By Robert Kabushenga
I am tempted to be philosophical. When change happens, you have to stop and reflect. The decision which way to go, choices to make can be daunting. How to go about it can be confusing. One way is to go in blindly & hope for the best. The other is to gamble & see what happens.
There is also pretending you know everything & doing what you think. It is called hubris. Then there is humble pie. If you have the courage to eat it, it can be revealing. It requires admission that you don’t know.
If, like me, you have operated at a very high level & need to make a fresh start, you have to climb down from your high horse. Accept that you don’t know, dismantle your success templates & unlearn. When you have emptied your mind, then learn the things you need to know now in order to strike out in a new direction.
It may also require you to go back to your roots. To where life began. To ground your new thinking in the humility of your beginnings. To rediscover the things that constructed earlier successes. You find for instance that you can live on very little and that you don’t need so much space. And so on.
My transition into full time farming has began. And now I realize I know very little. I have made assumptions that don’t hold up. I need to go and learn from those who have blazed this trail before. They will teach me things that will help me to do what it takes to achieve what I want.
I am therefore looking for best practice where I can find it. I will look to learn from those who know way better than me. It requires getting your ego to accept that these people exist & you have to go to them cap in hand and ask. But most importantly to be teachable and accept their lessons.
It is this that got me on the road to Sironko yesterday. It turned out to be the most pleasant surprise in a long time. Mwambu Wanendeya is an old friend from our media & corporate life. We also have a common family heritage from Bugisu on the slopes of Mt. Elgon.
And now we are both into coffee, as shared obsession, you could say. I hadn’t heard from him in a while but last week he looked me up & insisted that we meet. He brought along some shear butter/coffee facial wash & coffee teas bags. Then as a by the way at the end of our conversation he showed me a photo of a processing outfit in Sironko. We immediately decided to go see it.
We are at a point where we need to make a decision on what coffee processing capacity to invest in and set up at the farm. We need to design a structure and buy equipment. To get what we want, we must decide what coffee outcome we should want.
This will inform that workflow and equipment to buy. I needed to work out what my ambition should be. So off we went to Sironko. Only to get there and find the coffee outfit belongs to Makyeli, a mate from my high school days over 30 years ago. I couldn’t believe it.
Earlier, I had visited Joseph Nkandu of NUCAFE at his set up in Buwama on the shores of Lake Victoria. I wanted to learn how to optimize land usage in planting robusta. I am beginning to question whether we are wedded to the 3X3 meter spacing for the trees. He made two arguments that closed the matter.
Basically, robusta is a forest crop, so the more intense the planting, the better. Just make sure the nutrition & irrigation is adequate. Second, commercial viability means you maximize the revenue from land use after all the minimum cost base remains constant. Lesson learnt and acted on. It came at just the right time when we are expanding acreage.
The visit to Makyeli, has also helped to resolve the decision on the coffee processing. I was able to see a processing unit that was established in a cost effective way and has paid for itself. Plus we talked about other equipment needs that I had thought I wouldn’t need. And now I realize I was naive and engaging in false economy!
I then took time off to go home, to my mother’s village where I spent a good part of my childhood. My grandfather built his house in 1954. After that he planted coffee as his source of income. Both are still standing firm, 67 years later. Talk about long term vision & endurance.
I needed to reflect on this as I set out on a similar path. Unlike him, I will not settle for selling raw beans. I must do better. I also hope that like him, what I do will endure for generations