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February 16, 2012

Ugandan entrepreneur flourishes in seed business by helping farmers sell their produce

by Edgar R. Batte

As an employee at a seed company, Eva Kabejja Luwerekera (33) she knew she was not going to report to someone forever, so she was motivated to identify opportunities.

So she studied the way her employer did business. Her idea was to work with the farmer in a partnership in which her end of the bargain was to train and market their produce.

“We work with over 2000 farmers in groups. When I was working for the seed company,

many farmers kept asking if we would buy their produce after selling them seed, but unfortunately, seed companies mostly cared about selling their seed than buying produce,” narrating how she nurtured her business idea. “So I decided to come up with a model that would complete the entire value chain, where farmers would get everything they needed.

Luwerekera is now the Managing Director of Kiva Agro Supplies Ltd says. She is a graduate who majored in Chemistry and Biology, qualifying as a high school Chemistry teacher.

How did she end up in agriculture?

“I taught for a short while but realized that I was not utilizing my potential to the full. So I left teaching and got a small job in a seed company as a sales representative. That’s where I came into close contact with farmers and developed a longing to be part of the solutions to their problems,” she recollects.

Ms Kabejja has grown Kiva from nothing to an agro company with an annual turnover of Shs900 million. “I just had very insignificant savings, but built the foundation on honesty and quality,” she shares.

Those values in addition to her good marketing skills set her off. She would walk into people’s offices, market her company, promise quality, and get people to like her personally.

“…then they would offer me what I would call small sympathy deals, which I would execute to their satisfaction. At that time, I did everything myself because I didn’t have a single office employee,” she recounts.

Gradually, people noticed the difference between her services and other seemingly big companies and entrusted her with bigger contracts.

Challenges are part of running business. “At times I receive poor quality produce from farmers, less capital to execute large contracts and very unrealistic deadlines. But with repeated training, poor quality produce is becoming less, and I have always encouraged my clients to advance a percentage of the payments to help me finish the contract,” she explains.

Her best day in business was, “The day I received my first over Shs400-million contract. I realized that, ‘yes I can.’.

Her other career highlight was winning at the Young Achievers’ Awards for her innovation. “Receiving the Younger Achievers Award in the presence of two Heads of State was big for me,” she says.

The Monitor

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