Innovating on the Farm

By Arnest Sebbumba,
STRYDE program participant

It is difficult to translate the word “entrepreneur” into my native tongue, Luganda.

Most of my friends here in Kayunga, Uganda, come from farming families, but few of them have any interest in managing their farms for a living. Agribusiness skills aren’t taught in local schools, though our population is overwhelmingly agrarian. Like so many of my peers, I would have sought employment in the technology sector were it not for the training I received through the STRYDE program run by TechnoServe.

The program began with a three-month training course, designed to push participants to see past traditional farming methods people have adhered to for decades – and to challenge us to consider how to grow our farming operations, address long-standing problems (like East Coast fever, a deadly livestock disease) and recognize new opportunities for expansion.

For four hours a day, twice a week, 24 other participants and I learned finance, business and entrepreneurial skills. It wasn’t until this training that I began to see the land as a blank canvas. The advisors challenged us to see the opportunities in commercializing and building on already existing activities.

The training boosted my confidence and showed me that I could succeed by pursuing innovative, business-savvy farming.

I was inspired to greatly expand our farm’s dairy operations. Among other changes, I worked to prevent East Coast fever among my livestock and introduced artificial insemination. I also started a composting program that saves us money and brings in extra income, as we’ve begun selling our compost to other farms. A business-minded approach has allowed me to carve out a livelihood for my family from land that previously provided us with only a precarious subsistence.

Perhaps more importantly, the training boosted my confidence and showed me that I could succeed by pursuing innovative, business-savvy farming. It also inspired me to think about how I could share that knowledge and confidence with others in my community. 

Prior to joining STRYDE, I had spent six months as a part-time researcher for The MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Think Tank, gathering insights about ways to increase youth employment. The young people we interviewed consistently said that they wanted to know more about professional options and that they needed greater access to employment and entrepreneurship training programs.

Armed with new knowledge about the needs of local youth, and with the skills and confidence I developed through the STRYDE program, last year I dedicated myself to developing a nonprofit organization, Countryside Youth Foundation (CSYF).

CSYF provides rural youth in my home district with increased access to information on topics such as animal husbandry, crop production, marketing and information technology. The organization encourages young people to recognize existing opportunities, including approaching the family farm as an enterprise. It is my hope that the organization will empower young people in Kayunga by increasing their knowledge and their economic potential.

If Luganda does not yet have a word for “entrepreneur,” then I figure it’s my generation’s charge to invent one.