AGDI dairy farm in Uganda champions farming as a business
AGDI Dairy Farm is one of the three farms that have been identified to pilot the Practical Dairy Training Farming approach. Established in 2010 by retired Colonel Dick Buyingo and his wife Agnes, the farm has become synonymous with excellence, winning two prestigious awards in 2014 (Dairy Development Authority: Premium Award National Large Scale Dairy Farmer and New Vision: Best Farmer South Western Uganda). Dick Buyingo shares his vision and what continues to drive him in the interview below:
What drove you to abandon traditional pastoral cattle keeping and adopt commercial dairy farming?
I began contemplating farming when my retirement from the army became eminent. Having worked in the army for 23 years, I had only two options for retirement: look for a job and continue working for someone or work for myself. In deciding to work for myself I also found that I had two options: stay in the urban centre and sell airtime or move back to the village and explore the immense untapped opportunities. I chose to move back to the village and use my land to make money. I started with what I knew and had grown up doing- looking after our ankole cattle. I soon realised that having 600 herds of ankole cattle was not as prestigious as I was made to think. The cows were not as productive and yet I still needed a significant number of staff to look after my cattle. My expenses were too much for me to manage. I decided to venture into beef farming with Boran bulls. I sold all the 600 ankole cattle that I had and bought 300 Boran bulls for beef. Beef farming soon lost its glitter and I was faced with the stark realisation that I had taken on a project that demanded more resources than I had. I needed more land which I didn’t have. That was the turning point for me. It also taught me one of many lessons that I have learnt about business. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to make tough decisions and stick with them.
In 2010, we procured the services of a professional business analyst – Dr. Florence Kasirye - who helped us develop a five-year business plan for commercial dairy farming. In a period of one month I sold all the 300 Boran bulls and bought 150 Friesian cows which I personally selected. That is when AGDI Dairy Farm was born and I have never looked back.
100 of my heifers were 5 months in-calf and within a period of 5 months I was getting 400 litres of milk. That was productivity. I got rid of 50 cows and stayed with 100. This taught me my second lesson about business: profit is not in quantity but in quality. Our local cows are bad for business because they are not productive and without productivity you cannot make profit.
Why have you chosen to partner with SNV to host a Practical Dairy Training Farm?
My mission is transformation and sustainability of dairy farming in my community. When you find a like-minded partner like SNV, that’s a partner worth partnering with. One of SNV's goals is to increase productivity which is my yard stick. You see, even if the price of milk goes down, if your cows are giving you twice the amount of milk the average cows produce, you still make a profit. To increase productivity, we must adopt commercial farming and invest in feeding our cows. Not only should we encourage communities to adopt commercial dairy farming, we must also ensure the sustainability of our farms by involving the youth. Successful businesses are those that outlive their founders. To involve the youth, we have to involve the women because they have a great influence on their children. These are principles that SNV is championing in The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise project.
There is a revolution taking place in the Western part of Uganda. Farmers are increasingly buying heifers and looking for technical support with feeding and livestock management. All that we have to do is teach farmers how to effectively utilise their land to improve their dairy production and productivity. This gives me confidence in the work that we are doing with SNV.
For more about SNV’s work in Uganda, visit www.snv.org/country/uganda.
Photo: Rinus van Klinken, SNV Project Manager for TIDE, and Dorah Egunyu, SNV Communications Officer, chat with Colonel Dick Buyingo.