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Youth inject passion and innovation in agribusinesses in East Africa

Young entrepreneurs inject innovation and ideas into agribusinesses in East Africa.

Photo: Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash.

Entrepreneurship and innovation are critical for making our food production resilient and sustainable. When given the opportunity, young people can lead the change. The SIANI Expert Group with the Agripreneurship Alliance aims to build the capacity of young entrepreneurs to do agribusiness successfully. 

Traditionally, education has focused on technical agricultural skills. However, successful and sustainable modern farming need to have a business approach. The Agripreneurship Alliance, together with partner universities and institutions in East Africa, offers the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness’ course that helps students to develop their business ideas, understand how to make a business plan, learn how to run a business and access start-up capital. The course uses a blended learning approach wherein locally trained facilitators guide the participants whilst using online materials and in-person experiential learning approaches.

Mentorship takes a center stage during the course, where more experienced entrepreneurs provide the participants with guidance and advice on their journey to fully develop their business ideas. For many young people, mentorship is a key factor when it comes to starting a new business. Currently, agriculture is a high-risk sector and young agripreneurs often have to rely on their courage. Access to resources and opportunities could enable youth to lead the way forward. Mentorship programs are the first step in this direction.

Creating innovative products with bananas

Hillary Natumanya, a 28-year-old post-graduate student from Rushere in western Uganda, joined the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course with the goal to develop innovative products from banana. Many of the banana-growing districts in Uganda suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition, and, for a long time, Natumanya has been thinking about how surplus bananas could be out to better use for the benefit of the local population.

Natumanya had the idea to process bananas into nutritious flour that has a longer shelf life than a fresh banana. What is more, the by-products of this process could be used as fertilizer. It is common to turn other food crops into flour, so Natumanya thought why not banana? The banana flour can be used for baking bread and making porridge, whilst the banana peel provides for good animal feed or fertilizer 

With the mentorship during the course, Natumanya could develop his idea further and create a business plan. He received a start-up grant of $1,000 after winning a competition for his idea and is now thinking about starting his own company and expand to a broader market.  

Following one’s dreams of farming

Ritah Najjemba Lutaya, an energetic pig farmer from Uganda, has been discouraged from working in agriculture her whole life. Like many young people she was told that it was not possible to make a good living from farming. However, Lutaya has always been determined and decided to follow her dreams. Today, she runs her own farm and owns thirty pigs.  

”During the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course we were taught how to prepare business plans, mobilize funds for our businesses and also come up with unique value propositions – all that really inspired me. When I analyzed myself and my business, I recognized that I had many gaps to fill,” says Lutaya

During the course, she received mentorship support and won a prize of $1000 as seed capital. Furthermore, Lutaya developed a business plan and strategy for her business to continue to grow. After the course, she interned at a pig farm in Germany where she got a lot of new ideas that she is now implementing at her farm in Uganda  

Harvesting the results of determination

Nasra Ibrahim has sought to venture into agribusiness in parallel with her studies at IGAD Sheikh Technical and Veterinary School in Somaliland. Starting her own business would make it easier for her to avoid unemployment after graduation. Ibrahim noticed that the current suppliers of onion in Somaliland did not meet the market demands. A lot of onion had to be imported which often resulted in lower quality and shorter shelf-life. 

Through the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course Ibrahim received support that strengthened her skills and helped her refine her business idea. She could start her business after having received a start-up grant. Today, she employs five other youths and produces eight tons of onion per year.

Explore more stories of young agripreneurs by the drop-down sections of this article below.

The Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course was developed in partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI) and supported by the Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative (SIANI) through the Expert Group.  Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness is a part-time course that, over the period of 12-weeks, enables the participant to develop a high-quality business plan that identifies their Unique Value Proposition, Market Sector, Finances and Operational Plans.  The course is offered through a ‘blended’ approach through partner universities and institutions in East Africa, wherein locally trained facilitators guide the participants through the course using the online materials and in-person experiential learning approaches to place the curriculum into the local context.  More recently the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course has been offered as an enhanced online course that engaged with over 300 African agri-food entrepreneurs.  The Agripreneurship Alliance and its partners are growing a new generation of African Entrepreneurs within the agri-food sector, who are creating businesses that produce nutritious and accessible foods while having positive social impact and positioning their businesses for a sustainable future.

