Kampala. At the end of August 2020, Ms Hajarah Nagawa was jobless. She moved from earning Shs1.4 million to nothing after tendering in her resignation to the Non-Government Organisation (NGO) where she had been working in July.
Despite working for seven years for the NGO stationed in Gulu working across different regions of northern Uganda; the 31-year-old quit to start farming.
“I was tired of the distance created by the job between me and my children. I then decided to quit my job during lockdown, when everyone else was striving to hold onto theirs,” Ms Nagawa, a mother of five recalls.
At the time, President Museveni was considering easing lockdown measures instituted in March that year.
Several jobs were lost because companies could not afford to pay staff as the Covid-19 induced lockdown pulled the plug on many of their revenues.
“I was always in the field and barely had the time for my children. I was tired of the distance and wanted to be closer to them, especially since lockdown kept us separated,” she narrates.
The decision to quit her job despite the uncertain times clouded by a pandemic came after discussions between Ms Nagawa and her husband which birthed an idea to set up an agricultural training hub, in their backyard.
“It was hard in the beginning,” she admits, noting that she was forced to cut costs and focus only on priorities to make ends meet.
Ms Nagawa owns a sizable plot of land in Gayaza, Kabubu. The land which houses her home; also serves as her agricultural grounds and potential training hub.
“At the time, the plan was to set up my business in the backyard, in proximity with my family. I loved agriculture and after extensive research and visiting model farms, I thought of setting up a training hub,” she says.
However, her efforts were drained after prolonged yet fruitless proposals for funding.
Later in the year, Ms Nagawa landed on a call for applications from the MTN youth skilling programme implemented in partnership with Ubinufu systems, a software development firm. Upon application, she was approved.
She is one of the 100 participants chosen for the training programme whose aim is to create formal youth entrepreneurs and job creators.
She notes that under the programme, she has learnt record keeping and financial management, taxation, innovation and digitisation among others which have been essential in her path to entrepreneurship. Through the training she was empowered to start her business with minimal capital and resources at her disposal.
“I have learnt that with the limited resources you have, you can still achieve what you want,” she says.
At home, Ms Nagawa has a chicken business with about 500 kroilers. She buys one-month old birds at USh8,000 and sells them between USh35,000 and to USh40,000.
“Minus the costs and operations, I earn around Shs5 million in five months. We sell in bits, because some hens by three months are already heavy and ready for sale.” She says adding, “For home consumption, we sell based on the weight of the bird, while birds for resale are sold for around USh35,000.
In addition, she plants maize where she earns extra income.
Ms Nagawa harvests maize which she takes to the milling machine.
This is usually 1000 kg of maize where she gets 50 percent of either maize bran or posho. This is sold depending on the retail price per the season. “Currently, a kg of posho at market price costs USh1,200. I earn about USh600,000 from 500kg of posho. Those are about five bags of 100Kg,” she explains.
However, this rarely happens because instead of getting the money, she exchanges her maize at the maize milling shop for either vaccines for her birds or feeds equivalent to her kgs.
“During the exchange, the trader’s decides how much he/she will sell the posho. The price of posho ranges between USh1,500 and USh2,000 depending on the quality,” she notes.
Waste management and recycling
She also employs a rotational method of waste management and recycling.
After harvesting the maize, she uses the combs for fuel and as a mosquito and insect repellent in the chicken houses.
The stems of the maize upon harvesting are also fed to the chicken as feeds which reduces operational costs.
Ms Nagawa further collects the chicken droppings to be used as fertilisers on her farm in addition to selling them to neighbours as manure.
“I sell a 100 kilogramme bag of chicken droppings at USh7,000,” she reveals.
She plans to scale the agricultural practice into a training Centre to increase awareness and equip the youth and women of Gayaza in urban farming with the goal of curbing the increasing youth unemployment in the region.
“Gayaza is slowly growing with many people putting up estates. Having sold a lot of land in the area, the local community is left with minimal land forcing a number of youth to resort to quarrying, drug abuse and petty theft,” Ms Nagawa says, noting that she would like to train the youth and women in using small pieces of land for commercial agriculture.
However, the challenge of capital limits her from scaling the agricultural practice into a training centre she envisages.
“I plan to set up a greenhouse, an indoor fish quarry, a backyard farm, breed more chicken and create an open online marketplace where people can order and book for produce for delivery ahead of time for those that cannot move,” she explains.
“I would need about Shs100m to scale to the heights,” she says.