I believe value addition is the future especially in a place like Uganda which has the potential to be an African food basket. If you look at the entire region that consists of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, DRC, and South Sudan, Uganda has 40% of the arable land. We also have massive potential if you look at production per acre of a commodity like rice.
Egypt produces an average of about 5 tons per acre of rice while we only produce about half of that yet we have more fertile soil than them. We will get there by improving our practices and improving our seed quality. Once we improve our production capacity, we can then get into value-add processing. Our focus is on maize, rice, sesame and avocado.
We are especially keen on avocado and sesame oils because we have assessed their market potential in Asian and European markets. We feel that Uganda can ramp up its production capacity because the costs of production are low coupled with favourable climatic conditions.
As a company, we do well to aggregate our cane with outgrower cane to produce sugar and molasses for the sugar association. We buy back the molasses and put that into our plant to produce portable ethanol. We then sell the ethanol to industries that use alcohol as part of their process. Soon we will be producing fuel ethanol which could become about half of our output.
We should be able to serve the local market as well as the Zimbabwe and South Africa markets once we get everything ready. In about 2 years, we intend to begin to produce alcoholic drinks at retail level. Our zeal to diversify our products has driven us to set an ambition to become the top rum producer in Africa with high quality aged rum.
Our operation could thrive even more because of the common Southern African market (SACU) that allows Eswatini companies to compete in the region. It will be an uphill battle to fend off competition from more established South African names, but we are confident in our abilities. We will also take advantage of the AfCFTA to trade more with countries like Kenya which are outside the region.
Eswatini will also benefit from our ambitions of creating a big bioplastic operation that will see us produce bioplastics. We will start by producing polylactic acid which is always a precursor for the production of bioplastics. Bioplastic production opens the door for the making of all kinds of great products such as phone casings, dashboard covers, coffee cup finishes etc. The test for us is to transcend sugar production and see what high-value goods we can produce.
Restoring vegetation restores the water cycle. When this is carried out over a large area it helps to create clouds, increasing rainfall. That rainfall benefits the vegetation, which continues to improve the water tables, et voilá: a pathway appears to turn desertified lands lush and green!
Farmers become rainmakers while regreening their lands and benefiting from increased crop yields. And, of course, these local communities’ work benefits us all, as greener land makes for a cooler planet. “Our projects are a success story carried out in conjunction with local farmers,” says Justdiggit’s Senne van’t Hof. “Together, we have restored 60,000 acres of land and the project has positively impacted the lives of thousands through employment and an improved climate and vegetative cover.”
Landmark projects so far include Kuku in Kenya where the Maasai community has dug 116,248 bunds and Dodoma, Tanzania where over 6-million trees have been regenerated through Kisiki Hai. In addition to growing its footprint in Kenya, Justdiggit is starting to work with partners in Uganda and Ethiopia, as well.
As local communities move toward the goal of regreening the continent, their land management techniques are combined with Justdiggit’s modern marketing strengths. Senne van’t Hof says communication is key to scaling up restoration. “The UN Environment Programme has declared this decade as one for ecosystem restoration. We are one of the partner projects in that initiative and our mission is to regenerate the whole continent. The plan is to achieve our objective by working with local farmers. We will get in touch with them through social media, text, radio and television advertisements. It’s important to mobilise the people to join our regreening movement. We are using the slogan ‘It’s the decade of doing and everyone can dig in’”.
Farmers across Africa are often paying two to five times more than the rest of the world for fertilizer. Many farmers can only afford the cheapest synthetic fertilisers which will eventually damage their soils and reduce the productivity of their land.
The use of chemical fertilisers in farming is a global problem that creates degraded and acidified soils. It is estimated that 33% of land globally is already degraded due to soil erosion and acidification. The issue represents one of the most pressing threats to our global food systems.
Safi Organics solution comes from first decentralizing the production of fertilizers. Most fertilizers in Africa are produced at scale in centralised facilities and then imported to rural areas. This leaves the farmer paying for the cost of transportation on top of production. Safi Organics produces fertilisers locally turning farm waste into a product called Safi Sarvi.