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IFAD and PROCASUR have once again organized another successful Learning Route (LR). Uganda’s IFAD supported project, Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP), was one of the host cases for the LR, together with Star Café and Kawacom, from 19 – 26 August 2013. Participants came from Laos, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique, Mali, the Gambia, Uganda and Rome.
 
LR participants on a visit to the oil palm nucleus estate View Point
 
On the first day, we had an induction workshop in Entebbe. We visited Bugala Island in Lake Victoria, home of the first phase of VODP, and later moved on to Kapchorwa in Eastern Uganda where we visited Star Café and Kawacom, both coffee organizations. So, in addition to the learning experiences, participants enjoyed the scenic views of the beautiful Kalangala and the beautiful Sipi falls, and the mountainous terrain in Kapchorwa.
I have participated in a LR route before but this was one of a kind. One could say there was too much to learn in too short a time and yet usually, an activity of eight days seems really long! First of all, the topics for discussion such as ‘promoting responsible investment in agriculture’, ‘Land Policy in Uganda’, ‘the role of farmers’ organisations’, ‘ensuring natural resource rights’ and the aspects of ‘value sharing between business partners’ for all the three cases, was captivating and eye-opening.

The LR organisation – selecting the relevant cases and supporting them to prepare appropriately, organizing the logistical aspects as well as securing the relevant discussants for the thematic panels made participants get an opportunity to learn a lot from dialogues, discussions and analyses of cases. We also had group sessions with animated discussions of visited cases, implications of what was shared by the farmers and the organizations they work with, and whether the models were inclusive or not.
For the IFAD Country Office, our main objectives were to learn more about how to organize effective learning/exchange visits in the projects, and explore other ways of strengthening the PPP model under VODP to be upscaled in the second phase, as well as learn from practitioners from other countries. We are looking forward to sharing the lessons learned with all projects.
A key characteristic of the agricultural sector in Uganda, it that it is made up of small-scale farmers; who produce mostly for home consumption, on plots of less than one acre. Partnering with private sector investors is an opportunity for farmers to become part of the market economy; a successful partnership doesn’t compromise the rights of either party.
So far, we have stories in the local media in Uganda covering the Kapchorwa part of the LR  - http://www.theceomagazine-ug.com/news/ugandas-star-cafe-gets-ifad-recognition.html
 
Esparence Musirimu from Burundi admires the quality of fresh fruits
"I am carrying this home so I can show it to Hamed Haidara, the IFAD country director, Burundi"

Watch this space for the photo blogs for all the three cases visited...

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