Agri-Hub Uganda

Promoting farmer entrepreneurship



In this message I will tell a bit about myself and the research I am about to conduct in Mbarara, Uganda. If you have any comments on my plans or you think you or someone you know can contribute, please let me know! I am really excited about the Agri-ProFocus initiative and found valuable information on this website. Hope to get in touch with you soon!



I am Frank, a Dutch master student in pedagogy, adult eduction, to be specific. I have a bachelor degree in psychology (2007 – 2010). I volunteer for ‘SIW International Volunteer Projects’, an organization, promoting intercultural exchange by organizing volunteer projects and exchanging volunteers all around the world. With this organization I had the opportunity to visit Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, Serbia and Spain. I play soccer, like to paint, draw, dance, be creative, meet new people and I will do my final research at Martyrs University in Uganda. Most of the time I will spend in Mbarara, studying vocational training programs.


My plan:

March the 3rd, I will arrive in Kampala. From that moment, I have 5 months to find out how vocational training programs in Uganda be improved. I will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures and some collaborative elements of action research will be integrated. My research question is: How can vocational training programs effectively link market opportunities with aspirations and talents of youth?

According to a Women Commission’s report on vocational training in northern Uganda (, there is  1.) a gap between participants expectations and the objectives of training programs and 2.) a gap between what the training programs offer and what the labor market requires. Instead of innovating their courses, vocational training programs do not respond to the markets. Therefore participants who complete these programs, often do not find a job. In this research I will look at ways how training programs can anticipate the dynamic markets as well as the interest, motives and talents of youth. I will look at how they can bring these two together in their training courses. In other words, allowing vocational training programs to bridge the two gaps, described earlier.

Naturally, agriculture should play a major role in an analysis of the market. Since I am a former student psychology and now a student in pedagogy in Groningen, the Netherlands, you (the reader) probably know much more about farming and the market opportunities in Uganda than me. You can help me with the following:


What I am looking for:

-          Knowledge & strategies: what do students learning about agriculture need to know about the market and about entrepreneurship?

o   Information about the market realities in the agricultural sector in Uganda; I need to understand supply and demand of foods and services. What can students (future farmers and future entrepreneurs) learn about working chain-oriented and working market-oriented?

o   What should young people avoid when starting a small business? Can you help students learn from your mistakes or the mistakes of others?

o   Success stories; someone who succeeded for several years to make a living by farming and/or who effectively innovated his or her business and who can help me identify success factors for starting a small business and innovating it.

-          Contacts: people or organizations interested in building a bridge between aspirations and talents of youth and market opportunities in the agricultural sector.

o   Vocational training programs (not far from Mbarara), which might be interested in participating in this research.

o   People who can make youth enthusiastic about farming and entrepreneurship!

o   Farming businesses, farmers’ organizations, NGO’s,  financial institutions or other organizations willing and able to help vocational training programs to integrate a market analysis in their program.


Why should you contact me and how can you benefit?

By linking your organizations and knowledge to vocational training programs in this research you can:

-          contribute to youth as well as the managers of training programs, making more informed choices about what skills they want and need to learn or teach, creating sustainable livelihoods.

-          collaborate with the people who train youth to be the farmers and entrepreneurs of the future & possibly find some talented students who can add value to your business or organization in the future.

-          create opportunities to deliver more qualified people into the agricultural sector.


In short, a win-win situation. Have I caught your attention? Please send me a message, my email is I am looking forward to your response!


Many thanks in advance,



Frank Elsdijk

Tags: market, market-access, market-info, vocational

Views: 286

Replies to This Discussion

Dear everybody,

Thanks for all your emails and especially Bernard for your for your critical questions! I will tell a bit more about the context and the focus of the research. I hope you will better understand why I am doing this research and how you can contribute. If not, feel free to ask questions!

I realize that I am quite ambitious and my orientation at this moment is still very broad. I also know that I am not the first one addressing this question, therefore I am trying to gather information and existing knowledge  which may not be new for people like you and the organizations you work with, but is new and really adds value to the project in which I am working.

You could really help me out by telling me where I can find some specific documents, rapports, or people that can share this knowledge about how vocational training programs can effectively make the link to the world of employment.

Let me tell you a little about this project; the context in which my research is done. It is called 'Early School Leaving Africa' (ESLA). In this project 'Tanzanian, Ugandan and Dutch researchers and students are collaborating to contribute to the combat of social exclusion of early school leavers in Tanzania, Uganda and other African countries.' During the last few years in my University, every year 4 master students went to Tanzania and Uganda to conduct their final research and contribute to the documentation of this project. This year, also 2 students will go to Malawi. Of course there are huge differences between countries, between urban and rural area's etc., this does not mean however that we can learn from each other's experience. You can find more info about ESLA on this website:

Now let me continue with my own focus and the reasons behind asking this specific research question. I think within the ESLA project a lot of attention went to all the problems and many external factors contributing to Early School Leaving and more can be done on the solutions. Hence I am focusing on opportunities that exist within these hard conditions of the rural area's in Uganda, things on which local people have a more direct influence.

