On Friday, Michael, Charlene and I went our separate ways to explore further, the players and issues in agricultural development and IT outside of Kampala. Having been in Kampala for a little over a week, talking with people about farming and IT, I think we all were eager to get out into the country to meet farmers and see farms.

Michael and I rode post buses out of Kampala. When asked about traveling by bus, Bridget, our coordination contact from AppLab, said “I fear them.” Not a ringing endorsement. The post bus is noted in Lonely Planet as being quite safe, and after purchasing tickets, our host in Kampala, Grace, gave his approval, “That is a good one.” So I boarded with a relative sense of ease.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the lack of knowledge around ag practices like planting in rows and the lack of market mechanisms for getting product to market, but driving out of Kampala, I noticed many fields, all seemingly planted in rows, and many markets as well as large trucks full of matoke (plantains, the staple food of Uganda). Will look forward to getting to the bottom of how the observed practices and the reported issues relate.

I met with the MTN sales rep for this region on Fri after arriving, and I will plan to head out with his mobile sales team Mon or Tues. The mobile sales team spends 6 days a week in the field, driving out from Mbale and other towns with payphones and sim cards to sell. I’m hoping to learn a bit more about how these vans and MTN products are received in towns and villages.

Saturday, I went out to Sipi Falls where I heard there are lovely falls and hikes. I ended up meeting a guide, Patrick, who is also a farmer and is from a farming family in Sipi Falls. He offered to make me a guest of the family’s for the night, so I stayed, met the family, had tours of the town and walked through farms planted with – coffee, kasava, matoke, bananas, wild bananas, maize, pumpkin, cabbage, tomatoes. Many of the farms in this region were large – some as big as 10-30 acres, so I’m not sure that this is a region that our work will focus on, but I did pass a number of signs advertising farm schools and projects, so will look into those. Regardless, I think it was a good introduction to the field and eased my worry that it might be a hard to meet and speak with farmers.

Note: We’ve heard a lot from people about ag dev around crops, so on the lookout for groups that focus on livestock and aquaculture – I hear the northeast, Karamoja, is the place for cows, and I saw a large lake from the top of a hike yesterday that is near Soroti and might be a place to find aquaculture work.