UKA Consultancy Ltd is a London based management consultancy with a regional office in Sierra Leone (West Africa) that is connecting Western businesses and investments to Africa. UKA Consultancy Ltd rendered services ranging from facilitating contract for both private and public businesses, project management, market research and Insight, recruitment, training, funding and insurance etc.
Partnerships & Collaborations
In many emerging markets including West Africa it is common practice for new entrants to partner with local businesses to deliver goods and services. The local knowledge we provide combined with our international experience allows us to facilitate productive partnerships to successfully deliver goods and services in challenging environments.
UKA Consultancy works with businesses at both ends of the chain, local and international, to create mutually beneficial partnerships. In many cases we will be involved prior to the tender process all the way through to project management. The respect of stringent sustainability standards, the introduction of innovative business solutions, and transparency position UKA Consultancy Ltd to serve as a model for sustainable business investment in Africa. The company arose out of Brunel University’s Co-innovative Programme, and has created an exciting new platform that enables UK-West Africa innovation development. Our vision is to create positive, successful collaborations between Europe and Africa to ensure sustainable economic growth that benefits both Africa and the West.
I am collaborating with Adam Szoke from Rokosan and Rokovia in the production of organic fertilisers for the plantation.
ROKOSAN ltd. has been producing liquid and loose fertilizers for over 25 years. Rokosan’s technology is protected by national patents in USA, China and Russian Federation. Unique methods of utilization of animal waste express provide the ultimate solution for self-sufficient countries. To promote its idea globally, subsidiary Rokovia ltd. was formed.
The country with the production of animal waste (feathers, cattle horns and hooves) could be self-sufficient in the production of liquid fertilizers thanks to our technology. Food security would be ensured through its own bio-food production. The added value would be the export of fertilizer overproduction. The production of amino-acid fertilizers will ensure the growth of job opportunities and agricultural production. Sierra Leone can become pioneer of organic farming in Africa.
Common vision of Cacao Elegguá and Rokosan / Rokovia is to make world healthier and greener. Innovative methods in agriculture present the real solution for sustainable growth of food production.
I am collaborating with Miguel Beltrán from Bosques de Cacao Yariguies in Colombia to farm, produce and process chocolate.
I spent one year travelling around, Central, South American and the Caribbean conducting research about growing cacao, chocolate making and agricultural practices.
My time in Cuba was where I really gained an insight to the amazing benefits of agroecological farming and what it had done for Cuba considering USA’s embargo. Their agricultural revolution was inadvertently made possible due to USA’s embargo, what a response though.
My last stop before returning to Europe was Colombia, where I spent time volunteering at Miguel’s farm. I would say that was where I wanted and needed to be, as it was the preparation that was necessary to give me the impetus in embarking on the Cacao Elegguá project. I have still a lot to learn from Miguel and we are constantly collaborating to ensure that once we start processing, we will be producing quality artisan products.
We are very meticulous about our approach to ecological farming and it is great to have someone like him to exchange and enhance our knowledge base. We need to do this in order to achieve the very best quality that we can. We aim to be the pioneers in setting high agricultural standards and not just concentrating solely on the balance sheet, but on people’s health.
I must say that Miguel and I share similar dreams of creating an agrotourism paradise, processing cacao with the best quality in mind, using zero chemical in our quest to ensure that our products are of the best quality and leaving minimal carbon footprint behind. We want to also provide a knowledge base when where people would learn and implement innovative practices, as we also conduct a huge amount research which can be shared.
A few days into our stay, we take the short drive to the village of Borgbuabu. Borgbuabu is the village that is leasing the land to Cacao Elegguá. It is situated in the district of Kenema, in the Eastern Province.
The village doesn’t count more than 500 people, and we mainly meet older women and children when we visit. Everyone else is at work.
I have a chat with Mr Abba, the school headteacher. He is on strike because of a lack of funding from the government. Since he is also the only teacher of the establishment, all the kids are out of school!
The most striking effect of the civil war that took place between 1991 and 2002 is in the education.