I guess the difference between my analysis and others like that of the World Bank (I'm not sure though) is that I pay a lot of attention on the motives and drives behind the people; a more psychological approach instead of a purely economic approach. So maybe the value that I am trying to add is to really take into account the human factors and principles in the solutions for Early School Leaving and when looking at job creation / the link to the market. I will look at how vocational training programs can integrate these psychological factors as well as a more technical analyses of the market. Again I'm sure I'm not the first one doing this and many people went before me and I welcome everybody who can share his or her knowledge with me.

Unfortunately, I do not know the exact details of the program(s) that will participate in this research. When I know what these programs (and their participants) already do and what they need or want in order to better link to the world of employment, I can be more precise in what kind of information I need and how your knowledge and contacts can contribute to this research. However, I do not want to start from scratch so if you could give me documents and information about the link between the potential of youth and the world of work, that would be wonderful! This kind of information will also help me to decide what is most relevant for vocational training programs to integrate in their programs. For instance what entrepreneurial skills can be taught? What kind of information can help students who want to start a business? Because, within the ESLA project not much attention has been paid to such market analysis and I am no expert in this area, it is inevitable that my study will be exploratory and my focus broad. I can lead the way for students in the years to come, helping them in to be more precise in their focus.

One last point about my focus. This research is about vocational training programs, what they can do, how they can anticipate on the market as well as on personal needs of their participants. Interviews with farmers and entrepreneurs will serve the purpose of improving the practices of vocational training programs that are supposed to prepare students as farmers and entrepreneurs.

Hopefully, I have addressed some of your questions. Please keep asking, it helps me focus!



Connecting students dreams with market realities: the first step


Being over a month now in Uganda, I feel my research is finally starting to take off. Today (6 April) I have seen 5 ex-students from Ruharo Vocational Training School who are working in the field now, 4 boys constructing a building (3 carpentry & joinery, 1 bricklaying and concrete practice) and 1 girl who did tailoring and cutting working in a shop. It all started Tuesday when I asked the Director of Studies in Ruharo if I could meet some people in the field. Today, one day later I made an appointment with the 3 carpentry & joinery students for tomorrow. I was planning to do a one-on-one interview, because I thought I was going to meet students separately. I was even finishing my questions for the interview this morning in Kent Foundation, the other vocational training school where I’m doing my research from. After finishing them at 2pm exactly (my appointment with Enoth, the Director of Studies in town was at 2pm) I took the Boda Boda (motorcycle that serves as public transport in Uganda) on the Slippery road to town. It has been raining for the whole morning, but luckily I made it to town and reached the meeting point at a quarter past 2. Enoth arrived, as I suspected, another 15 minutes later and before I knew it I was in a building being constructed by, amongst others, ex-students of Ruharo. These 3 students were happy to meet me and I made an appointment at 2pm tomorrow to interview them together in Classic Hotel, while enjoying a drink. By doing this I have created the challenge of finding and preparing a translator within a day. Luckily we are in Uganda, not in the Netherlands!  After meeting the other ex-students in the field, I called a good friend of mine, a student at Ruharo Vocational Training School, to assist me as a translator. As I am writing this, he is translating the questions of my interview for tomorrow! His name is Brian Nuwamanya (or Tumusiime), this second name meaning: God knows. Well, if God knows Brian, I figured you would also want to know a little more about him. Here’s a short interview with the man himself:


Brian, can you introduce yourself to the people?

Oh people who are listening to me, I’m Brian Tumusiime. I will be helping mister Frank with interpreting this questions I’ll be asked.

Are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Of course I’m looking very forward and I am very eager considered that that day could come.

What do you want to get out of it, you, for yourself?

I want to find out, for me I want to look ahead and see those people, students whom I finished with, how they are coping with the outside environment. Because they have left this school in November. So I want to really find out what they are facing in the field.

That’s interesting. And Brian, you were telling me before about this dream. It is that dream that if you achieve it you will go to heaven, that dream. Can you tell us something about that?

My dream I was talking about: starting the rural vocational schools in Uganda. As far as I am concerned Uganda, we are still backward in vocational training institutes. We are having, something like the whole country has such institutes, and they are of old model. They are not of new generation. And you find that some few students join vocational schools. And many, most of them, they are those whom they think that they cannot compete for academic world. So I want that image to be out of vocational school and the vocational school should be for those  ones who are more competitive in the academic world then they think. So thereby making myself, that’s while I finish this school, this vocational school, I’ll be a best example of other students by starting a new role model school, which will be helpful to the new generation which is coming.

So others will able to benefit from your plans for a school

Of course I want others to, at least the coming generation, to at least say that may Brian after finishing, he became this one and this one. He’s now a certain type, he became a good example to them of course.

But why do you want to achieve this?