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Francisca Ndinda Muteti, Edmond Nyuyki Mainimo and Taddias Prince Mpofu – Hallmark Bio-Enterprise

Three highly motivated entrepreneurial students pursuing MSc degrees in Agri Enterprises Development at Gulu University have proven that cultural differences and geographical boundaries are no impediments for successfully running a joint business venture.  Despite their differences, Mpofu Taddias Prince (Zimbabwe) Muteti Francisca Ndinda (Kenya) and Mainimo Edmond Nyuyki (Cameroon) have demonstrated a passionate entrepreneurial spirit that led to the formation of Hallmark Bio-Enterprise based in Laroo Division, Gulu Municipality.  The trio share a common vision of transforming poverty-stricken communities via micro-agribusiness that can provide needed nutrients and incomes.

Taddias Prince Mpofu, Francisca Ndinda Muteti and Edmond Nyuyki Mainimo. Photo: AgcelerateLab.

Hallmark Bio-Enterprise is an organic-based social enterprise that aims to support rural women, refugees, in-school and out of school youth, including the African girl, through capacity building in how to produce and market organic oyster mushrooms.

The enterprise is anchored on the virtues of transparency, accountability and teamwork.  Through their engagement in different entrepreneurship trainings, the partners have acquired the skills needed to survive in a competitive business environment.  Considering this, the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course offered by the Agripreneurship Alliance, in partnership with the African Management Initiative, has had a great impact on Hallmark Bio-Enterprise. The entrepreneurs appreciate the course’s teaching model. It blends an online curriculum that is firmly embedded in the experiences of African agribusiness with in-person learning at Gulu University, which has greatly contributed to strengthening and sharpening the focus of the business venture.  The members of Hallmark Bio-Enterprise have gained additional exposure to skills and ideas through their participation in the Agcelerate Lab, an annual multi-stakeholder partnership event held in Uganda. The event involves local universities and international partners such as the Agripreneurship Alliance and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Just like any other successful small- and medium-sized enterprise, proper planning is paramount before the implementation of any business idea.  This encompasses a thorough scan of the environment to identify an actual problem and a viable solution, customer identification, market survey, market sizing and risk evaluation.  Hallmark Bio-Enterprise is not an exception and this was achieved through the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness training.  During this enriching engagement the partners successfully identified that rural households in northern Uganda are highly dependent on aid from non-governmental organizations and government as a consequence of the prolonged conflict and civil unrest caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Hallmark Bio-Enterprise was established with a start-up capital of UGX 1.9 million (equivalent to US$528).

Harvesting mushrooms. Photo: Gulu University.

This amount was sufficient to purchase both fixed and current assets.  Using locally available resources comprised of agricultural waste, such as cotton husks, Hallmark Bio-Enterprise has managed to cut down production costs. In every production cycle the venture incurs an average production cost of UGX 7,000 (equivalent to US$2) per kilogram with expected returns worth UGX 5,000 (equivalent to US$1.4) per kilogram of fresh oyster mushrooms.

The entrepreneurs had expected a breakeven to be attained in June 2020, that is, after four months of operation.  However, due to the inconveniences occasioned by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, adjustments in production have been made that pushed the breakeven to a future date.

At the same time, Hallmark Bio-Enterprises intend to diversify its product and services offerings through the following:

  1. Start training the communities in oyster mushroom production.
  2. Value addition to the oyster mushroom through solar drying this will enables selling dried mushrooms
  3. Production and selling ready to use mushroom soup
  4. Producing and selling spawn (mushroom seed) to the communities
  5. Producing and selling bio-fertilizer to the community.

Despite the uncertainties unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hallmark Bio-Enterprise is confident in its strategies to cope with the prevailing situation thanks to the co-founders’ competencies and diverse set of skills. Hallmark’s future is certain and steadfast, as the demand for fresh and dry oyster mushrooms in the community continues to soar.

