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New horizons: Yoba in Jinja area

New horizons: Yoba in Jinja area

After 1,5 week residing in Kampala and working from the head office of the East African Dairy Development (EADD), my colleagues and their car were ready to take me to my new area and the farmer groups therein: Jinja, behold! Although I had spent my days in the office useful, and had taken the opportunity to mingle and discuss with many EADD collegues the Yoba project, it had bored me. So once settled in in Jinja, I started training groups non-stop, 6 days per week. Which means that now, after 3 weeks, I have trained all the selected groups, and I will now spend some weeks in giving follow up to groups I have trained, first back in Masaka, then also in Jinja.

Where Jinja is the most beautiful and luxurious city in Africa I have seen so far (on lake Victoria, at the source of the Nile, and made beautifully to attract tourists and rich Africans), initially my personal living circumstances where the most primitive so far. The place where I stayed was not connected to either water or power. I furnished my room with just a thin mattress, since I did not want to invest for this short period. Now the lack of tap water is not such a problem in Africa, the fast majority of the people does without. Big yellow 20 l jerrycans are omnipresent and can be filled with water for just some few cents. The lack of power bothered me more. Ever so often I had to spend some hours in a hotel to charge my phone and do my deskwork, since my laptop has no battery. When it got dark at 7 PM I lit a candle, and when the candle was finished by 10 PM I went to bed.

By now everything is connected, but it took 10 days, 5 visits to the office of the Power Company and uncountable number of phone calls before they could finally be pushed to come and connect the power. The water was another story. It was connected when I had just gone out to stay 2 days in the field, carrying the key with me. And you guess what happened: one tab was open. Luckily there were the security boys, again my best friends by the way, who heard the sound, and when after a few hours the water floated from underneath the doorpost they were sensible enough to switch off the water at the outside connection point (and switch it back on once I had returned and closed the tab).

But after all those personal affairs, let me tell you something about the progress of Yoba in this area. The farmer groups are fundamentally different from most of the groups I had trained around Masaka. There many farmers depended on cattle farming, and the cooperatives were on contract with a milk processing company which provided them with a milk cooler and bought all their milk. Not so in Jinja. Here most farms have one cow to provide them with manure for their crop farming, and to supply them with milk for their family (and maybe that of the neighbor). The milk cooperative often sets a maximum to the amount of milk the farmers can supply to the collection point, since there is no cooler in place and the number of costumers within their reach is limited. This has both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that people are more eager to start the yoghurt business. It means for them that they can collect more milk and enter another market, with yoghurt being more valuable and less perishable then milk and therefore more attractive for trade. In Masaka often the chairman of the cooperative was more concerned with the contact with the milk processing company, not bothering himself with this yoghurt production ‘hobby’ which might be nice for some women when they get bored. In Jinja I see the opposite: the chairman is always present and preaching to his people how this business could help their cooperative move forward, and that they should really take it seriously. The biggest disadvantage among those groups is the ‘amateuristic’ operation of most of the cooperatives. Unlike most groups in Masaka, they do not test the quality of the milk upon arrival, they are not trained in hygienic milk handling, and they don’t own a thermometer (which is required for the production of yoghurt). Those things are solved by me buying those requirements in Jinja, and often selling them to the cooperatives after the training.

Not only the chairman is always actively present, my yoghurt trainings are even being taken so serious these days that on my last training people from quite far arrived by car (having a car means you are a rich/important person), and also the head of the sub-county and the councilor (not exactly sure what those positions mean, but they went around very formally dressed and they were treated with great respect by the community) attended. I might also helped that I have done several radio shows, in which I could explain the Yoba concept and also announce my program for the coming weeks, so that people knew where my trainings took place and could come to attend.

So soon I will be heading to eternal fame, and you will pride yourself with the fact that you have been following me on this blog since the beginning.


Nieke Westerik

Nieke Westerik


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