An amateur singer and teacher by profession, Judith worked in different schools from 2010-2015 hoping that her career would earn her enough money to be successful. Unfortunately, money was not enough to pay for bills and meet the needs of her disabled child, so she decided to quit her job and invest in a cassava plantation, since she had heard that it was a profitable business yet easy enough to maintain.
With an initial capital of USD 81, raised by selling off some items in her house and starting a temporary sweater knitting business, in 2015 Judith set up Orion Horticulture over a hectare of land on a riverbank. This is now a successful agricultural business producing and supplying vegetables to the local market, hotels, and schools in the Nebbi district.
At the beginning Judith faced many challenges: as a married woman and a mother, it was hard to compete with her male counterparts in farming. First, she was not allowed to walk at night, a time when male farmers were making important deals. Due to family responsibilities, Judith often had to delegate key decisions to middlemen, which many times deceived her. Even during the day when it was time to transport her products, Judith couldn’t climb big trucks with her heavy sacks as fast as men, meaning that a lot of her products got left behind. To avoid this, she had to hire men to help her lift her products and pay for costly private transportation to the markets – all expenses that reduced her already limited profit.
Regrettably, Judith’s business was not yielding profit because she had unknowingly planted an old cassava variety, which took almost two years to mature and made her recover only the amount of money she initially invested, but nothing more. She then decided to enter into a partnership with her brother and they started planting other crops like tomatoes, sukuma wiki, watermelon, and onions. Diversifying the variety of crops was a step in the right direction which we sold, but the yield wasn’t as good as expected.
Finally, in 2019 Judith learned about ICCO Uganda’s High Flyers programme, which supports the successful transition of young entrepreneurs from micro-enterprises to small businesses. Judith applied through her local district office and was admitted into the programme. The training she received taught her a great deal about how to practically turn agriculture into a successful business: she learnt about new, fast-growing breeds of cassava that she didn’t know, how to plan the farming cycle and cultivation principles to improve the quality and yield of her crops.
She was also matched to a mentor, Vincent Okethcwinyu, who suggested the idea of processing her products to diversify her offer on the market. Judith’s business plan hadn’t gone beyond production, but now she’s planning to purchase a chipping machine and register her business. She’s learned smart ways to remain engaged in the day to day activities of her business, such as record keeping and construction of staff quarters close to the farm, which helped her to start cutting on costs and manage her employees better. The technical assistance she received by experienced Ugandan agripreneurs was key to ensure efficient, sustainable growth and success for Judith’s business.
Judith is determined to maximise profit from her business and employ many other youths from her community to make it possible. She always encourages youth to think big to discover their entrepreneurship abilities and has a piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Always stay positive. Never allow negative feelings to hamper what you are doing, keep an open mindset and your business will succeed.”
Judith was one of the participants of the Africa Community of Practice workshop held in Kampala, Uganda in Februray 2020.