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Wrapping up in Masaka

Wrapping up in Masaka

After residing for two months in Masaka, it is time to move to a new district in Uganda. The coming two months I will spend in and around Jinja.

The village of Sembabule is situated a bit central among most of the groups I trained in Masaka area. The ‘Sembabule District Farmers Association (SEDFA)’ is based in this village. This association has its own agro-vet shop, from which from now on the packages of Yoba freeze-dried bacteria are sold, thereby making them easily accessible to the trained farmer groups in the area.

Also I had the privilege to train the staff of this association. In contrary to the farmers groups I’m used to train, this training my audience consisted of young and educated people. Those people train and advise farmers on various issues, and also administer medication to animals etc. After my training they can now also include ‘giving training in yoghurt production’ in their portfolio. For me the training felt as if I had returned to my student association in Holland. During a waiting step in the training we gathered in their canteen where they started imitating their former secondary school teachers and making fun of each other. It is striking to see the difference between people who have seen some more of the word (in most cases the educated people), and people who have spend their whole live in the rural village where they were born. All of them are wonderful people, and I’m enjoying interacting with all of them, but it is much more easy to connect with the first group.

Around Masaka about 15 groups have been trained in yoghurt production, with various results. The trainings themselves were always greatly enjoyed by myself as well as the course attendees. However, not every group subsequently showed the initiative and enthusiasm to start a yoghurt production business. Culturally, in general Ugandans have more of a ‘wait and see’ attitude than what we are used to in the western world. And this attitude is unfortunately reinforced by the omnipresent NGO’s and charities, who give rise to the perception that things can be done for you by others. For me I see it mostly articulated in the marketing aspect of the yoghurt production. ‘Okey, we can make yoghurt, but can you maybe look for packaging and for market of our product?’. Those needs need to be addressed if course. After visiting over 10 packaging companies in Kampala, I can provide them with all the information about that subject. Besides that, the second day of the training I focus completely on calculation of the costs and the profit margin, and on bringing the product to local shops. But in the end, the producer groups have to raise the money themselves to purchase the packaging, and have to go on a ‘marketing tour’ themselves, to get the yoghurt displayed in retail shops.

During my last weeks in Masaka, my presence there and the trainings I offered became more and more known. I did not have to go and find my target groups, since people (often representatives of groups) came to the office to make appointments for trainings. Since so many groups have been trained now, the focus will shift to follow-up. Probably I will train fewer groups in Jinja, and invest some time in going back to Masaka, to guide the trained groups further in the process of setting up their own yoghurt business.

Nieke Westerik

Nieke Westerik

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