Our network of youth agents connects us to farmers on the ground. Every day, they work closely with farmers, ensuring that through our digital tool Farm Direct farmers access the services they need to grow their agriculture enterprises.
We visited our Centre of Excellence in Uganda and spoke to one of our youth agents, Audrey Kyorimpa, to hear about their experience working with smallholder farmers, and learn how we can help address the challenges they experience as well as Audrey’s dreams for the future.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Audrey Kyorimpa and I am from Mutumba District. I am 24 years old. I started working as a youth agent around April 2022 and before that, I was a secondary school teacher.
What made you want to become part of the Producers Direct.
I love education and agriculture so much. Both my dad and mum are farmers, so I’ve grown up on a farm, seeing my parents farming all my life. You can say I am an expert in farming. I like doing everything about farming.
I am also a member of the ACPCU coffee cooperative society and my friend who is also a member of the cooperative is the one who told me about Producers Direct. She asked me to consider being a part of this network because she knows that I’m interested in agriculture, so I said, let me explore this opportunity because I’ll learn and grow.
What does your day as a youth agent look like?
I sometimes take my breakfast on my way to the field, then I check my notebook to see if there’s anything in my list that I need to prioritise. Most of the time, I am connecting farmers to customers. As a youth agent, I work with a select group of farmers, so whenever farmers reach out to me with questions about their farms, I make sure to visit the farmers I work with and figure out how I can help them.
What are the challenges that most farmers tell you they experience?
Some of these farmers come from deep in the village where roads are terrible, and because of that, one of their main challenges is finding a market for their products – transport is a challenge and it is also expensive. So whenever it rains, bodaboda riders will charge farmers a higher transport cost , which then means that the buyer will pay more than the usual price they are used to.
The other thing farmers want is more training. They want to learn more about how they can increase productivity on their banana and coffee farms so that they can grow their enterprises.
There’s a time when I was asked to select a few farmers from my list to take the training that was being offered. They went for the training and came back celebrating because they’d learned a lot.
How would you say Farm Direct has helped farmers to access markets for their produce?
Farmers are happy that now they have a market for their products and buyers are happy too because the products reach them quicker than before and both the farmers and buyers are selling and buying their vegetables, avocados at better prices than before.
Please briefly take me through the process of buying produce through Farm Direct
Normally, a buyer calls me and says Audrey I want bananas for example. Then I ask the buyer to make an order. Once they place an order, and the quantity that they want, they also include how much they are willing to pay for the product.
Then I come in to check from which farmer I can source the bananas. I usually ensure that all the farmers in my allocated area get to sell, so I don’t always source from the same farmer. After I confirm that the selected farmer has the bananas and in the required quantities needed by the buyer, I buy the products from the farmer and reach out to a bodaboda rider and negotiate a good price for transport. They then take the products from the farmer to deliver to the buyer. When the bananas are delivered to the buyer, they pay the bodaboda rider and I move to the next order.
How about for the buyers, how do they find Farm Direct?
They appreciate it. When I first introduced them to Farm Direct, I explained to them how it works and what they need to do whenever they need to buy produce. “ Are you sure it is going to work?” they’d ask me at first, but now they appreciate that it is making things easier for them.
In your opinion, what do young farmers grow and how can they be supported to thrive in agriculture?
Some young people grow bananas, others also have tree nurseries where they grow trees. Most of them do this in small portions of land, but at least I can say there are young people who are doing farming in this area. I think young people can be supported by getting training because many of them are just starting out and they can benefit through learning.
I think with more education about the opportunities that are there in the field of agriculture, even explaining to young people what cooperatives are, how they work and why it is important or necessary for young people to join cooperatives, young people can be motivated or inspired to take up agriculture.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Like I said, I love teaching and agriculture. I see myself at a higher level than where I am now as a youth agent. I would like to get training so that I can also train other farmers on how they can do farming better. I also would be interested to travel outside my city on an exchange program outside Uganda to see what other different and exciting things people are doing out there.