Odrek the Farmer and Tomosi’s Farm Story
Tomosi farm Bwesharire was named after the founders, Tomosi and Erina Rwabwogo. These were my parents and they got married in January 1958 and moved to the current site of the farm at the end of 1964. I was born on September 17, 1969 on this land, went to a nearby primary school, then on to Rwampara for my secondary school at Bujaga and later to Mbarara for high school in a new make shift private secondary school in 1988. I have lived at this farm for the last 47 years and raised my children there too. The additional name of ‘Bwesharire’ in the farm is of the ‘ Abahwezhu’ clan from which I come in Ankole. This man Bwesharire is the great great grandfather of them all who led them out of the old Mpororo kingdom wrangles to the present day rich and lush Sheema district in the greater Bushenyi, western Ankore. He was a good leader, a calm negotiator, good listener and a fighter. Many of his relatives still live in Sheema.
Within 10 year of settling on the land, Tomosi and Erina became one of the largest sellers of matooke (Bananas of all kinds), fruits and Vegetables. They also had a small herd of cows averaging 80-100 and were simple, comfortable Christians resisting pressure of the world to conform.
In 1997, the farm was expanded when I finished school (I was fortunate to go to a competitive Makerere university then and study economics and political science and later took a scholarship to the university of Wales Cardiff to study Media and journalism) beginning the fencing, paddocking and putting separations of acreage from land for animal rearing and crop and fruits growing. In a way, a sense of Specialization begun to take root for the farm to make sense.
Take Root for the Farm to Make Sense
I met Patience in 2000 and we got married in 2002 and soon after, in 2002, as second generation owners of the farm, my wife and I begun the improvement of the animal breed from long horned Ankore cows that give less milk to second category cross breeds, especially of the Dutch Friesian and Holstein type. This, our entire area of farmers were largely doing the same to take advantage of the milk market that had become clear, starting around 1994.
Changing Animal Breeds
I met Patience in 2000 and we got married in 2003 and soon after, in 2003, as second generation owners of the farm, my wife and I begun the improvement of the animal breed from long horned Ankore cows that give less milk to second category cross breeds, especially of the Dutch Friesian and Holstein type. This, our entire area of farmers were largely doing the same to take advantage of the milk market that had become clear, starting around 1994.
In 2009, my wife and I extended electricity to the farm and we begun speaking to the community around us about the idea of chilling milk at the farm nearer to them and later perhaps transporting to the city and eventually process it to have our own brand on the supermarket shelves. About November 2010 with 30 farmers around our farm and one second hand chill tank of 3000 liters that i had gotten from the Midlands in the U.K, we begun the exercise.
Moving to the Farm
In 2012, we decided to move our young family from the city to the farm and begun educating our children from there with the help of one teaching staff. It was a great time for me because I had opportunity to see the kids all day and teach them the names of various plants and animals we treasure from my local culture as we walked in the cool of the evenings at Bwesharire.
Processing Dairy Products
Collecting raw milk from long distances and it’s bulkiness along with fluctuating prices and the poor road network to the chill centres wasn’t sustainable for us. Moreover, we hadn’t gotten into this sector to sell raw milk. We got into this in order to bring some significant thinking on how to improve production and productivity at the farm level and establish a farming model that transits our community from trading in raw products of very low value (raw milk can go as low as USD15 cents a liter) to some form of industrial processing. Therefore, In 2013, I went to Wenzhou in China having seen the low cost equipment that Kazaire products factory on the Mbarara- Kabale road had used to start his own plant and tried to establish the cost of a small processing plant handling 10,000 liters a day. Eventually, an old friend of mine from Israel who I had met in 2000 and who had seen how much effort we had put into this process Introduced us to a private equity fund. The Tomosi’s farm begun partnership talks with Vital capital fund to improve value addition by processing milk into final products of UHT and several yorghut flavors at the farm.
In March 2014, we broke ground for the processing facility, the first of its kind closer to the farming community we had begun with and processing 50,000 liters a day. In November 2015, the first Vital Tomosi dairy products went to the supermarket shelves in towns under the brand name “Milkman”. My wife and I and our family are so thankful to God for a dream fulfilled and we thank our community that stayed patient and with us all through the years of doubt and cynicism from some quarters that thought this will never happen. The forecast for production once the market within the region takes our products,is slated to increase to 100,000 by 2020, utilizing fully, the plant’s installed capacity.
The plant now directly employs about 45 people, only about four of them foreigners and indirectly serves well over 500 families who sell their milk to us daily.
Our vision for the Tomosi Group is “Made in Africa” a compelling, yet Challenging proposition to keep because Africa in the last five hundred years of our history hasn’t been very much known in the global market place for ‘making’ things but rather for consuming other people’s products. We want to challenge and inspire our generation to change this narrative in the very best way they can and wherever they have been placed by both circumstances and calling.
In January 2017, we begun talks with Chinese partners to establish the possibility of a beef processing plant in the Neighborhood of Tomosi’s fam. We believe fully that a processing plant for meat and eventually a skills transfer demonstration school in the area fully dedicated to agriculture and to raise young people with interest in the profession of agriculture and value addition, will complete the picture fully for us. Then my wife and and I will retire happily as people who played their part in transforming their country. A dairy plant, a beef processing plant and an agriculture school in this region and in Uganda generally, is almost like a three stringed rope; it is unbreakable!