Ugandan students create ag projects with FFED

November 15, 2019

by Brian Tapp, program coordinator

In early September two students from Uganda arrived in Ames. They spent about eight weeks working with and learning from our Enterprise Development Team. The two students, Mike Bainomugisha and Reagan Mwenyiare, attend Makerere University in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. 

Four men.
Reagan (left) and Mike (right) worked with Brian Tapp (far left) and Duane Johnson (far right) of the FFED Enterprise Development Team.

ISU’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods arranged the exchange. The Center coordinates a bi-national team of service learners in an on-going school garden program in Uganda’s Kamuli District. ISU students work with Ugandan college students to:

  • develop school gardens
  • support school lunch programs
  • assist in teaching agriculture and mathematics, and
  • work with small-landholder farmers in the local communities. 

Each year, several Makerere University students who were university service learners visit Iowa State. They learn about Iowa’s food and agriculture systems and to gain practical experiences in their disciplines.

Two men in combine.
Mike gets a ride in a combine.

Projects to help back home

Mike and Reagan participated in a variety of activities while in Iowa. But there was an academic component to their visit as well. Mike and Reagan worked to create business concepts that would solve a problem in their home country. Because both have backgrounds and education in agriculture, each chose projects that could benefit the agricultural community back home.

A large proportion of Uganda’s population are subsistence farmers. Mike’s project showed that with a small amount of seed capital and a plan, Ugandan farmers could add a chicken and egg farm to their operation. This would create a significant additional income source to raise their standard of living.

Reagan’s project addressed a problem facing many of Uganda’s farmers: lack of grain storage capabilities. Farmers have no storage for the grain that they harvest, and need money for their crop immediately. So they must sell the grain at harvest time, regardless of the price.

Reagan’s plan is to build storage capacity and offer farmers a place to store grain. Farmers would be able to get a partial advance on their grain, and in return Reagan’s company would get a percentage of the sale price. Farmers could then hold their grain for a period of time in anticipation of receiving a better price.

Four people in meat market.
Reagan and Mike visited In’t Veld’s Meat Market in Pella with FFED staff. Here they are with owners Jerry and Shaughn Roorda.

FFED staff guided the students in transforming their ideas into business plans. They developed financial projections to show that these business concepts could indeed be profitable. 

Exploring Iowa agriculture

Reagan and Mike each also created a presentation highlighting their individual backgrounds, the history and traditions of Uganda, and the current culture. The students delivered these outstanding presentations to FFED staff in mid-October. (One thing we learned is that the 2018 movie Black Panther was filmed in Uganda and featured several local actors.)

While here, we arranged for these students to explore Iowa businesses, activities, and foods. Some highlights included attendance at many of the World Food Prize sessions, visiting the Iowa Capitol, attending an ISU football game, touring John Deere, and visiting several Iowa farms. Some of the foods they sampled at a tailgate party and various restaurants included burgers and hot dogs, Jethro’s (for the Adam Emmenecker Challenge sandwich), IHOP, Jell-O, McDonalds, and Twinkies!

Mike and Reagan are both on track to receive their undergraduate degrees in January, They’ve expressed interest in returning to ISU in the fall of 2020 to enter graduate school. We intend to stay in touch while they are back in Uganda and hope to see them again in Iowa next August!