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.

The Mental Tax

Passion seedlings await transplanting at the KadAfrica Estate.

Saying goodbye always proves difficult—and it never gets any easier. After six enjoyable weeks celebrating our wedding in the United States, parting ways with family, friends and bulldogs begets an unfortunate sadness. Knowing that we have budding passion fruits, a lonely dog and a growing business to return only justifies leaving; it’s an appropriately bittersweet amalgamation of emotion that makes returning to our home in Uganda bearable. Goodbyes are inevitable, but much less mentally taxing when expected.

Our dog Baboon… Always happy to welcome us home to Uganda!

Throughout our tenure at KadAfrica we have had to part ways with employees. And while recognizing the shortcomings of an employee who is personally vested in receiving a salary at the end of each month can be tricky, partiality becomes an essential element of success in the challenging business environment in which we operate. This past weekend we had an engineer named Israel at our farm to install the irrigation system. During a break time conversation, Israel explained to Eric and I his personal motto and the structure by which he operates his business, stating, “it is better to eat small meals and be satisfied then to starve while waiting for a feast.” For us, these words resonated as a welcomed and refreshing proverbial African metaphor; it also described the hardest cultural tenant we face working in Uganda and the reason why we recently had to part with a long time employee.

When I purchased the newspaper yesterday, my eyes quickly darted to the front-page story on the embezzlement of funds from the Office of the Prime Minister. Over two years, money being illegitimately moved through “irregular money transfers” has totaled over 6 million dollars into mysterious accounts and overpayments. How can Israel’s motto be circulated when the public sees such flagrant feasts plastered across newsstands countrywide? And how can we best create a company culture that challenges partaking in this real-life tragedy of the commons?

How billions were lost in Prime Minister’s office

In our absence, it became apparent to Eric and I that change needed to be made to ensure the integrity and functioning of KadAfrica—in the form of an unexpected and disheartening goodbye. And after dropping our former farm manager off at the bus station to return to Kenya, Eric and I exchanged sighs realizing just how draining parting ways with an employee could be. The actualization that an individual’s motives may not align with our own brings about frustration, yet such proactive and necessary decisions are key to KadAfrica’s success. It’s the mental tax we pay along the road we have chosen.

Our new farm manager Alfred oversees installation of an irrigation pipe.