Immaculate Atwine, from Ntungamo District western Uganda, is an Agri-business women entrepreneur, specializing in processing pure millet flour for porridge and ghee from cow milk. Her company Nepstat Limited, like most companies, suffered several setbacks due to the lockdowns enforced by the government early in the year.
For Immaculate, her operating costs increased threefold due to limited movement of public transport and closure of printing companies that print her labels and stickers. In finding opportunity in hardship, she realised that e-commerce is the way to go. As a member of Nakasero 3 Women Grain Millers Cooperative Society, she has benefited from the trainings this coorperative offers to its members on how to trade and market their products using online platforms.
Post-training Immaculate launched a People Helping People campaign. This involved targeting her social media contacts to help promote her products as well as other dealers, while at the same time promoting other people’s contacts. The campaign, which was run on WhatsApp and Facebook connected her to new customers that she may never have reached before.
For clients not online, she reached out directly through phone calls and had deliveries made to them using motorcyclists. This has led to more customers placing orders online or via phone calls. “I am now an E – Agro business Entrepreneur” declares Atwine proudly.
It is in light of this success that Atwine appeals to government to train farmers and other agro-business dealers particularly women in information technology and e-commerce. She also urged the government to establish food stores and food reserves for its citizens for unforeseen emergencies. This she believes would help stabilize the markets, and respond to emergencies at subsidized fees.
Unlawful COVID – 19 Eviction
Unlike Immaculate who fared well during the pandemic lockdowns, Paula Kwiocwiny was not so fortunate. She came home one evening to find her belongs scattered outside her locked house. Paula and her husband had six months of arrears in rent. The arrears accumulated because she had become the sole breadwinner as her husband Patrick Ocaka who worked as a waiter could no longer work. To offset some of the arrears, the landlord confiscated some of their household items.
To add salt to injury, her fish business suffered a major setback as well. Since public transport was limited, she and a friend decided to transport their fish using a delivery truck. Security personnel at Lake Albert, where they source their fish, impounded the truck and confiscated the fish. The truck driver was accused of defying the president’s directive not to travel.
Paula lost her capital of UGX 500,000($136) and had to hawk the little fish she had left. It is the small proceeds from this fish that she used to feed her family. To survive the family had to split. Her children moved in with a cousin, her husband a friend and she another friend. Their parents live 482km from Kampala so they weren’t an option at the time because of lockdowns.
“Every morning, before I go to sell fish, I would take a little money to my husband and also take some money to my cousin’s place where the children were staying for their meals,” shares Paula. This went on for a week before her husband got a short contract to assist at a building site thus could cater to his meals.
A month after being kicked out, Uganda lifted the lockdown and Paula immediately transported the children to her home village. Hotels have however not fully recovered from the COVID – effects and Paula’s husband is still out of work. Paula continues to sell fish at a small community market that operates in the evenings only. The rest of the day, she hawks the fish in surrounding suburbs. She still supports her husband when he fails to secure quick jobs. They still live separately with friends.