Immaculate Akullu was nominated Second-Best Farmer in Uganda in 2020. Today, she manages a business that produces 10 tons of delicious honey in one year, and employs 14 young people on the 300-acre farm.
But how did she begin?
As much as Immaculate wanted to start her own honey business, accessing a start-up was far from her imagination. And, when her determination met an opportunity to acquire knowledge, she decided to get the skill. With a small family borrowing of UGX 100,000, the 36 year-old woman ordered 10 kilograms of raw honey from a farm in Lira District, her home area – she was led by her passion for honey even though she lacked a place to retail her product.
With an exceptional willpower she offered cleaning services each morning and evening to a town office, in exchange for a few meter-space at the office veranda, where she displayed her product for sale. Here is where her face began to light up with hope: “I knew I was beginning my journey of success because people loved my honey.” In a week, all her first stock was sold off. She saved the profits and ordered another delivery from the farm. She was now linked to a sales point and a product source, valuing connections within her community, a trait she attests has been central in the growth of her business as long as she was able to keep the pace she had started.
After two years of retail practice, she began to enjoy the progress. She combined efforts with her brother and they opened up a more established honey trade, found a more comfortable shop to sell their product and grew their network of bee farmers, and Archways began!
But something vital was still lacking. Immaculate’s marketing skill was not yet polished, she also lacked equipment for larger production, and her business operated without a license, which was an interference to her plan to penetrate the larger market for honey products. And here is where her partnership with AVSI took a stride. In 2018, AVSI recognized Immaculate’s determination and passion: her business was supported with registration at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and equipment such as honey presser machine, 200 kilogram-capacity settling tank, honey refractometer, solar wax extractor, making this collaboration a conduit of inspiration in viable bee-keeping to the local youth of Lira District.
The partnership with Immaculate is one of those strategic relationships AVSI has gained in the interest of creating employment for young people in agribusiness. Opportunities to get involved in this field are rising. Immaculate possesses the right skills in beekeeping and connections with local bee farmers. Her motivational attribute and eagerness to preserve the green economy attract young people – this is one of the reasons she loves bee-keeping. She knows that bee hives have a significant impact on the ecosystem. “Beekeeping is an awesome and fulfilling activity. It gives me a better understanding of the impact bees can have,” she explains.
Her story can be told on and on: through her partnership with AVSI in the project Skilling Youth for Employment in Agribusiness, her company Archways successfully trained 120 young people from three sub-counties in the region, growing her brand name and rousing her to venture into value addition for her produce, making vaseline and other cosmetics.
The youth were also trained in tree planting and they carried on to their home villages for bee keeping. They are excited to join the trade with an assured market for their honey. Immaculate, who needs more unprocessed material to sustain her business, buys directly from them to boost their income, but mostly provides extension services up to their bee farms.
Geoffrey Okello, who was a trainee, says: “I had two apiaries before I was trained by Archways. I kept bees casually. I now know how much money one can earn from this enterprise.” Since then, this computer technician quit his job and he has planted 100 trees in his village: he now boasts 40 apiaries. He meets his family needs comfortably, while mitigating deforestation practices in the Northern part of Uganda. Geoffrey is now 35, he met Immaculate a few years ago and since then they regularly meet to support each other to create change in their community.
Uganda’s population is 74% young people, the majority of whom are unemployed.
Stories of collaborations such as Immaculate’s continue to create meaningful change in the lives of young people and their families.
Thanks to the funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the European Union which respond to the real needs of such populations to assist them become self-reliant through agribusiness while placing climate change at the forefront.