When Anja de Feijter first set foot in Uganda 17 years ago, she had no idea it would turn out to be her permanent home. Anja, the executive director of Agribusiness Development Center (ADC) – an initiative of the Robobank Foundation and dfcu bank – is just one of many foreigners that come to Uganda and never leave. Strange that as millions of Ugandans would give everything to ‘escape’ their country to settle in the Netherlands where Anja was born and raised, there are people in the West whose dream is to hold a Ugandan passport like Anja does.
EXODUS TO AFRICA
When she was told of an opportunity to work in the East African country, she started to do research and the results were not pleasant. The country was recovering from the deadly Ebola virus that had killed hundreds including championing medical workers such as St Mary’s hospital Lacor’s Dr Matthew Lukwiya.
This, on top of the HIV pandemic that was becoming Uganda’s new normal. Her peers thought she was mad to abandon a well-paying job, good house, car and good life to go to a ‘jungle infested with deadly viruses and backward people’, as many in the West still envisage Africa. But it was to Africa and Uganda that Anja headed and found happiness. Born in August 1967 in South Western Netherlands, Anja is the only child of agriculturalists Raines and Jannie de Feijter.
Coming from an agricultural family, Anja says, at a very young age she also developed love for agriculture.
“When I was 12, I told my parents I wanted to be the minister of agriculture. It was a bit strange for a young girl; others my age would want to be hairdressers,” she said in a recent interview. Anja’s father was born just after World War II, which had left a trail of destruction with de Feijter’s farm having no single animal left.
Anja’s father and his siblings could not go back to school. Anja says her father, hurt by not getting full education, worked very hard so his daughter would not suffer the same fate.
“He started his own business selling vegetables using a wheelbarrow; he became a very successful businessman,” Anja says.
Aged 16, Anja left her family home for Amsterdam to pursue education because her home district was not as developed. She went to a horticulture school for four years. Thereafter she moved to the Royal Tropical Institute in the east of Netherlands and pursued a course in international agricultural marketing for four years.
Finally, Anja proceeded to Wageningen University and Research Centre and pursued a degree in agricultural economics, graduating in 1996.
“I took the longest route to study to become an agricultural engineer; I was 28 when I graduated,” she says.
After graduating, she refused to go back to manage the family business, opting to look for a job in the capital. She says she looked for jobs in vain, triggering anger and frustration especially after many years of studying.
A friend told her of an advertisement for an agricultural IT consultant, but she had no idea about IT; nevertheless, she applied. She excelled during the interview as the most eloquent.
“They said they can teach me how to do programming but they were not sure they could teach the other guys how to communicate. I got the job of consultancy despite the fact that I had just left the university,” Anja says.
She worked with the company for four years until one of her clients challenged her on when she was planning to ever use her agriculture education.
ROYAL VAN ZANTEN
There was an opportunity in Uganda as director of an eight-hectare Dutch flower farm, Royal Van Zanten.
“I said, ‘I haven’t been to Uganda but if you can give me a ticket, I can go check it out’,” she says.
When she arrived in September 2000 she was very excited and felt right at home in Uganda.
“I went to Mukono to see how people would react; they were very friendly; everyone was greeting me like I had been part of them. It was a normal thing to see a mzungu on the street. I said to myself, I think I should try the job,” Anja says.
She says that decision was not hard at all, seeing that she had no partner or children to worry about.
LIRA. About 200 farmers from Lira District have benefited from a two-day agribusiness enterprise management training organized by the Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC).
Speaking at the closure of the training, Ms Anja de Feijter, the executive director ADC, said they are optimistic that the training will adequately empower farmers with financial knowledge, business management and marketing skills which lack in farmers in Northern Uganda.
We needed to provide these farmers under farmer organisations and small medium enterprises in the agricultural sector with financial literacy, business management and marketing skills which will positively impact in their different business enterprises,” Ms Anja said.
She added: “Through our partnership with Rabobank Netherlands and dfcu Bank, we have invested in the process that we believe will change the trend of farming and agribusiness in this part of the country (Northern Uganda).
Ms Margret Acen, a beneficiary, said she discovered that it was possible to store crop produce beyond one season and sell at better prices as well as seek better markets through uniform bargain.
I previously would sell my crop produce immediately we harvest and before I get to the next planting season, there is no money to buy planting seeds but the lesson today has opened my eyes on the significance of good storage, she said.
She said middlemen always cheated them by dictating for them low prices compared to what they were supposed to get as final returns.
Using a team business adviser, ADC plans to select existing farmer groups and train them, carry out regular follow-ups and make sure they are improving and practising the concepts learnt, said Ms de Feijter.
