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 New Year and Another New Beginning

A picture speaks louder than words! The new look of the KadAfrica Estate reflects progress.

A picture speaks louder than words! The new look of the KadAfrica Estate reflects progress.

As 2013 begins, we start to realize how much work has occurred over this past three months; it has been tiring, frustrating, strenuous to say the least! Now the this first week of January comes to a close, I sit back and think to myself, “it has been well worth it.” Numerous events have taken place over the past few months that have—at times—made me question what we do here in Fort Portal. These past few days Becks and I have looked back at the year and recognized how far we have grown. Thank you to our families and friends who have shown relentless support as we embark upon another chapter of our journey.

On Wednesday as I approached the farm, I was gladly startled by a small gathering of women at the gate. When I got out of the car Joseph, one of our employees, approached me with words I have been longing to hear since we started the farm, “Sir these people are all here looking for jobs…”

Unfortunately we are not yet at a stage where we can hire every community member that wants a job, but it makes me think back to the time where I would struggle on a daily basis to get anyone to come and work at the farm. This heartwarming moment was quickly overshadowed when I noticed that some of the ladies who work in the field had stopped and had begun to walk in my direction singing a song. I quickly turned to Joseph and asked him to clarify this interesting show. He explained that they were blessing me for the work that I have provided them with over the past few months. These women thanked me for the end-of-the year gift of a goat and for enabling them to enjoy a wonderful Christmas and a New Year with their families. It was one of the most glorious moments of the festive season; it dawned on me that KadAfrica is really beginning to have an impact on the local community.

Going into the New Year with our new(ish) farm manager, Alfred. Eric refers to him as Dr. Green Thumb!

Going into the New Year with our new(ish) farm manager, Alfred. My personal nickname for him… Dr. Green Thumb!

Knowing that we cannot provide job opportunities for everyone that approaches, we have been afforded the opportunity to further develop KadAfrica’s model. In lieu of employment we provided each of these job seekers with a handful of passion seedlings so that they can return home to begin their own income-generating plantation. Alfred, our farm manager, explained to the women that they are welcome on the property anytime for instructional demonstrations.  Involving the local community as trainees and out growers allows everyone bulked marketing and provides these subsistence-farmers the opportunity to diversify into horticulture for increased incomes. Moments like this come once in a while, but we are learning on a daily basis that large-scale change takes place slowly and with humble beginnings. The fact that it has taken us this long to get here is a true testament to the idea that, if at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again.

Not only has my realization of change settled in, but also over the past twenty-four hours companies in three different countries have contacted KadAfrica to establish an export partnership. While I don’t want to count my eggs before they hatch, with any luck there will be a blog about that soon enough! 2013 has already been one of positive change; I hope moments like these will be plentiful this new year…

Happy New Year to you all!

Enjoying a moment and a mutual feeling of accomplishment.

Enjoying a moment and a mutual feeling of accomplishment.

‘Tis the Season

Trellises going up at the KadAfrica Estate. Just another reminder of how fast time passes.

Trellises going up at the KadAfrica Estate. Just another reminder of how fast 2012 has passed.

It’s that time of year—the rains have begun to subside, grant application deadlines grow close, and friends and family begin to make holiday plans. The KadAfrica Estate exudes excitement as hundreds of poles and thousands of meters of wire begin to appear now that our once small passion seedlings have grown to the point where they necessitate trellises. Seeing our hard work represented by such visible growth is rewarding; it serves as a reminder of how far we have come and how much work lay ahead to solidify a market for our produce.

Last week Eric and I made a trip down to Kampala for a holiday dinner with the Mango Fund, a meeting with their American board members, and a first night of Hanukkah dinner with family and friends. The two of us found encouragement and motivation in the business ideas and tales of hard work that floated across a Chinese food dinner amongst the “Mango Fund family.” Being afforded the opportunity to sit down with like-minded people from a multitude of backgrounds is a privilege; and having the chance to meet and discuss such ideas with individuals we would have never encountered without our connection to a common investor could be the most valuable aspect to our strategic partnership. One of the directors of the Mango Fund gave some opening remarks, explaining how he finds inspiration in the businesses that the Mango Fund supports—that injecting the Ugandan market with viable business plans can produce real economic change and that us, as entrepreneurs, are the backbone of economic development in this country. His words provided a welcomed reminder of why we do what we do, and why it’s so important to challenge the status quo.

Friends and family gather around the dinner table for the first night of Hanukkah.

Friends and family gather around the dinner table for the first night of Hanukkah.

As we celebrated Hanukkah, I had the chance to share my culture for the second year now with my East African family and friends over an abundance of delicious Jewish eats, including latkas (fried potato pancakes), kugel (a sweet noodle casserole), and beef brisket. Accompanied by an exchange of cultural and religious ideals, dinner provided a platform for stimulating discussion and a fried-food induced coma. It also reminded us that cultural exchange is not always so commonplace in Uganda—especially with regards to the agriculture sector. As Eric and I drove the four-hour drive to Fort Portal last Saturday morning we rehashed the value behind the inspiring words we took from the week’s musings. That as entrepreneurs and owners of an innovative agribusiness, we have an opportunity to challenge cultural tenants and stereotypes commonplace among farmers in Uganda.

At KadAfrica, we hope to initiate economic development and change through agriculture and to influence the opinions that surround the industry. In Uganda, a stigma exists against farming—it is a trade for the poor. That farming should be done on a subsistence basis and a person has more of an opportunity to change his or her economic status through purchasing a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) or starting up a retail business. I believe in an intrinsic pattern to a country’s cycle of development, the backbone of which lies in agriculture. Tis’ the season to reflect; to begin looking at oneself and thinking about the resolutions to be made for the year ahead; and to ask the difficult questions. Is it natural for a country to have a Mercedes Benz dealership yet lack agriculture cooperatives? And how can we at KadAfrica begin to create answers through the example we strive to build?

'Tis the season for flowers! Only 70 days until these flowers become fruits ready for harvest.

‘Tis the season for flowers! Only 70 days until these flowers become fruits ready for harvest.

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

Sorry for the short hiatus; we have been busy celebrating the holiday season. We have taken the last week to enjoy the natural beauty of Uganda and appreciate time with a friend visiting from the United States. But we wanted to take a moment to give thanks to all of our readers out there, and to our friends and family who have been so supportive during our adventure with KadAfrica. We have so much to be thankful for!

Here are some photos of our Ugandan Thanksgiving. It has been an amazing time to reflect on how lucky we are to be living and farming in such a beautiful, fertile place.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all with much love from KadAfrica!