Across Africa, women are generally not empowered although some progress has been made in this direction. The issue has partly been the continuous perpetuation of traditional values and the lack of owning the economic means of production.
The story is no different in Uganda, where thousands of young women earn a little below $3 per month. To address this situation, a Ugandan man, Eric Kaduru, left his advertising job in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and is now using agriculture to lift mostly out-of-school girls from poverty. He is doing this together with his wife, Rebecca Kaduru.
Through their firm, KadAfrica, they provide these girls with a plot of land, passionfruit vines, and a marketplace to sell the fruit. Basically, KadAfrica is using passion fruit farming as a vehicle for girls to be economically sound and empowered decision-makers.
Eric got their idea while driving at the outskirt of Uganda. He wondered to himself why the vast lands he saw were uncultivated. With his team, Eric settled on cultivating passionfruit for both the domestic market and the international market.
They settled on passion fruit because Uganda has fertile land for it and has a longer shelf life than other crops grown by small farm holders. Also, there is a ready market for the fruit.
Indeed, KadAfrica exports 70 percent of passionfruit. The company, which was launched in 2012, has so far trained over 2,500 girls in Uganda. The program has also impacted over 3,000 communities.
The training offered to the young girls by KadAfrica includes entrepreneurship, financial literacy and gender empowerment training to out-of-school girls. “We call ourselves a socially-driven agribusiness that uses fruit farming as a vehicle to empower marginalized populations in Uganda. We aim to establish a sustainable market-driven system to increase economic opportunities for rural communities through our integrated tropical fruit value chain,” KadAfrica says on its website.
According to Forbes, through KadAfrica, the girls have boosted their incomes to $20-$50 per month and as a result, some of them have used the money to expand their agribusinesses, and others have started new ventures, such as a nursery school for local children.
KadAfrica has also expanded its operations, by seeking to enroll more community women on to its program. “We were initially very focused on trying to get more girls committed to the program, and getting more support staff on the ground,” Eric said. “But we’re seeing things from a broader perspective now and involving the girls’ families in order to create a more enabling environment. This has been a key shift.”
He explained that incorporating the community into KadAfrica has helped avoid a situation where either parents or husbands of these young girls prevent them from participating in their training.
He noted that his firm engages the women’s families through empowerment ceremonies where the girls receive certificates for their accomplishments and also hosting events so that the communities can see how the women are succeeding through agribusiness.