Beatrice in her Fields
This is Beatrice. She runs a Bogoya Business at Sonali Trading Center in Sironko District in Eastern Uganda. Beatrice joined the WMI Loan Program in 2007.
This is the story of how she was able to change her life.
Since 1992, Beatrice has been buying bogoya seedlings (a very popular type of fibrous banana plant typically used as a starch dish in traditional meals), planting them, nurturing their growth, and, eventually, cutting the branch of ripe bogoya and transporting it to market to sell. Each tree yielded one branch. A branch typically has about 100 bogoyas on it and weighs 50 - 60 pounds. She generally sold 6 branches each week in Sonali, barely making ends meet.
After she received her first loan from WMI in 2007, she began to sell her branches about 200 miles away in Gulu in Northwestern Uganda, for a much higher profit. Uganda hosts some of the largest refugee camps in the world, housing more than one million displaced people. The camps are in the Gulu area and there is a constant demand for access to fresh food. Beatrice recognized this demand and decided to take a risk to improve her ability to generate income for her family.
She used her loan money to buy bogoya branches from other farmers to transport them to Gulu and sell them there. She tries to acquire the branches about a week before they ripen so they won’t spoil during her journey to Gulu.
Beatrice’s weekly trip to Gulu starts with carving her initials on the 30 branches she typically transports. She waits beside the main road for a transport lorry to stop – these are 8 to 10 ton capacity trucks that ferry cargo around the country for a set fee. She loads all the branches into the back, making space among the produce already on board that belongs to other farmers. The lorry is generally piled high so that the truck owner can maximize profits. Beatrice must sit on top for the 15 hour drive in order to protect her branches from theft or damage. The roads are laced with pot-holes so the progress is very slow – the driver will stay at the wheel throughout the night.
At Gulu she will spend the day at the market, selling her branches at a significantly higher price than she can obtain in her local trading center at Sinoli. She is lucky to have family stay with while in Gulu. She leaves any unsold branches with a trusted friend there who will sell them on her behalf during the week. Beatrice then boards a matatu, a 14 seat mini-van taxi typically stuffed to bursting with at least 20 people, to travel home to take care of her family. Sometimes the truck will break down and her bogoya will get spoiled, but it is a risk she must take for higher profits.
Beatrice now cultivates over 300 Bogoya trees, employs workers to tend her crops, and consistently buys branches from local farmers. Each trip to Gulu she earns around $80, with $19 of personal expenses. Each month she proudly clears about $250.
As you enjoy the last weeks of American summer and head back to work, we know you will begin to think differently about your commute! Please help us support these innovative, hard-working ladies by donating a small amount to support a loan for these amazing women. The money Women’s Microfinance Initiative raises goes directly to our revolving loan fund. When one borrower pays back her loan, another is ready to take a loan, ensuring your donation is used over and over again. Thank you for your support!
Transporting Boyogas to Market
Selling Boygoyas at the Market