The Kaduru’s grow passion fruits in Fort Portal as a business and as means to boost women and girls income.Rebecca Kaduru and her husband grows passion fruits on their farm in Fort Portal as a business and as means to boost women and girls incomes.
Rebecca Kaduru thought she had found success in the white collar job market. After studying Masters of Arts in Political Science on fellowship at the American University in Cairo, she moved to Uganda in 2010 to work for a non-governmental organisation climbing her way up the corporate ladder to become the director of public affairs at Ipsos Uganda.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, and now married to Eric Kaduru, she never imagined that at one point will wear gumboots and stroll along the farm in an overall.
“Farming is such a risky venture but I chose to take the risk with the support of my husband and business partner who owned dormant land and pushed me to give it a try,” Rebecca says.
Her turning point into farming was after carrying out a study on Uganda’s agriculture sector that showed that majority of the population grew foods mainly for home consumption.
“We were informed that more than 70% of households in Uganda grow food on a subsistence basis only which means little or no income,” she said. “Because of this, farming is not seen as a business, but rather a chore delegated to women and girls.”
Armed with passion to also help women and girls become economic drivers of their communities, Kaduru says her husband interested her into farming with the establishment of a commercial farm, KadAfrica, in 2011 using a business loan obtained from Mango Fund.
The farm is located in Fort Portal, nearly 300km west of Kampala. While the couple owned over 22 acres of land growing mainly onions, tomatoes and green pepper they decided to venture into passion fruit growing as a result of price fluctuations of the former commodities.
Also, the passion fruit vines grows above ground on poles, leaving land open for ground dwelling crops that farmers can feed their families while generating income through a surplus of passion fruit.
In 2013, the duo chose to fulfill their dream of helping women and girls that nearly drove them out of farming.
“We had a hard time finding people to work on the farm as many would disappear after being paid which led to a high turnover,” she says.
“Women started approaching us with a model that required them to work on the farm and be paid in terms of pay school fees for their children or shopping for basic needs claiming they would have no control over their money.”
Kaduru says this model was later changed to recruiting girls who have dropped out of school between 14 and 22 years, taking them through a six months curriculum of entrepreneurship, life skills, reproductive health and how to manage profit and loss in their savings groups.
“We now give them land, seedling, and all inputs but they are required to sign a contract to sell us their fruit as the income goes back to them,” she says, adding that the company also works with community members who offer land for leasing to grow the passion fruits.
The company buys the fruits at Shs 2000 and Shs 2500 per kg from the girls and sells it at about Shs 4000 per Kg to wholesalers and hoteliers in Kampala. About two tons of fruit are harvested from the farm in addition to three tones from the girls’ farms.
It is now employing 42 permanent staff with seasonal workers usually hired in the rainy season. Kaduru says they are considering venturing into value addition to reduce the seasonal risks involved.
Counterfeit agro-chemicals a threat to the production
Five years down the road, the passion fruit business goes without challenges. Rebecca says the biggest challenge concerns fake chemicals and pesticides that are imported into the country.
“We are fortunate to have cash resources that can permit us import from Kenya,” she says wondering how rural farmers who are not sensitized about genuine inputs and cannot afford to import from Kenya can do to sustainably practice commercial agriculture in this kind of environment.
Success tips; start small and learn from smaller mistakes
Rebecca advises prospective entrepreneurs to start small, mess up with the little than messing up the big capital.
“A lot of other people are afraid to jump into entrepreneurship because they want to raise millions of dollars.” she says. “By starting small, we made a lot of mistakes from which we drew lessons.”