Ugandan agribusiness firm honored by US State Department

Asili Farms Farmers during a training at Asili Farms. Image credit: Agilis Partners

A Ugandan company that is promoting the cropping sector through modernising farming has been recognized by the United States Department.

Agilis Partners, founded by Benjamin Prinz and Eduardo Browne, grows, sells and adds value to grains and oilseeds.

The crops are grown by the company on its 13500-acre farms located in different areas of North-Western Uganda, including Kiryandongo and Masindi.

Every year, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs honours four entrepreneurs through the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE).  

This year, the project is being organised for the twentieth time.

It was established to celebrate companies founded by U.S. nationals “that promote and uphold high standards as responsible members of their communities where they do business,” reads a statement on the Department’s website.

It adds: “Together, these companies exemplify some of the most promising and innovative business ideas of the 21st century: that profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, and that sustainability can drive prosperity in the modern economy.”

On October 31, Prinz and Browne will be in the U.S. to receive their award at the State Department.

“Agilis is committed to leveraging our unique business model, fueled by private capital, to transform rural communities and catalyse a more food-secure Africa. We are humbled and honoured to have the U.S. government recognize our efforts,” said Prinz, according to a press statement released by the company.

What do they do?

Through Asili Farms, Agilis Partners uses cutting-edge tools to plant grains and oilseeds, mostly focusing on maize and soybeans.

Asili Farms have also become training grounds for local farmers to understand how to use the latest technology in cultivation.

The farm also employs lots of people like Hilda Lamu who learnt how to operate cultivating machinery while working at Asili.

“By the time we came here we didn’t know anything,” says Lamu in a video posted on the company website. “I can harrow now… I know how to use it, the weeder”. 

She has also learnt how to use other machines.

According to the Independent Magazine, in 2018 alone, the agribusiness company trained over 3000 farmers.

Martin Jadribo, a farmers’ mobilization manager at the company says the training is packaged in different languages so they can reach a wide range of farmers.

Through its other unit called Joseph Initiative, Agilis Partners helps thousands of farmers find high-value markets for their products in and outside Africa, according to Carolyn Aoja, the firm’s finance manager.

The Independent report indicates that they have over 15000 farmers that are so far supplying produce to the Joseph Initiative.

Reports indicate that the Agriculture sector contributes about 20% to Uganda’s GDP, accounts for 43% of export earnings and employs 70% of the working population.

“Over 60% of Ugandans are employed in the agricultural sector but less than 5% are in wage-earning jobs in the sector. That means that the population is spending a lot of time in agriculture but not in a commercial setting. We are creating the gateway for employees to flourish,” Browne said in a statement released by the company.

With Agilis Partners’ strategy, there is a possibility that some of the factors that are limiting the success of agriculture in Uganda will be gradually solved.

Some of the limitations that can be addressed include lack of quality packaging capabilities, the lack of storage facilities, high freight costs, and limited knowledge of modern production practices.

While starting Agilis Partners, the founders say their mission was to optimise usage of arable land in Uganda by empowering Ugandans to feed Africa.

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