Most of the over 50 are educated and skilled; they would have been over 25 and would have completed their education by the time the civil war started.
By contrast, the younger population is barely literate.
Desmond would like to contribute to the community by building a new nursery.
I also meet Ibrahim Gbondo, a community health worker who works in the Baoma Health Centre.
The centre treats the under 5s for three conditions: diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.
As it turns out, Kenema is a diamond rich region that was at the centre of the civil war back in 2000.
The infant mortality rate was extremely high then: nearly one in three children died before reaching their first birthday.
The IRC (International Rescue Committee) was until recently running this health centre, but it is now owned by the government.
The road to recovery is going to be long, but there is a lot of hope for those who are willing to work hard and believe in change. Education and health are key to the recovery of Sierre Leone. Desmond is aware that the contribution of Cacao Elegguá must start with these very important elements.
I was keen on coming to Sierra Leone in October, to bury the fateful date of my birthday.
Birthdays stopped being fun a few years into my thirties. And now, in the African bush, I have lost all notion of time and space.
Internet or phones do not work, it is a great disconnection.
We naturally wake up at 7am and whilst Desmond’s day starts immediately, I just walk around the farm with Miles and Jason, Desmond’s friend who has traveled with us. We read books, reorganise the storage room (our hands on task for the stay) and hang out by the Barra.
I know today is special because, as the day draws to a close, people are coming and casually sitting on the benches of camp Eleggua. There’s also visitors that have come from Kenema. Very soon, a sound system is being installed and a huge pot of rice and sauce is being brought in.
The famous plum wine that was bought on the way to Kenema, and had remained untouched, is now open, and the party is starting.
It’s nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and it’s a great party, with local music, great food and amazing company.
I couldn’t have asked for more!
I have a good feeling about the year ahead!
Cacao Elegguá is having a great impact into the economy of the local community: the farm employee headcount surpasses 40.
All new recruits are given an employee handbook that put the employee wellbeing and safety at the forefront.
Employees must wear protective footwear when working on the field or doing building work. They must also wear protective gloves and eyewear if working the wood.
All footwear and work accessories are provided by the farm.
I take a walk to the cocoa plantation with TS, the farm manager.
Ten acres of cocoa trees have been intercroped with pineapple, plantain trees and ginger.
It is quite an innovative way of growing the cocoa, but best for the trees, as the plantain trees provide much needed shade to the cocoa.
Whilst the the cocoa will bear fruit in three to five years, the pineapple will be ready in six months.
Many other crops have been planted: cashew, neem, moringa, potatoes as well eggplants, cabbage, lettuce, pepper and cucumbers to make the farm self-sustainable.
There is now livestock at the farm too!
5 goats, 1 sheep and 4 hens.
The farm has outgrown its original objective of only growing cocoa!
A new management team now directs the operations at the farm.
First there is the Borgbuabu village chief: Chief Fodie Gbainda who is the Operations Manager. Then there is the construction manager: Cheku. Managing the farm operations are George and TS. And of course, Clifford, the project manager who has been present in the project from the very beginning.
Desmond regularly holds meetings to discuss the operations, and most of all, to transmit his vision for the future. It is great to hear him talk so passionately about what his aspirations are and whilst the farm development is nothing but easy or straightforward, it does feel that everyone at Cacao Elegguá understands the project and feel involved and happy to contribute.
What’s next: Desmond is building a house.
This will allow us to have a stable family home, a pied-a-terre to come back to.
We wake up in a beautiful clearing enclosed with bamboos.
Tents are set-up on sturdy wooden platforms. Bamboo benches have been built all around and very high trees provide a very gentle shade. This is camp Elegguá!
It is difficult to believe that this area was a wild bush just a year ago.
When we get-up, Desmond has already started his day, and we join him at the barra a community space at the heart of the plantation.
George, the assistant farm manager is opening the day by doing a role call.
