Sustainable business practices: a role model at the market
From smallholder to successful businesswoman – how Grace Akot from Uganda did it.
From smallholder to successful businesswoman – it was a long road for Grace Akot from Uganda. The conditions for the 42-year-old mother of four weren’t ideal: Uganda’s agricultural sector is struggling to keep up with its regional peers and in addition, most of the country’s poor live in rural areas. Akot and her colleagues in the Agago District of Northern Uganda were cultivating only small amounts of crops and had to consume most of them in order to survive.
A series of training sessions which gradually turned Akot into an agricultural entrepreneur were the key. ‘Fundamental business know-how, selecting the most profitable products, sustainable cultivation methods...I learned a lot,’ she recalls, thinking back to her training provided by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ).
She applied her new knowledge effectively: ‘Since 2009, my farmland has almost doubled in size,’ she says, proudly. In addition to sunflowers, rice and sesame, Akot successfully provides niche honey and shea products. She also realised her greatest hope of producing surpluses and selling them on the regional market. Akot is now not just well-connected as a businesswoman: her own success inspired her to help others tread a similar path. She has already trained over 500 smallholders in the methods that led to her success, and in the meantime, over 22,000 of them in total have benefited from the project.
The only thing that now worries Akot is the climate. ‘Climate change is real and we can’t run away from it.’ But she remains optimistic and applies climate-resistant cultivation methods with her community. The sustainable basis she learned to value in the project gives her hope of success. ‘Trust has grown thanks to the long-standing cooperation between local communities, government representatives and GIZ.’