Agripreneurship Alliance impact story

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Hillary Natumanya photo by Steven Carr

Introduction

The Agripreneurship Alliance entered into partnership with Bishop Stuart University in 2019 to support her business incubation center through the provision of the “Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness” course. Bishop Stuart University has a long-established history, tracing her humble beginning from Bishop Tucker Theological College in Mukono which was founded in 1913 as a Normal School and later evolved into the Uganda Christian University in 1992.

Bishop Stuart University was established in 2002 by the Anglican Church of Uganda and in 2014 attained a charter as a private, not-for-profit University.

BSU is active in encouraging the development of agribusinesses. In 2019, 60 young African agri-food entrepreneurs participated in the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course 17 high-quality business plans were completed and submitted to the Agripreneurship Alliance for review.

This is the story of one of those entrepreneurs.

Hillary Natumanya - EXCELL FOODS LTD photo by Steven Carr
Hillary Natumanya – EXCELL FOODS LTD photo by Steven Carr

Hillary Natumanya, aged 28, is a post-graduate student, pursuing a Master’s degree in Agriculture and Rural Innovations (MARI), at Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara, Western Uganda. Hillary was raised in a family of six children; 2 boys and 4 girls, in a small country town called Rushere, in Kiruhura District, the home of over 70% of the famous Ankole cattle in the Ankole sub-region of Western Uganda, Kiruhura is one of the districts located in Uganda’s dry cattle corridor. The main economic activity is cattle rearing, in a mostly drought stricken environment.

Hillary’s parents took him to schools in Bushenyi district located 240km southwest of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, in a remote countryside with poor road infrastructure, and hardly a school to give good education.

Bushenyi is a rich agricultural district that is fairly endowed with good soil and green vegetation. It produces a lot of cash crops for the country such as coffee, tea as well as food crops such as bananas and her population is relatively less poor.

When Hillary was taken to school, the difference in vegetation was unconcealable. It is this environment that nurtured feelings of both envy and 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.

Hillary has since longed to do whatever it takes to preserve a green environment and to restore life. The search to fulfill this desire drove him to study a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Management at Bishop Stuart University He learnt about the importance of taking care of the environment where we live by protecting nature and planting trees.

“Bushenyi is green almost throughout the year, while Kiruhura is dry and sunny. The crater lakes in Bunyaruguru area of Greater Bushenyi sparkle like gems to give one an ever-fresh feeling. I could never forget this feeling -Hillary Natumanya”

Not all that glitters is gold. Bushenyi district is the second largest grower of bananas (plantain) in Uganda, next to Isingiro. Bananas, locally called Matoke, is 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 city in Kampala. However, bananas are highly perishable, and within a few weeks of harvest, they will be thrown to waste.

Despite rich vegetation, and a 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, Hillary felt a passion to help a population that was blessed with so much food yet hungry most of the time! Hillary saw bananas as an opportunity that could ‘kill two birds with one stone; to process bananas into nutritious products that could stay longer than fresh bananas, and then return the by-products of this process to the soil as fertilizer.

This would make good business and employment for a young graduate of Environmental Management.

The desire to do this business drove Hillary to join the Youth Agribusiness Incubation project at the University in 2019. He wished to find support to develop new and innovative products from bananas and to do business.

In the Agribusiness Incubation Project, supported by the Mastercard Foundation through the Regional University Forum (RUFORUM),  Hillary found a team of vibrant business coaches who were also members of staff at the University.

They quickly identified with his dream and supported him to grow his idea. He also did some research around what products could be made from bananas.

He soon began to dry fresh bananas, and make a powder called “banana flour”. A number of other food crops are turned into flour, but not commonly so for bananas. He then tried mixing banana flour with other common flours such as millet, sorghum, and mushroom, to improve the nutritional status of banana and shelf-life. “These would be new mixtures and worth launching in the market,” he thought. These different banana flours can make porridge and bake bread. He then went ahead to find suitable products to be made out of banana peels that were produced after skinning the bananas to be dried.

He found that these could be rolled into pellets to make animal feed, as well as fertilizer. He was excited at the range of products he would get from a single crop and believed this would make good business for him.

Soon after he joined the incubation hub project, Hillary registered for the “Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness” course supported by the Agripreneurship Alliance. The trainers were the business coaches in the incubation hub project who further inspired him to join the course.

The training opened his eyes to a number of areas in doing business. He learnt to identify his customers and to focus on addressing their needs. He has since been out in the market getting to know what his customers think about his products, and he has learnt that they enjoy the taste.

He has also learnt to attract them with good packaging of the products. He also learnt to make a business plan. These skills have enabled him to be more focused and think more critically about his business than ever before. This sense of focus enabled him to win the business plan competition at the end of the course and was excited when he got his certificate. In addition to the certificate, he was awarded $1,000 for winning the competition.

Hillary will use some of this money to register his company and soon his products will be in the market. (Dr. Rebecca Kalibwani, Bishop Stuart University)

 

Note

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 programme.

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 a positive social impact and positioning their businesses for a sustainable future.