The power of providing a job in rural Uganda

Have you ever thought of how lucky you are to have a job? Yes, it can be tiring, hard, at times disappointing, or even boring, but you still have a job which gives you a constant flow of income into your bank account. Even though we often would like to receive more, the fact that your income is constant is a great thing, as it allows you to plan your expenditures accordingly.

It’s often hard to have a feeling of gratitude for things which become your daily routine, including your job. You take it for granted. Although these days it’s becoming more common to lose jobs due to optimization or other reasons, we usually still have a good support system in place from governments.

Now, if for a moment we put on our “explorer glasses” and travel to, for example, rural Uganda, we will see a different picture. There are barely any jobs. With western glasses we would describe everyone as an entrepreneur. Everyone is doing something on their own, either farming their land, selling surplus of their harvest to neighbours and doing some extra entrepreneurial activities which might or might not give extra income.

While being an entrepreneur is a dream of many in the Western world, it’s not the case in rural Uganda. Most would like their kids to get a job in the governmental sector, which is a sign of financial stability. But there is a limited number of those jobs available and getting a university education is really expensive.

Uganda is full of entrepreneurs who are working hard to pay usually the biggest expense – education for their children.

This is how most people in Uganda become “entrepreneurs”. Trying to do something to earn income to feed their families and pay for their children’s education. Those businesses are rarely stable, so many end up with debts on enormously high interest rates. And when you think about their infrastructure, being innovative and catch up with the West, sounds unrealistic. They are still fetching water from a public well at least a few kilometres away from their home, electrification rate is low, schools aren’t well equipped either and there are many more problems.

There are many people who avoid to see this picture and I understand them well. There are also people who are okay to see this picture, but don’t know what to do afterwards. They feel too small to make a change, and I understand them too. There are also people who are very similar to both the first and second group, but despite feeling small, decide to do something about it. If they start thinking big, they quickly join the second group. But if they manage to adopt a LEAN problem solving mindset of breaking a big problem into small ones, they make a huge difference.

This blog post is dedicated to those fascinating people who fall into that third group. This year I met many of those heroes who helped to create new jobs for two women groups in rural Uganda.

A short pre-history

In the beginning of the year, I decided to take a career break from my corporate job and pursue volunteering in Uganda. For over two months I was working with two women groups in rural Lwengo area helping them to improve their handcrafts business

After a quick market analysis in the field, it was clear that building a sustainable handcrafts business locally or internationally would be an enormous challenge. We therefore decided to focus on building new businesses which can be sustained locally.

During my stay, with the help of social media, women experienced a spike in handcrafts orders. However, we knew it was temporary and would drastically go down by the end of the year. Therefore almost all the money received from the sold handcrafts was reinvested into creating new businesses.

Event tent rental by “Luteete Single Mothers”

The idea is very simple here. With the saved money from the sold handcrafts, women could afford buying an asset – an event tent. These tents are popular to rent mainly for wedding parties, funerals or community meetings. Since there are barely any indoor buildings which fit this purpose, most host those occasions outside. Due to either hot sun or rain, tents are usually desired by the organizers.

I liked this business idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it requires less time from women compared to their former most successful business – fruit baskets. It takes at least 8 hours (full day) to make one fruit basket and the profit margin is very low. Event tent rental business will initially require to invest more time, but it will gradually decrease.

There is also an opportunity to up-sell. Everyone who will pick up the rental tent, will be exposed to opportunities to buy handcrafts, get tent decoration or cooking service. This is a great opportunity for Luteete women to get extra work.

Although every new business contains risks, based on our market research, we are confident this business will generate extra income to families very soon. The Integrated Villages NGO will facilitate the group meetings where women will set aside a part of their revenue to an investment fund for the future business development. For example, chairs would be a great investment to rent as a supplement to event tent. 

Tailoring & Piglets businesses by “Kasaana Mothers Creation” group   

The concept is the same here. Money from the sold handcrafts went into building new businesses. Kasaana women chose to invest into piglet farming and tailoring businesses. I just got news that Annet’s piglet is growing well and will give birth next month, so great news and results.

The tailoring business is getting traction after the women received training on tailoring techniques and usage of the sewing machine. Women are fulfilling orders for their neighbours, sew clothes for their own kids instead of buying from a market and continuously improve their skills to be able to take the big order for school children uniforms from “Hill View” school.

While these businesses might look very small and simple to you, they are really big for women in rural Uganda. It not only helps them to earn extra income for their families, but also increases their self-esteem and motivation. A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported the development of these businesses by purchasing the beautiful handcrafts. You made a huge difference!

What’s next? 

Currently we are working with Integrated Villages on a new project to increase small scale farmers’ productivity by introducing improved crops to diversify their diet and generate higher income.

Firstly, we would like to launch an educational program, which teaches about different methods to improve the output of harvest. In most cases the farmers will need to make a small investment into buying new seeds or pesticides. Since for most it’s not feasible due to their financial situation, we would like to set-up a “Seed Fund”.

The small scale farmers will be provided with required seeds or pesticides as a loan. After the harvest, they will need to return the money to the Integrated Villages NGO, which will be reinvested into training new groups of farmers.

“Uganda soil” bracelets from recycled paper beads.
Buying at least one recycled paper beads bracelet is a huge support to women in rural Uganda.

By buying recycled paper beads bracelet for only 5 eur (including shipping cost), you can support the “Seed Fund” development in rural Uganda. Due to shipping complexities, most likely the bracelets will be available in the end of February, so if you are interested, you can already take a pre-order now by filling the form below.

Please let me know your email address, so I can contact you once they are available to order.
Please share your country of residence, so I can prepare the shipping
Please let me know how many bracelets you’d like to pre-order.
Interested in a big order or any remarks with regards to your pre-order? Share them in the field above.
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