Agro-business: Patrick Iga Kinawoza, an agro-business farmer and proprietor of Farming Consult and Management Company limited was voted Uganda’s best farmer in 2014. He discusses his career in agro-business and farming.
Where did your career begin from?
Before joining agribusiness, I was a manufacturer dealing in home and healthcare products and by the help of the late city businessman, James Mulwana, I got a scholarship to study Industrial Chemistry at the University of Birmingham.
While a student in the UK, I visited several farms in Cambridgeshire and picked interest in farming after observing the extraordinary skills that farmers there used.
I gained skills from the farmers and experts and when I returned to Uganda in 2006, I embarked on modern agriculture on an acre of farmland in Kabuwomelo, Luweero District.
I started with apple bananas, pumpkins, maize and vegetables to influence out growers in the community to join the business. The community got motivated and by 2011 my business had expanded to 20 acres.
In 2012, I chose to start a fully-fledged company, Farming Consult and Management Company Limited (Facom) after realising that there was a gap for information for Ugandan farmers to learn more and also qualified people to manage farms.
The business expanded and today we have agro business shops, various branches and currently employ around 470 Ugandans.
You are a professional industrial chemist, why did you choose a different career?
Agro- processing was my next phase. The idea was that we could not process when the materials were not available. We had to teach people what to produce, how to produce and the quality of produce.
For now, I am using my skills to make organic fertilisers with the help of Makerere University and soon, I will be putting my skills into agro- processing.
I found out that you are also in agro- tourism, is it a viable business?
Most Ugandans have potential to engage in agro-business but they have been raised in urban setting. We organise tours to the farm to inspire prospective farmers and agro-business investors.
Farming is crucial to our country’s economy and it is important that Ugandans pick interest in the business and that can be done if we expose them to the skills and actual activities that take place in the field.
What does it take to benefit from agro-business?
You have to ask yourself several questions before starting; what produce are you focusing on, choice of location and community where your farm is established, who are your target consumers and finally you have to love the business.
It is not about the size of farmland but the skills and the choice of farming. Like any other business, you need to have be financially set if you are to thrive.
How have you managed to keep your business profitable given the competitive environment?
I chose to offer solutions to the problems in the business. For instance, if it is a dry season, I irrigate, I plan well to beat seasonal crisis. For instance, I chose to invest in Kenyan mangoes and that keeps me in business at a time when yields for Uganda breeds are low.
How do you make difficult career decisions?
The first thing I get to understand is the business sense of the decision that I am making. You have to weigh between the current and the next course of action.
What are the greatest accomplishments in your career?
The most important accomplishment is the way my career has led me to very many people around the world and that is the most important thing to anyone with a business mindset.
Furthermore, is the knowledge that I have accumulated at a global scale. I have been awarded as Uganda’s first best farmer by the Dutch Embassy in Uganda and also the best exhibitor by the Kingdom of Buganda.
I have managed to employ people, earn money as an individual and I do not regret.
What are your personal goals and how did these align with your job?
My target is to maximise wealth through farming, empower my community in farming and also create solutions for farmers in Uganda.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I do not know whether I am targeted by bad people with selfish agenda or if my woes are politically-motivated. I have survived death twice and most recently, I was trailed by men on a motorcycle who attacked me at my farm. I have reported those cases to police and I am waiting for a report.
The problem is that in our society, when people see you trying to work with people, they assume you are targeting a political office and that is how drama starts.
Would you consider yourself a boss?
I am a servant of the people, it is very dangerous to boss in any people-driven venture. I relate well with my juniors and I actually give them space to make decisions.
How would you describe your management style?
My management is influenced by prevailing situations and the crisis in place.