Written by Dr. Basil Mugonola at Gulu University.

Gulu University is based in Gulu city in the north of Uganda, an area that was once riven by strife and conflict at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  The university aims to be a community of change agents with the collective commitment to teach, learn and research, regionally and globally, in order to stimulate new perspectives, voices and  outcomes that can transform societies. Since 2018 the Agripreneurship Alliance and SIANI have collaborated to support young African agri-food entrepreneurs (agripreneurs) in the development of their business ideas. More than 50 young African agripreneurs have participated in the Agripreneurship Alliance’s ‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness’ course at Gulu University.

Atuhaire Memory – Alma's Sweet Honey

This is a story about Atuhaire Memory, a female University student aged 21 years and the founder of Alma’s Sweet Honey. She is a graduate of the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course and the winner of the 2019 Business Plan Competition organized by Agripreneurship Alliance in partnership with Makerere University Business School (MUBS). She was raised by smallholder farmers where she gained her interest in agribusiness.  She hoped that the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course could enable her to add value to coffee and improve the income of her parents.

Ugandan top bar bee hive. Photo: Steven Carr.

Contrary to her earlier anticipation, she quickly changed her mind from the coffee idea to honey processing. “During the course of the training I realized that people had very many different ideas….and I also realized a gap in case it (the coffee idea) didn’t work,” says Memory. Hailing from the Western part of Uganda, Memory had always observed how honey, beeswax and propolis production were done successfully at a wide range of altitudes. She was aware that the honey value chain had been selected by the local government as a pro-youth value chain for employment creation, poverty alleviation and food security. From a literature search she had also established that honey processing is a low capital and faster return investment enterprise with the potential to transform many lives and enable sustainable use of the natural resources prevalent in the country. This is when she seriously considered forming a business entity, which she named “Alma’s Sweet Honey”.

The linkage with the AgcelerateLab, another program run by the same partners, further exposed her to more agribusiness opportunities.

During the bootcamp I was inspired by Mr. Nyanzi’s story and I was inspired by how he made different products from honey,” says Atuhaire Memory.

The Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course, offered to her in the 2019/2020 academic year, gave her an opportunity to critically think about the opportunities around her, refine her idea and translate it into a business start-up. The blended training approaches used during the course required her to apply the acquired knowledge and engage with the market players. This allowed her to gain better understanding of the business idea and to prepare a more feasible business plan. The course put her to task to refine her value proposition in a target market segment, identify partners and key resources, and articulate her distribution channels in order to tap into the identified revenue streams. She engaged with the different value chain actors in the region, including input suppliers, beekeeper’s associations, processors, and retailers, to gain better market understanding.

“I was so inspired by the training and even the task of making a business plan helped me a lot. I used it to review and assess how it would practically work,” says Memory.

Her attitude towards agribusiness changed and she now views it as a viable business even for a University graduate. She says that “Before the training I thought I would do it to help daddy or other people.  But I had not thought about doing it for myself (…) but the people I interacted with proved me wrong. I saw that they were doing it for themselves and benefiting (…) and the course case study of Trident Fish Farm inspired me and I said ‘Wow, so people are doing this for themselves.”.

Her main challenge is how to combine academics with the demanding business needs. The business is still at a start-up stage and the work is quite overwhelming since her earlier partner picked interest in another business. She is working to identify business partners, suppliers and networks so that they can share roles and reduce the workload. “We started when we were two, and one left me. So I am still trying to see how to do it (…) I am the only one identifying who will give us the honey, identify equipment, and supplies (…) the work is a bit overwhelming. I have to do this and I have to think of that (…) it’s kind of a lot for me. When I fail to get the right feedback (…) it becomes demoralising,” says Memory.

