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Photo of Joseph Nkandu

Joseph Nkandu

Executive Director, National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE)

Uganda

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Joseph Nkandu has relentlessly spearheaded and nurtured coffee farmers’ organizations for over fifteen years, in a highly successful effort to promote the equitable sharing of coffee earnings among players in the coffee value chain under very challenging circumstances. He has played a critical role, as the principal architect, innovator and implementer of the Farmer Ownership Model, which has empowered smallholder coffee farmers by enabling them to increase value added they earn in international markets and to influence public policy at national, regional and international levels. Serving first as National Coordinator of the Uganda Coffee Farmers Association (UCFA) and subsequently as Executive Director of NUCAFE (National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises) since its inception in October 2003, he has transformed the national apex organization of coffee farmers in Uganda into a highly effective social entrepreneurial organization. A team-builder, Nkandu has facilitated the mobilization and organizing of smallholder coffee farmers into 170 manageable, market-oriented farmer associations and cooperatives representing over 170,000 farming households and over 700,000 individuals who advocate on behalf of more than 5 million coffee farmers

To improve agribusiness entrepreneurship more generally, he helped to found an agribusiness incubator at Makerere University together with the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and NUCAFE.  The agribusiness incubator is called Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (CURAD).  Active on the regional level as well, Nkandu has formulated a cooperative model act commissioned by the Eastern African Farmers Federation slated for adoption by the East Africa Community.

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • One of 14 children, I grew up on a farm in the central part of Uganda (Wakiso District), about 50 miles from Kampala.  My father, a head teacher at the local primary school, grew coffee and used these earnings to pay for our school fees.  He also sold tomatoes and cabbages to Kampala. My mother was very serious about studies and agricultural work, which began at 6:00 am each day.  She managed 30 acres of matooke as well as a piggery. 
  • From my earliest years, I saw agriculture as offering many profitable business opportunities. 

 How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers?

  • Train entrepreneurs and business management.
  • Link students with people who have made successful agribusiness careers.  Students need private sector role models, businessmen who can ignite passion and motivate students, showing that agriculture can be a profitable business. 
  • Link agriculture to markets and value chains; students need to see a complete picture of the full agricultural value chain.  Then, focus on how farmers and entrepreneurs can create value at each level of the chain. 
  • Primary and secondary school reforms are needed.
    • Emphasize agricultural sciences in entrepreneurial ways.
    • Approach the subject of money.  Culturally it’s not polite to talk about money by Children in Africa.  Success in many African societies may imply someone cheated or is a thief and that he or she must be unscrupulous to be successful in business.  Schools need to teach entrepreneurial subjects. 
    • Recognize businesspeople who have made it in agriculture to inspire others. 

Career highlights

  • Executive Director, NUCAFE,  October 2003 to present.
  • Executive Director, Uganda Coffee Farmers Association (UCFA), June 1999 – October 2003.

Educational background

  • Primary school:
    • St. Joseph Busunju Primary School, Mubende District.
    • Mubende Tiger Primary School.
  • Secondary school:     
    • Mityana Senior Secondary School.
    • Caltec Academy Makerere, in Kampala.
  • University:   
    • BSc, Agriculture, Makerere University.
    • MBA, Altis, Catholic University of Milan, Italy.