This summer I am based in Kampala, Uganda, working for FIT Uganda Limited. FIT Uganda is a small and medium enterprise (SME) consulting firm involved in catering to the development needs of farmers through its access to market and capacity building programs. The access to market program includes creation of strong value chain linkages and better collection and dissemination of market information (Infotrade). Capacity building focuses on trainings to farmers to deal with farming as a business.
During my stint with FIT Uganda, I will be exploring the challenges of and strategies in offering a socially beneficial market-based solution in the specific context of FIT Uganda’s Infotrade service. My work will primarily concentrate on Infotrade, a market information system wherein details of prices, quantity demanded, seasonal patterns, and quality and standards, of around forty-five agricultural products are collected and analyzed from over forty local markets across Uganda. This information is disseminated to the target groups through radio, internet, mobile phones, village and village notice boards, among others. Through Infotrade, FIT seeks to aid farmers and other actors in the value chain with valuable information which improves their ability to manage prevailing situations and plan for the future market opportunities.
Like other developing countries, Uganda too faces challenges such as poverty, growing population, food insecurity and widespread inequality. By empowering the farming community who form the bulk of the population and aiding increased agricultural productivity, FIT is helping in tackling some of the above national problems.
Despite its success within a short span of time, FIT faces several challenges in its operations and long-term sustainability of Infotrade. Besides the operational challenges such as data collection and efficient delivery mechanism, the public good features of Infotrade limits the uptake by farmers constraining its financial sustainability.
I aim to understand how FIT has addressed (and is addressing) the challenges of making the program operationally and financially sustainable in the Ugandan context. At the end of my stint with FIT and this study, I hope to create a strategy to scale up Infotrade and increase the take-up of this service in order to make Infotrade sustainable. The ultimate objective of this study is to provide some lessons for similar efforts aimed at providing market and business solutions to achieve social goals in other developing countries.
This opportunity has been made possible through partial funding from Fletcher School’s Office of Career Services and Tufts University’s Institute for Global Leadership, specifically, the Empower Program for Social Entrepreneurship.
I started my stint with FIT Uganda on Monday, 16 May 2011 and it has been a great experience so far. I am half-way through my internship and will provide updates on my work soon. In fact, I have my first update ready and will post in a day.
Staying close to Makerere University, I am living in the midst of many young Ugandans. Despite the apparent chaos on the streets, Kampala is a pleasant city with nice weather and nicer people.