The time constraint has not derailed her business ambitions. Within a year she will have completed her University studies and by then she expects to be fully operational and supplying honey to the local market.  In the short term, she has been linked to the MUBS Incubation program where she will be allocated space to showcase the business to the MUBS community, especially University students. She will continue to receive mentorship and technical support from the MUBS Entrepreneurship, Incubation and Innovation Centre and the MUBS Agripreneurs Students Network (MAGSNET) and other players in the sector.

Written by Dr. Catherine Tindiwensi, Makerere University Business School.

Since 2017, the Agripreneurship Alliance and SIANI have collaborated to support young African agri-food entrepreneurs (agripreneurs) in the development of their business ideas. During the academic year of 2019-2020 more than 20 young agripreneurs from Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Uganda, participated in the Agripreneurship Alliance’s Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course and learned how to develop high-quality business plans.

Kelvin Njoroge – Prestige Rabbit Farm

Kelvin Njoroge is a young man who graduated with a BSc Agricultural Economics Degree in 2019 from

Kelvin Njoroge. Photo: Laikipia University.

Laikipia University. Before completing his studies, he attended a course on Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness where he developed a business plan on rabbit farming, which was in competition with other business plans for a prize of US$1000 seed money.  Kelvin was optimistic that his business plan would emerge the best and win the prize money.  Unfortunately, another business plan won. He felt disappointed after losing out on the prize money. One would have been forgiven to think that this was the end of his dream of being a rabbit farmer. No! However, it was to delay. After completing his studies, Njoroge scouted around for formal employment opportunities. He did not succeed and again he felt disappointed.  He thought of the next venture. Guess what? Rabbit farming kept on cropping up in his mind. This was not far -fetched since he kept rabbit   as a hobby when he was a young boy. The passion for rabbit keeping never ended at childhood. His target now was to move the idea to another level by commercializing the rabbit farming, which is considered a worthy investment in Kenya.  Having read far and wide during the business plan development, Njoroge identified a market gap-the high demand for white rabbit meat.

Njoroge started his commercial rabbit venture in November 2019. Luckily enough, he found a partner who financed the start-up cost, for construction of the hutch and buying of stock. He acquired his first stock from Alcare Kenya Limited. The stock comprised of 4 does (females) and 1 buck (male). They came from two breeds, the Canadian Dorwin and the Kienyeji-Canadian cross. The rabbits have been multiplying at a high rate. By 2020, the parent stock had produced 34 rabbits. The rabbits are usually ready for the market after six months, when they weigh 3kg.

Njoroge also collects and sells rabbit urine to farmers within his neighbourhood as they find it efficacious as a fertilizer and pesticide. At the time of writing, Njoroge had 80 litres of rabbit urine ready for the market.  He sells a litre of the rabbit urine at US$1, which gives him more income over the course of the year than the sale of rabbits themselves.  Rabbit droppings are also an excellent resource as a fertilizer in growing vegetables used for household consumption.  On average, he sells 20 litres of urine per month and he has also been able to sell 10 rabbits at US$15 each.

Rabbit hutch with urine collection. Photo: Steven Carr.

He is looking forward to introducing more breeds in the near future as he determines the best breeds to meet the demands within the market.

Njoroge’s journey as a rabbit farmer has not all been smooth. Some of the challenges that he is currently facing include: the high cost of feeds and the high mortality of baby bunnies. However, he has managed to overcome some of the challenges by applying the knowledge gained from workshops and seminars on rabbit keeping that he has attended. Njoroge plans to upscale his venture to meet the existing and forecasted demand.  He has not yet received any government support funding and capacity building. However, he intends to attend training and workshops offered by other rabbit keeping and management organisations like Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya (RBAK). He also gets support by following nationwide online platforms for rabbit farmers.  Five years down the line, Njoroge sees himself as an established rabbit breeder and a rabbit farming consultant, selling over 500 rabbits a month.  His dream is valid.

Njoroge acknowledges that the rabbit market requires production in large numbers to benefit from economies of scale. It is not economical to deliver only a few rabbits to slaughterhouses. Product diversification has been key to his enterprise. He advises agripreneurs not to focus on a single product but to explore other products.

