beginning of a whirlwind of events. In early September KadAfrica as awarded the SEED Africa Award. Rebecca was fortunate to attend the ceremony in Nairobi, which seemed to have been swept by the Unreasonable East Africa fellows.

Seed Awards 2014

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Unreasonable institute in Boulder, Colorado. This was a great experience for Rebecca and myself. Not only were we able to meet some of the most amazing entrepreneurs from all around the world who are doing some amazing things and changing the lives of thousands, we also got to connect with some world class mentors and investors. We were given wonderful advice about how we can grow and strengthen our business and further benefit the community we work with.

Awesome reunion with the Unreasonable East Africa family in Boulder at the Unreasonable Institute..

Awesome reunion with the Unreasonable East Africa family in Boulder at the Unreasonable Institute..

My personal highlight of this trip was my adventure up into the mountains to have my first experience with snow! All thanks to my close friend and Unreasonable brother Banks Benitez—Banks, I truly appreciate you taking your time to drive me up the mountain to find that snow, I owe you a lion when you make it back to Uganda!

Me and Banks up in the mountains, i was super hype to get to play in the snow.

Me and Banks up in the mountains, i was super hype to get to play in the snow.

At the end of October, we hosted a three-day workshop with our implementing partners to plan out for the next phase of our project.

We held an awesome three day workshop in Kampala with our partners from CRS and Caritas Fort Portal.

Three day workshop in Kampala with our partners from CRS and Caritas Fort Portal.

We then hosted an event to showcase the great work that is being carried out by our girls in the West, through some amazing photography and a stunning video put together by CRS (which we promise to share as soon as the final version is up on YouTube!) Two of the GAIN girls from the project experienced their first trip to Kampala, and I must say blew the crowd away with their life stories. And finally last week.

The crowd was excited to hear from the GAIN girls that were able to visit Kampala and share their stories.

I was also honored to attend the Acumen East African Fellows final selection conference last week in Nairobi; Another fabulous opportunity to catch up with friends family and some amazing East Africans doing awesome work!

It has been a crazy few months and we are super excited to see what the end of the year and the beginning of 2016 has to offer us. We are braving the rains and looking to the future, remembering to tell ourselves that…

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin

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…

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.


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.


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.

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:


 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.


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.


 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.


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.