Of course, as far as I’m concerned, we have been put down by our leaders and some other ideologies which I could not explain right now. But for me, by letting us down, by saying that for us we cannot compete in academic world. For us we are the most competitive people. Somebody who could construct this building, someone who can make this table, when you look around, where we are sitting on chairs. We are having those windows. The people who made those windows, they are for people in vocation. And they look at us as nothing! For us, we are supposed to be big people. Somebody who can just make a cloth. And for you look at him or her, so I want that image to be out of that. People should really think for future. That kind of thinking I want them to leave and just take it out!

How are you planning to achieve your dream of building a school, changing the image?

As far as I’m concerned, I already talked to a few of my old boys. And as I’m concerned for me, I offered the course of Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. I’m finishing part II (Craft part II is advanced level). I have already found somebody who offers Tailoring and Cutting. I have somebody who has offered Motor Vehicle Mechanics and I’m having someone who studied Business Studies.  We are now going to combine their minds and efforts, and in achieving it we have already acquired some pieces of land, to say that we can be constructing our buildings for the school. I think, as far as we’re concerned, that’s where we’ve reached.

And you told me books as well

Yes I have already. As I’m starting I’m now compiling some textbooks. As I talk I have already 25 textbooks for Tailoring, of which you can even look no further to get them. Even the real schools in Uganda, they find they don’t have many libraries.

So  how did you get those?

These books, I’ve been at least keeping my little pocket money, which they give me. I just save it and I go to buy those books. Because I want them  to help making future.

So what about girls?

Haha, as far as I’m concerned, girls are different entities to me. Ok I can say them, but I think it’s not time for girls right now. I will think about them maybe in the future, but not at this time.

Ok Brian. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to working with you. I hope you’ll learn a lot from it. I’ll hope it helps you in achieving your dream. Just only if it is a little, every little bit can help, I think. So yes…

Thank you

I’ll see you tomorrow

Thank you very much man. Good night!

Oraregye! (means good night in Runyankole, the local language in Mbarara)


What else am I doing? Tomorrow morning, before the interview, I will hand these questionnaires to the teachers in Kent Foundation. I have back, three of the questionnaires I handed out to the teachers in Ruharo. Reading the answer can be inspirational! For instance, this dream of one teacher: ‘Uplift this vocational school to a first class centre of vocational training, producing self reliant citizens.’, who also keeps in contact with and helps his students after they finish: ‘Absolutely and at least 50% of the leavers and assisted 20% in getting jobs outside.’ It’s important to know that also teachers have dreams for themselves: ‘When I fail to access government employment and get an increased salary at 45 years old, I will leave teaching profession and be an entrepreneur in the related field of my course/department i.e. self-employed.’ Skills needed for starting a business will be an important focus in this research. The vast majority of Ugandans cannot rely on employment, instead have to create their own job. If I have learned anything in this short time, it is that people having an entrepreneurial spirit is not the problem. ‘Ugandans are said to be among the top five most entrepreneurial people in the world. They are even more enterprising than the Americans and Japanese. The difference is that more than 30 per cent of our business startups do not see their first birthday, and very few survive to see their fifth birthday. It is hard to find a purely owned Ugandan business that is more than 40 years old. Many people who start businesses and close them when they are worse than when they started.’  (Smart Money, in the Daily Monitor of March 24, 2011). My Job then is to find out what a vocational school can do to develop people who can sustain a business and keep it growing. According to the Author  from the above cited article in the Daily Monitor (a lecturer of entrepreneurship at Makerere University Business School) good entrepreneurs are governed by skill. Five skills that an entrepreneur needs and hence a school with the aim of making job creators instead of job seekers needs to be teaching: self-motivational skills, sales and marketing skills, time management skills, financial know-how and administration skills (Smart Money, in the Daily Monitor of March 24, 2011). In my research I will at least add vocational skills to this list. After all, like Brian said, it is a valuable skill to be able to build a house, to make the chair that you are sitting on while you are reading this. Isn’t the person who made the chair that you are sitting on adding value to your life right now? Or if your chair is really uncomfortable, would a person who could make a chair which is very comfortable not be adding value to your life at home?


In a few weeks, I will come back to you with more about my research. Amongst other things I will report about a workshop with students, who want to learn about life after school in order to prepare themselves for their future. If you have questions in the mean time, please ask. Whether they are for me, for Brian, or for other stakeholders in this research, I will be happy to answer and take into account your questions, comments & suggestions! Send them to


Greetings from Mbarara,

Kale kale!



Hi! On July 29th from 2pm to 4pm in Rwizi Arch Hotel in Mbarara, I am having a feedback session where I and my fellow student will present and discuss together with you the preliminary results of our research about vocational education in Uganda. If you are interested in coming please contact me on or 0789667350. Thanks for your interest!


Also, just wanted to share these articles with you:

FARMER'S DIARY: We need education that meets community needs

Employers rejecting poorly trained graduates





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