The Agripreneurship course was an eye-opener since it helped Njoroge open his mind to many opportunities in the agricultural sector. The course helped Kelvin understand that for any enterprise to thrive amidst competition, it needs to have a unique value and a pull power that sharpens competitiveness.

Written by Dr. Florence Opondo, Laikipia University.

Laikipia has been a centre of education since 1929. However, it was not until 2013 that it gained recognition as an independent University operating under its own charter.  The University is situated in the cool highlands above the Rift Valley and lies close to the celebrated Thomson’s Falls in Nyahururu.

The Agripreneurship Alliance entered into partnership in 2018 with Laikipia University, Kenya, to support their students through the provision of the ‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness’ programme.  Over 50 young African agri-food entrepreneurs have since successfully participated in the course, and 15 high-quality business plans have been developed and submitted to the Agripreneurship Alliance for review.

Nasra Ibrahim – Durdur Onion Production Farm

Nasra Ibrahim, a final year student at Inter-Governmental Authority on Development IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary Training School (ISTVS),

Nasra Ibrahim at Durdur Onion Production Farm. Photo: ISTVS.

Somaliland, and one of the beneficiaries of the first Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course, continues to inspire her colleagues through her effort to venture into agribusiness while still studying.  Although her group did not emerge as the winners of the US$1000 grant start-up capital from the Agripreneurship Alliance, her desire and passion for agribusiness did not end there.  Using the same business plan, Ibrahim and the team next applied for The Tony Elumelu Foundation grant, but they were still unsuccessful.  

She did not give up. Instead, she continued to train with the second cohort and even volunteered to co-teach. It is this positive drive that eventually unlocked her potential, nurtured her critical thinking and writing skills in business planning. Concerned over the increasing number of youths graduating from local universities in Somaliland who remain unemployed, Ibrahim decided to venture into onion farming as a way to cushion herself from unemployment immediately after she graduates.

Onion crops. Photo: ISTVS.

The need to venture into onion farming was indicated by the perennial shortages in onion supply to retailers in Burao Market, Somaliland. Ibrahim noted that the current suppliers did not meet the market demand and that retailers opted to import the produce from neighboring Ethiopia to cover the deficit. She further realized that customers had numerous complaints related to poor quality and low shelf-life of the imported onions. To finance the business, Ibrahim responded to a grant call by Hurbhab, a Somalia non-governmental organization.  The organization offersfinancial support to young innovators and entrepreneurs to create, build, scale and sustain social ventures that tackle the community’s most pressing issues such as unemployment. Fortunately, the application was successful and received a grant of US$5000 start-up capital. This led to the establishment of Durdur Onion Production Farm in Burao, where Ibrahim doubles up as the manager and co-founder. The farm, which

Nasra Ibrahim grading onion harvest. Photo: ISTVS.

currently has employed five youths who handle production and marketing, has an annual yield potential of up to eight tonnes of onions. Availability of irrigation water has made it possible to produce the onions all year round, with up to three production cycles in a year. Ibrahim finds every aspect of the training offered by the Agripreneurship Alliance incredibly useful and she wishes to thank the Alliance for their continued support in strengthening skills and building capacity among the university students.

Written by Kenneth Tembe, Lecturer at ISTVS.

The Agripreneurship Alliance entered into partnership with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary Training School (ISTVS), Somaliland, in 2018 to support their students through the provision of the ’Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course’. Since then, 20 young African agri-food entrepreneurs have participated in the course at ISTVS and 4 high-quality business plans have been completed and submitted to the Agripreneurship Alliance for review.

Somaliland is an independent self-governing country that does not have international recognition, as most governments regard it as a region of Somalia. ISTVS is a small school based in the town of Sheikh and lies in a mountainous area away from the coast that mainly focuses on the raising of livestock, in this case goats and camels. Significant amounts of food, especially fruit and vegetables, are imported throughout the region, so there are opportunities for entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector, but only if you can demonstrate the skills to manage a business in such a dry and sometimes inhospitable climate.

