In Uganda, where many women earn as little as $3 per month, a new generation of agripreneurs are lifting themselves out of poverty and they are doing this with the support of KadAfrica a social business that grants out-of-school girls with a small plot of land, passion fruit vines, and a marketplace to sell the fruit.
The startup was founded by Eric and Rebecca Kaduru in 2012. It is helping thousands of out-of-school girls turn small tracts of unused land into money-making passion fruit farms in Kyenjojo, a small town at the intersection of two major highways in western Uganda. Participating young women each receive a 240-square meter plot (about twice the size of a six-yard box in soccer) and 45 passion fruit vines to launch their own small-scale agribusiness.
The idea was first conceived when Eric was driving from Uganda to Kenya and wondered why thriving, large-scale commercial farming did not exist on Uganda’s fertile land. Eventually, the organization settled on cultivating passion fruit, which is popular in Ugandan marketplaces while 70 percent of the supply is imported. The vertical vines require relatively little land to grow and the fruit commands high prices in the marketplace. Through bulk marketing and transport, KadAfrica is able to operate a profitable business, providing income for the girls and sustaining the organization.
The young women produce anywhere between 220 to 330 pounds of fruit per month on average, which brings in a monthly income of $20. Some KadAfrica entrepreneurs make as much as $50 per month, a seriously significant increase from the average $3 per month the women earned before joining the program, according to a baseline study conducted in early 2014. The extra income is used by young women to either expand their passion fruit farms or launch new ventures like a nursery school for neighborhood children.
KadAfrica provides intensive training in entrepreneurship, financial literacy and gender empowerment. About 1,650 girls have boosted their incomes to $20 – $50 per month, representing a 600% increase in income per participant. Some young women have used the money to expand their agribusinesses, and others have started new ventures, such as a nursery school for local children.
The startup engages the women’s families through empowerment ceremonies where the girls receive certificates for their accomplishments. They also host events like barbeques so that the communities can learn more about how the women are succeeding with their agribusinesses.
The KadAfrica team has also begun shifting its perspective toward the local communities where the young women live. “We were initially very focused on trying to get more girls committed to the program, and getting more support staff on the ground,” Eric said. “But we’re seeing things from a broader perspective now and involving the girls’ families in order to create a more enabling environment. This has been a key shift.”
KadAfrica continues to command attention in Kyenjojo, as there are currently 1,200 women on the waitlist who hope to join the program, and Kaduru is confident he can scale-up the program to meet the needs of 3,000 young women over the next two years.