By Joshua Kato
When they landed to the Netherlands last Sunday morning, the 2019 best farmers had mixed feelings about what they expected to see. A big number of them had never travelled to Europe before leave alone leaving Uganda. The first day of the visit opened up their eyes to a reality of cultural shocks as they toured the environs of Amsterdam, by boat. The many water channels, the thousands of boats and a fairly happy people all combined to raise more learning questions.
The 13 winners who travelled are: Rebecca Ssenkubuge a strawberry farmer at Garuga Entebe, Christine Kiwanuka from Iganga, Anthony Mateega Naakirya from Mpigi, Dauson Musasizi from Namutumba, Joseph Male from Magere-Wakiso, Charles Byarugaba (68) represented by Bright Mbabazi from Kabale, Nasib Mwaka from Kakumiro, Fred Lugard Ojok from Nwoya, Regina Nabwire from Busia, Grace Kwach, Tom Patrick Oyo from Dokolo, Gideon Akol Emukulio from Kumi and Phenton Tumwesigye from Kabale.
Just before boarding the plane, the farmers had a photo opportunity with the flight crew of the Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM. KLM provides the tickets to the farmers.
When arrived in Netherlands on Sunday morning, the farmers had a boat tour around the scenic rivers of Amsterdam, before retiring for a night at Ibis Hotel, on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
Cars, Water ways, boats amaze
“How can a country have so much water?” wondered Bright Mbabazi from Kabale? His colleague Phenton Tumwesigye wondered why there are so many boats. “It seems they have more boats than cars,” he murmured. But when another of them noticed that there were cars almost everywhere, she said, “It seems everybody here has a car,” Regina Nabwire retorted. A 2022 report put the number of cars in the Netherlands at about 9million. For a population of 17million people, it means that at least 60% of them each has a car! Comparatively in Uganda, there are an estimated 460,000 private cars for a population of 42million people.
Each of the farmers who has got a water way near their farms started reminiscing ideas of how they can turn it into something ‘similar’ to this! Rebbecca Azza Ssenkubuge, a straw berry farmer, but who also has land on Lake Victoria vowed to acquire a boat and do exactly what the Dutch are doing.
“The easiest and cheapest means of transport is water. But in Uganda, you hardly see any good boats used for transport,” she said. Adding, “As the sun rises from the east and lands in the west, I will strive, get a good boat and improve water transport,” the farmers were also awed by the good organization of the water ways, irrespective of the fact that there are thousands of boats sailing around. “Each of the boat captains respects the other. You hardly see them quarrelling over space,” Dauson Musasizi observed.
Meanwhile the food that they were being served was relatively different from what they normally consume back at home. A typical Ugandan from the Central region likes steamed and mashed bananas, meat or chicken plus fish and ground nuts. A Ugandan from the north and north east likes millet, just like most Ugandans from the west and south west. While seated at Ka-nteen restaurant off the scenic beach canal in Amsterdam, a quick scan on the menu produced none of this. Instead, words like Ham, Lamb and steak were the nearest to what the farmers commonly knew as beef or simply call it meat. Otherwise the menu had even more complex words like ‘beef tartare with mayonnaise, mustard seed….grilled steak with paprika chips….fennel salad with honey mustard dressing…..etc. One other thing….the food was served to them in small bits. “Kati lwaki tebatuwa emeere omulundi gumu??? (Why can`t they give us food at once?” Anthony Mateega, one of the farmers wondered. This was after a dinner session on Sunday evening took over two hours!
Nevertheless, most of the farmers ate whatever was served and in most cases even appreciating it. “Their food comes with so many added things but it tastes well,” Christine Kiwanuka said.
First farm visit
“On Monday, they together visited mainly livestock groups including Koudjis Nutrition BV, however on subsequent days starting today, Tuesday they will be visiting farms in three different groups,” Josephat Byaruhanga, Senior Agriculture Policy Officer at the Embassy of the Netherlands, who is leading the group said. The farmers include those engaged in dairy, fish farming, citrus fruits, poultry and vegetables. Other activities according to Byaruhanga include a business match making session