Inter-Governmental Authority on Development IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary Training School (ISTVS), Somaliland, awards its degrees through Makerere and Nairobi Universities. Together with institutions in Kenya and Uganda, ISTVS participates in a partnership program with the Agripreneurship Alliance through the SIANI Expert Group Programme, in an effort to build capacity among the university students on agripreneurial skills. To this end, students at ISTVS benefit from a two-month training course tailored to equip them with the knowledge and techniques required in drafting a competitive business plan. This offers the students an opportunity to develop skills on how to identify agribusiness niches, to settle on an idea, and to plan and execute their idea. The institution has successfully graduated two cohorts since the inception of the course.

Ritah Najjemba Lutaya – Oikos Enterprise Limited

Ritah Najjemba Lutaya. Photo: Youth AgriHub.

My name is Ritah, 28 years old, and I am an accountant by profession. My passion for farming started at an early age, although my parents kept discouraging me from working in agriculture. They thought that this was not a white-collar job and so I would be making a loss if I didn’t practice accountancy. After trying a lot of things such as piggery production and horticulture growing different vegetable crops, I decided to specialize in piggery. This choice proved more feasible because with our peri-urban location in Mukono, this meant that we have the Kampala and Mukono market. I have been engaged in piggery production since 2015.

My piggery farm is currently accommodating 30 pigs.  I have 5 mothers, 2 boars and 23 piglets ranging in the months of 2-5. For the past two years, I have been selling both mature pigs as well as piglets. I have now decided to take a business opportunity in pig slaughtering and supply. I have been inspired into slaughtering these animals because I have recognized that I get more income than what I earn through selling of young piglets or as live mature animals ready for slaughter. For example, I would sell a piglet of 2 month at US$27 and a mature animal at an average of US$135. So, we are building a model where we buy from other piggery farmers, slaughter and sell a finished product. This also followed from realizing that most of the people that came to purchase pigs preferred to move with slaughtered carcasses rather than live pigs. My business was built on addressing the hygiene challenge and the informality in the piggery supply chain in areas around Mukono. From this, I came up with a solution of venturing into constructing an abattoir and supplying my customers with clean and quality pork carcasses. In August 2018, I was introduced to Youth Agri Hub Limited by a friend who told me about the opportunities they provide in agribusiness linkages.

In a short while after joining the Agri-Youth and Agripreneurship Alliance training, I was able to change my life and business style. During my stay in the incubation we were taken through how to prepare business plans, mobilize funds for our businesses and come up with unique value propositions that really inspired me. When I analyzed myself and my business, that is when I recognized that I had many gaps to fill. I have now been able to cost my business and have come up with a business plan and strategy that I am going to follow to grow my business.

I thank Youth Agri-Hub and Agripreneurship Alliance for fine-tuning my agribusiness idea and placing me on a firm path.

The Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course supported me morally, through mentorship, as well as socially and financially with the prize money of $1000 as seed capital. During the same training, I got exposed to different people and opportunities among which was participating in the call organized by young farmers’ federation, at which I emerged the first runner up for 2019. Since finishing the course, I was able to join an intern programme on a pig farm in Germany which gave me a lot of exposure to European pig farming and gave me ideas how to improve my business in Uganda.

I  have established my business to a well-known abattoir firm where young agripreneurs are trained to grow their business ideas and provide consultation services to smallholder farmers venturing the similar. My business has continued to support farmers in areas of Mukono and Kampala suburbs where I outsource pigs and hence provide ready market to piggery farms.

Written by Ritah Najjemba Lutaya, Oikos Enterprise Ltd.

The Agripreneurship Alliance entered into partnership with the Youth Agri Hub, Uganda, in 2018 to support their activities through the provision of the ‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course’.  The Youth Agri Hub is composed of a group of young agri-entrepreneurs who had worked together on a programme facilitated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and are now an independent organisation supporting small holder farmers and young entrepreneurs in the Mukono area in Uganda.

Between 2018 and 2020, two cohorts of the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course have been facilitated by the Youth Agri Hub and 25 high-quality business plans were completed and submitted to the Agripreneurship Alliance for review.

