11 June 2011

Uganda: Kitgum Women Striving in Bee Keeping

A widow and mother of two was earning so little to cover her family needs. Conquering adversity to success, Fielder Mary Lakot joined Kitgum Women Bee Keepers Association and struggled for survival. She shared her story with Flavia Kyambadde

"Before my husband passed away, we were living a fairly comfortable life. We were both employed and our combined salary went a long way for us. Left on my own, with my children, I had to adjust very fast.

My children were very young and they could not understand what their father's death meant. Their lives were changing and I could not make it any easier for them since we becoming poorer. I could not always pay their school fees on time and even feeding was not easy especially because of the war.

However, when KITWOBEE was launched in 1996 by Mrs Margaret Rose Ogaba, I decided to join the group with hope of earning a little extra money. But because of the war, we (the women in this area) had to maintain a low profile in our safety.

Without much training, KITWOBEE begun in a simple and humble way. But as we progressed and attracted more women to join the group, Mrs Ogaba was able to get us international support and donor funding with CORD, a European organisation that demanded for a change in management of the association and because the chairperson then had overstayed. It's was at this time that the group members entrusted me as their leader.

In 2003, I learnt about Enterprise Uganda, who took interest in our business thus taking us on as one of their pilot projects under the Strengthening Women Entrepreneurs Project (SWEP). Although we had been in business for a long time, our returns were still very low. But with SWEP training programme things drastically changed for the group.

After joining SWEP, our business became self-reliant and therefore abandoned donor funding. I have learned a lot from the savings and financial discipline training I have acquired. I'm able to manage my personal finances and those of the association. With proper business management and book keeping there is swift business operation and that is why we are now financially independent of donor funds.

While joining KITWOBEE, was a way for me to earn a little extra for survival with my family I have since developed the passion for the association and the business we are involved in. I'm proud that we emerged the overall best exhibitors in the Apitrade Africa 2010 Exhibition in Zambia and were also awarded for "Best quality of honey" and "Best packaging" during the exhibition. We were also awarded the "Best Producer of honey" in Africa at APIEXPO AFRICA 2010.

Since our products have received recognition in Africa we hope to conquer the world market and we are looking forward to seeing KITWOBEE earn a spot as one of the world's leading producers of honey. However, the secret to a successful business involves patience, cooperation and perseverance. Any entrepreneur should always draw up a business plan, stick to it because it's a guideline and a checklist to keep one on course to achieving the set goals of the business.

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