George then welcomes us warmly to the farm. As Desmond’s family, he want us to feel at home, and by the end of our stay to know everyone by their first name. He then says a prayer, for peace on the day, for blessings for all. It is addressed to Allah first, and then to God.
The Cacao Elegguá farm is organised like a village.
The entrance is opened by a large driveway that leads to a little leafy roundabout.
By this roundabout sits the barra, this community space made of small walls and a roof. Everyone meets at the Barra. The workers taking a break. The women coming to cook (a cooker has been installed on a corner), children also come and play.
Very soon, the barra becomes our favourite place, we get to know Fati, a young, slender and very friendly woman that often cooks for us against a payment, as well as her little sister Sata that likes to play with our son Miles.
We later meet the village Chief, and his wife Mariama. Their daughter has been named after me. To honour Desmond of his contribution to the community.
A storage space is built by the barra as well as a kitchen connected to a large solar panel. From then, a path leads to the camp.
The driveway leading to the Barra
George with a coca tree
The two containers used as storage
The storage and kitchen
Clearing land to plant vegetables for the farm
Chief Fodie Gbainda, his wife Mariama and baby Muriel
It’s barely been a year since Desmond has secured the Cacao Elegguá plantation land, in an area called “Famanger” tucked between the villages of Borgbuabu and Gliema.
I am very excited to finally meet the community and see the progress of the farm for myself.
Getting to the plantation takes time.
The first stretch, from Freetown to Kenema is easy. The roads are great and there’s lots to see on the road. We’re able to buy fruits, local food and the national drink, a fruity soft drink called “Vimto”.
We even stop over in a village where we buy a big jerrican of Bamboo wine. No one is able to give us the recipe of this sweet and delicious alcoholic beverage, but we’re told it’s made with rice.
In the village, I get to sample the ladies toilets. They’re amazing. An outdoor space circled with leafy bamboos. There’s also bamboo leaves on the floor.
The final stretch of the trip starts in Kenema and ends at the plantation.
It’s a 2 hour drive of country roads with huge potholes.
Now I understand the benefit of a Land Rover. No other car would survive!
The night has set in when we finally reach Borgbuabu. And I see so many faces that greet us already. I’ve heard so much of this village, and now I’m finally here.
We’ll meet people again soon, as we must head to the plantation for the night.
It is rainy season in Sierra Leone.
Many people living in unsafe housing, in Freetown, have died following mudslides and flooding.
It is sad to witness these highly avoidable tragedies.
To me, helping the people of Sierra Leone is transferring knowledge to my community.
The Cacao Elegguá plantation hasn’t been affected by the flooding as it is located about 300 km from Freetown. But the beginning of the rainy season has been busy at the farm.
We’ve planted many crops, such as plantain, banana, cashew and papaya which are being intercropped with the cacao.
The cacao trees have then finally been transplanted from the nursery to 10 acres of land.
If they are irrigated they will bear fruit in 2 and a half year. Without irrigation, they will take twice that time.
I am in the process of implementing a solar pump and will be experimenting with some drip irrigation. We intend to commence our irrigation from October.
I have just spent three whole months in Borgbuabu, and immersed myself in this great agroforestry project.
Three months that were tough and sometimes lonely.
Living on the plantation without way of communicating with the outside world was not always easy, but it enabled me to put all my energy in the project, make some definite, ground-breaking progress, and bring the Cacao Elegguá vision to life.
For the project is so much more than the growing of cocoa trees.
I aspire to create a sustainable environment, where crops, plants and trees will complement and enrich one another. Livestock and bee pollination will be an integral part of the ecosystem.
The cocoa pods have been growing well in the nursery, as have the moringa, neem, and papaya.
I have also planted okras, cabbages, peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, as well as many other crops for consumption and revenue.
I’ve started creating roads around the plantation to make the farm more accessible.
I’ve made good progress on the construction of the plantation outbuildings: dry toilets are complete, I am now concentrating on completing the bathroom, workshop, and goat pen.
Next, I will be telling you more about the making of our own organic fertiliser.