About $1m (Shs3.6b) has been sunk into the programme according to her.
In an interview, Mr Godfrey Mundua, the dfcu Bank head of corporate and institutional banking, said they patterned with ADC and singled Lango region because it has many agricultural activities that are important to support.
Through the resource centre, will be able as a bank to directly support these farmers with business loans and train them different financial management skills. We will also link them with bigger buyers just as we took them to Mt Meru Millers, one of our biggest clients, Mr Mundua said.
After concluding the training, ADC also launched its resource centre in Lira, a centre through which the farmers will directly have training and consultations with ADC expertise on agribusiness.
The Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC) executive director, Anja de Feijter, tipped farmers on the use of modern farming methods such as mechanization to increase production quantities.
KAMPALA – The Uganda Development Bank (UDB) is to inject sh6b to empower innovators to enhance their skills, acquire more machines as well as market their innovation products.
This, according to Prof. Samuel Sejjaaka, the UDB board chairman, is aimed at creating more jobs and enhancing economic development.
Sejjaaka, during the I-Growth Accelerator awards for 2017/2018 financial year, said the bank will invest sh5b as equity in viable projects, meaning they will partner with innovators until they break even, while the other Shs1b will be venture capital. The event took at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the vice-chancellor of Makerere University, noted that there is need for the Government to offer interest-free loans to innovators so that their products can compete on the globe, saying they were laying strategies at the institution.
We at Makerere University have started new strategic plan to transform Makerere into a research-led university,” he stated.
The Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who was represented by Gabriel Ajedra, the state minister of finance in charge of general duties, noted that innovations in the agriculture are necessary for economic development of Uganda.
He reiterated the Government’s efforts in boosting innovation through the innovation funds, which are channeled through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
The Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC) executive director, Anja de Feijter, tipped farmers on the use of modern farming methods such as merchanisation to increase production quantities.
She said farmer trainings of literacy and entrepreneurship skills are necessary for transformation of agriculture. Last year, ADC got a boost of Shs10.8b for training community-based farmer organisation on train farmers in governance, financial management and risk management, among others.
We have trained 75 farmer organisations and we are going to scale up the number of individual farmers in Hoima, Mbale and Kampala,” she stated.
(From left) The managing director of dfcu Bank Juma Kisaame, ADC’s Anja de Feijter, Ambassador Henk Jan Bakker, state minister for co-operatives Frederick Ngobi, Jimmy Mugerwa and chief executive officer of Rabobank Foundation Pierre Van Hedel cutting the cake during the opening of the agribusiness centre at Kampala Serena Hotel on November 29.
Over 100 farmer groups dubbed farmer-based organisations (FBOs) countrywide that have the potential to contribute to the agricultural value chain are to benefit from the sh10.08b fund ($2.8m) obtained by Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC).
This, according to ADC executive director, Anja de Feijter will improve their operations and ultimately become bankable.
She said the organisations will receive the technical support, training on financial literacy and choice of enterprise.
The development was announced during the official launch of ADC at Kampala Serena Hotel.
The money was injected into the organisation by dfcu Bank and Rabobank Foundation in the Netherlands and the fund is set to benefit farmers for the next five years.
Feijter explained that ADC business advisory team is currently pre-visiting over 100 farmer based organisation’s (FBO’s) countrywide and that since October, 70 FBOs have been selected to receive the training skills in governance, financial management, financial literacy, marketing and risk assessment
With these skills, the farmer based operations will continue to grow their operations in ways that are of benefit to both them and the wider communities,” she noted, adding that ADC which started operations in October this year has skilled 44 farmer leaders from 20 FBOs from Lira, Dokolo, Kole, Alebtong and Oyam with skills in governance.
DFCU’s board chairperson Jimmy Mugerwa commended the efforts being taken by the farmer based organisations to acquire finances through forming groups.
Agriculture is the number one breadwinner for our country and there is a need for collective effort to support it. By facilitating ADC in its operations dfcu and Rabobank are building capacity for the farmers to access much needed financial services, he said.
He added: dfcu already provides tailor-made products for the farmers and with the capacity building delivered through ADC the smallholder farmers will be more eligible for financing from commercial banks.
They will also be better placed to increase productivity and possibly embrace commercial farming which is more profitable at household and national level.
The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda Henk Jan Bakker noted that lack of skills is the major deterrent to work with smallholder farmers, hence the need to train and educate them in vocational training.
Allow me to make a reference to the situation in my home country. Educating and training of farmers has been one of the key elements in the successful development of the agricultural sector in Netherlands. Agricultural education and training has developed close farmers in partnership with the private sector, he stated.