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Powerful roles of an entrepreneur in boosting farming

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CASE STUDY: MARIA ODIDO

Impact

Maria Odido, Ugandan, founder/chief executive, Bee Natural Uganda, has succeeded in linking about 2,500 rural beekeepers to city markets in Uganda.

Founded in 2000, Bee Natural Uganda is a venture that deals in packaging of bee products such as honey, propolis and candles, with plans to produce honey wine, marmalade and pulp.

It also makes foundation sheets from bee products and sells back to the producers so that they can increase their colonies.

The company organises beekeepers into groups, gives them training, helps them get access to beekeeping production implements at lower rates with support from financial institutions and repayment at a structured pace over a period. The company then buys the honey and the beeswax from the farmers. It processes and packages the products and sells in the cities and some of the products find their way to European and American cities. Bee Natural Uganda has about 20 people on its staff team.

Role in agribusiness

Poor rural African farmers lack the education and entrepreneurial skills to access high-end markets. Moreover, beekeeping is best carried out in the forest without the need to fell trees and clear lands, so the capital outlay is low and resource poor farmers living in remote areas are the major producers. But marketing the honey and other products on a large scale is often beyond many rural farmers.

The company processes and packages the raw products in the factories located in the rural areas, where the producers are and markets them to supermarkets in the cities, currently controlling about 80 percent of the Ugandan market and about 8 percent of the Kenyan market.

What makes her different

She has been able to keep thousands of beekeepers in business by ensuring a regular market and decent income for them while at the same time creating wealth for herself and jobs for the staff. She says, “So far, we have 250 groups of 10 people each, that means 2,500 beekeepers. We do not deal with individuals unless they have attained a certain level of production. We find it easier to deal with groups because of the issue of corporate governance; groups have a tendency to honour agreements than individuals.”

What have they managed to achieve where others have failed

This social enterprise can be replicated in any African country where there are bee farmers.

Based on this, she won the 2010 project incubator award, winning $15,000 (N2.25m). An award given by EMRC, a Belgium-based organisation and Rabobank Foundation. The award is given yearly at Agribusiness Forums organised by these organisations to any organisation in Africa that is into profit making while empowering many other people to make wealth.

What factors have led to their success

Within the last decade, European and American countries have been looking to Africa for supplies of honey and its products, opening up wider vista of opportunities for the African beekeepers. Also, high net worth individuals in African cities appreciate the hygienic production, attractive packaging and the brand promises of these entrepreneurs which these business owners go out of their way to keep.

Challenges

Until the award in 2010 that brought fresh injections of funds, finance to engage more farmers and expand production was a challenge and still is to some extent. In fact, the business went down in 2006, due to a major financial crisis. She had to restart in 2007.

By: OLUYINKA ALAWODE

 

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