My Brother’s Keeper

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
By ugandansabroad

By Arao Ameny

UGANDANS ABROAD (New York) —  What is the most vital resource that can propel Uganda’s agribusiness to the next level? Johnstone Kamuraki Baguma, a 30-year-old entrepreneur and innovator, believes it is human capital, an asset armed with curiosity, a hunger to learn and most of all — insurmountable potential. This, he believes, each person can harness to help others.

Johnstone Baguma uses information communication technology to help farmers in Western Uganda.

Johnstone Kumaraki Baguma, a 30-year-old entrepreneur and innovator is the winner and recipient of the $12,000 grand prize from the Africa Rural Connect contest.  The National Peace Corps Association launched the project, which will pioneer ways to advance rural farmers’ productivity inWestern Uganda using information communication technology.

Baguma is the founder and executive director of the Toro Development Network, also know as ToroDev, which promotes research and advocacy, access and use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the lives of men, women and children in the Rwenzori region of Western Uganda.

A training for maize farmers in Toro.

ToroDev was established in 2006 to help improve the access to information and technology for development for rural farmers. “We are in the business of improving social economics and political development in the Rwenzori region. We provide rural farmers with information on how to grow their crops more efficiently and in turn gain a higher return,” he said.  “We promote marketing strategies and help farmers tap into the East African market bloc.”

Baguma said that ToroDev helps farmers be more competitive, as it disseminates reliable information to improve farmers’ skills and increase crop production levels.

Baguma’s goal is to ultimately increase the number of skilled farmers and their productivity levels, which he believes will create more jobs, build healthier communities and create thriving agribusinesses that are able to produce goods on a large scale. The trickle-down effect, Baguma says, will be a more sustainable economy.

Ugandans Living Abroad and Farmers Back Home

Baguma believes the Ugandans living in the diaspora can play a pivotal role in the lives of rural farmers in Western Uganda. Emphasizing rural farmers’ ability and eagerness to learn and to grow, Baguma said that there must be a consistent exchange of ideas between Ugandans back home and Ugandans in the diaspora in order for real growth to occur.

“My message to Ugandans in the diaspora is that there is a lot of potential in Uganda but we must help each other by sharing information and knowledge,” he said.  He feels that Ugandans and Africans in general have resources, but need to know how to use these resources to benefit their local communities.

Ugandans in the diaspora who have established themselves in communities abroad in their adopted countries are in the unique position to lobby businesses, local governments and even the private sector to introduce Ugandan goods and products into foreign markets, he says.

A maize farmer in Western Uganda.

“Ugandans in diaspora can lobby or market these products to businesses and institutions so that these products can be exported,” he said.  “ToroDev can mobilize production, and the Ugandan diaspora can help us link to businesses that are interested in carrying Ugandan goods.”

The entrepreneur believes in utilizing the Ugandan community living outside of Uganda to improve agriculture. “There is a community outside of the community where people can consume our products and goods,” he said. “That community can motivate people whose main activity and only way to make money is agriculture.”

Building a community-based model to help rural farmers had come with its bout of challenges and successes. Baguma said that the lack of resources and infrastructure make it difficult for rural farmers to earn a living.

“One of the biggest challenges is that farmers are lacking improved or mechanized tools,” he said.  “With poor facilities, poor infrastructure, no roads, no communication structure and no internet to market themselves and their products online, farmers are not able to hire high skilled human capital and increase production.”

An information community technology training for rural farmers.

Baguma asserts that logistical hurdles coupled with the inability to break into larger, urban markets make it difficult for rural farmers to be competitive.

One significant success the Baguma is proud of is that ToroDev has been able to train farmers to market their goods.  Secondly, Baguma and his staff have been successful in mobilizing farmers into larger, stronger groups to increase their marketability to larger markets and institutions.

“Right now we have about 7 groups that have registered with companies,” he said.  “We have also helped these farmers with their lobbying capacity to get financing from the government and private institutions.”

Moving forward, Baguma plans to use the $12,000 prize to help farmers in the Rwenzori region break into markets in Kampala, Mbarara and other parts of Uganda. “We will use the money to expand and continue to work with rural farmers to introduce them to bigger markets and bigger businesses,” he said.

Baguma's passion for both technology and supporting rural Ugandans shines in his work.

The monetary prize from Africa Rural Connect will be used to help farmers grow and market their goods and products in bulk, to help them enter larger, more competitive markets and gain higher returns in urban markets. The prize money will also sustain ToroDev’s efforts to help farmers market their produce so that farmers not exploited, help farmers manage post-harvest losses and link farmers to prospective buyers in urban areas.

Mobile Phones and Radio

ToroDev is exploring how mobile phones and radio can help rural farmers increase crop production.

“We make sure that every farmer owns a mobile phone, specifically using mobile phone for business to connect with potential buyers,” he said.  “We are also in consultation with other businesses that want to establish rural information centers in Rwenzori region.”

Baguma said the farmers can go to the information centers and learn about new strategies in crop production, business, marketing, financial management and other skills that will help rural farmers maintain and conduct professional, efficient businesses. Farmers can go to these centers and access information on food production and how to use mobile phones to improve their business.

Mobile phones are also helpful because farmers can get instant messages about markets in the region and get current, up-to-date prices of matooke, cassava and maize so that they are not exploited. “Using instant messages on mobile phones eradicate middlemen and help rural farmers be more efficient and productive,” Baguma said.

ToroDev also uses the media to help play a significant role in helping rural farmers gain access to information and share knowledge. They draw upon 7 radio stations in Rwenzori, engaging the radio stations owners and asking them to bring agricultural information on improved production and marketing.

Baguma feels that radio stations in rural areas cannot and should not just be a source of music and entertainment, but can fulfill a greater role in serving community members by being a source of education and economic mobility. “Radio has always been the traditional institution in rural areas,” he said.  “Here is an opportunity to share knowledge to help rural farmers be productive by giving them information.”

Baguma said that radio efforts particularly target maize farmers, because maize is a staple food in the Rwenzori region and can also be sold to prospective buyers. He said that growing maize is a simple way to provide food for children and families.

For Baguma, the motivation to continue helping rural farmers in Western Uganda grows from encouragement and recognition of the Ugandans at home and in the diaspora. Being acknowledged by his fellow countrymen propels him, and keeps him and his staff moving forward.

“My motivation is to see a community teaching each other,” he said.  “Sharing skills and sharing knowledge to build stronger communities.”

For more information on Johnstone Baguma

Toro Development Network at http://www.torodev.kabissa.org/

Go to the www.AfricaRuralConnect.org, a webste maintained by the National Peace Corps Association to learn about other innovative ideas to help rural farmers.

Go to http://www.kabissa.org/blog/best-approaches-ict-rural-development blog to read blog posts by Johnston

To get in contact with Mr. Baguma or find out about donate to Toro Development Network email jkbaguma@torodev.kabissa.org

Find Mr. Johnstone Baguma on Facebook at facebook.com/johnstonebk

If you find this information helpful, please

to Ugandans Abroad.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Blogplay
  • blogmarks
  • FriendFeed
  • Global Grind
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Tumblr
  • Yahoo! Buzz

Related posts:

  1. New Cell Phone Software Could Open Up East African Marketplace Tanzanian expatriate Raymond Rugemalira hopes to use an African Diaspora...
  2. The Ugandan Market: Remittances and the Mobile Revolution Ugandans Abroad had an illuminating conversation with Karen Jordaan, the...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply