A lot has changed in the last four years of working with NAWOU under the Women at Work Project and I have achieved financial freedom, a longstanding dream I have had. My name is Lydia Kyeyune, Chairperson of Bazira Women’s group which comprises of 28 women and girls. All our group and individual enterprises have tremendously improved and this has translated into improved livelihoods. We added farming, Liquid soap making, bead making, and mats for sale, to our tie and dye business. One of the key trainings that we received from NAWOU was value addition and packaging of our products. We had always grown orange sweet potatoes – one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, known for its eye health benefits and ability to reduce cancer risks. Because the benefits were unknown to us, we only grew the potatoes for our own consumption. With the knowledge from NAWOU, we started to make potato flour, chapattis and cakes for sale. We do not leave them or any other food to rot and throw away anymore.
Coupled with the trainings on farming for business, NAWOU taught us the importance of saving and investing as much as possible. My own testimony is that I started a successful furniture business from my savings with the group. I am also able to fuel my car and visit my farms on a daily basis. I rear pigs, goats and turkeys and I have been able to build a beautiful house from my hard work and savings. In terms of markets for our products, with the support of NAWOU, we have all been able to sell our items and increase our revenues. At the Jinja agriculture Trade show that NAWOU supported me to attend, I made one million six hundred and thirty thousand shillings from selling cassava stems and matooke from my garden. I was also able to talk to several visitors of my stall who wanted to learn more about my farm and farming methods. Since attending the tradeshow, I have continued to sell especially the cassava stems to the contacts that I made.
I have ten acres of farm land that fetch me three million shillings from annual matooke sales. In regard to coffee, we learnt from NAWOU that grinding and packaging fetches better revenue. When we all harvest our coffee, we take it to a grindery and then sell it in ground form. We normally sell the coffee in February and March of every year. The previous season fetched me eight million shillings and I made fourteen million shillings from the season before that. Furthermore, I recently started growing pineapples on two acres from which I expect a minimum of one million and for hundred thousand shillings at harvest season. Some group members are involved in poultry farming while others opted for livestock. Each of us is encouraged to have a personal project from which we can quickly bring similar products together and sell whenever need arises.
As the Chairperson of the group and a Councillor, I feel responsible for mentoring and financially supporting my fellow group members. Due to that fact, I have a catering service that gives them an opportunity to work for a fee whenever there are orders. In the Community, I regularly talk to fellow women about hard work as a ticket out of poverty and remedy to gender based violence in the home.
NAWOU has indeed enabled us to prepare for our later years. In addition to enjoying financially healthier lives, we are able to pay school fees for our children. Most importantly, we enjoy peace in our homes because economic violence cases have dropped.