Hillary Natumanya – Excell Foods Ltd

Hillary Natumanya, aged 28 years, is a post-graduate

Hillary Natumanya. Photo: Steven Carr.

student pursuing a Master’s degree in Agriculture and Rural Innovations at Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara, western Uganda.

Natumanya was raised in a family of six children, two girls and four boys, in a small country town called Rushere in Kiruhura District, south west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.  The main economic activity in the Kiruhura District is cattle rearing and it is the home of more than 70 percent of the famous Ankole cattle. Located at the south western end of Uganda’s dry cattle corridor, this remote countryside has poor road infrastructure and few schools offering good education, so Natumanya’s parents took him to schools in the Bushenyi District. Bushenyi is a rich agricultural district that is fairly endowed with good soils and a green vegetation. Bushenyi produces a lot of cash crops for the country such as coffee, tea, and bananas, and the population of this District is relatively less poor than in Kiruhura.  When Natumanya was taken to school in Bushenyi, the difference in vegetation was obvious.

It is this environment that nurtured feelings of both envy and a longing to change his hometown to be ‘evergreen’.  He wondered whether the dry and sparse vegetation in Rushere town could be restored into a green terrain such as that in Bushenyi and to restore the life of the dryland.

Bushenyi district is the second largest grower of bananas (plantain) in Uganda, next to Isingiro.  Bananas, locally called Matoke, are a major staple food for most of the central and western regions of Uganda. Bushenyi district therefore supplies bananas to major trading towns in the country, including the capital Kampala. However, bananas are highly perishable and within a few weeks of harvest they will be thrown to waste. Despite a rich vegetation and heavy supply of bananas from the district, Bushenyi, like many other banana growing districts in the country, suffers food insecurity and malnutrition, especially among children. In addition to restoring the dryland in his hometown, Natumanya felt a passion to help a population that was blessed with so much food, yet hungry most of the time! He saw bananas as an opportunity to process bananas into nutritious products that could stay fresh longer than fresh bananas at the same time return the by-products of this process to the soil as fertilizer. This would make for a good business and employment for a young graduate of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The desire to do this business drove Natumanya to join the Bishop Stuart University’s Youth Agribusiness Incubation project, supported by the Mastercard Foundation through the Regional University Forum (RUFORUM). The project inspired him to start drying fresh bananas and make ‘banana flour’. A number of other food crops are turned into flour, but this is not so common for banana. Natumanya then tried mixing banana flour with other common flours such as millet, sorghum and mushroom to improve the nutritional status of banana and the flour’s shelf-life. “These would be new mixtures and worth launching in the market,” he thought. These different banana flours can be used for porridge and to bake bread. He then went ahead to find suitable products to be made out of all the banana peels that were produced from skinning the bananas before drying them. He found that these could be rolled into pellets to make animal feed as well as fertilizer. He was excited about the range of products he would get from a single crop and believed this would be a good business for him.

Soon after he joined the incubation project, Natumanya registered for the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course supported by the Agripreneurship Alliance. This training opened his eyes to a number of areas for doing business, he learned how to identify his customers and to focus on addressing their needs. He has since the course been out in the market, getting to know what his customers think about his products, the taste, packaging and how to improve this further. These skills have enabled him to be more focused and think more critically about his business than ever before, resulting in him winning the business plan competition at the end of the course. He was excited when he got his certificate and was awarded the prize of US$1000. Natumanya will use some of this money to register his company and soon his products will be available in the market.

Written by Dr. Rebecca Kalibwani, Bishop Stuart University, 2020

Bishop Stuart University, Uganda, has a long-established history. It started its journey in 1913 as the ’Bishop Tucker Theological College’ through to 2014, when it gained its charter as a private, non-profit University established by the Anglican Church of Uganda.

The Bishop Stuart University is active in encouraging the development of agribusinesses and has since 2019 collaborated with the Agripreneurship Alliance in the ‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness’ course, aiming to support agri-food entrepreneurs in developing high-quality business plans. During the academic year of 2019/2020, 60 young African entrepreneurs participated in the course.