Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:23 PM EDT, 13 March 2012
KAMPALA, Uganda - With the recent fervor over the viral Joseph Kony video, Uganda has shot to the forefront of many American’s consciousness. There are many tragedies occurring across the Continent, and we have focused most recently on the genocide that is occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In keeping with our mission, we strive for balanced reporting and to present positive stories of Africans making a difference in their lives and the lives of their communities.
Josephine Okot is the type of person of whom we are speaking. She is a Ugandan entrepreneur who invested a lot of sweat equity into building a company that promotes sustainable agriculture through seed delivery. She founded Victoria Seeds Ltd in 2004, and has grown the company from a struggling start-up which could not get bank financing to become Uganda’s leading seed house marketing over 90 seed varieties of cereal, legume, horticultural, oil and forage crops in the domestic and regional market.
Although, Ms. Okot’s business model is based upon helping farmers grow bot staple and cash crops, her company is essentially modeled after agro-dealers in other emerging markets who seek to increase market share and profits by educating their consumers. Victoria Seeds provides management skills and farming techniques to help them increase their yields and bring their product to market more profitably.
In 2006, according to their website they “opened a Sales Outlet in 2006 at Nakivubo place to facilitate seed delivery to agro-dealers. They also established a research facility thereafter at Kawanda in 2007 to research and develop new varieties adapted to our environment. The company commissioned a seed processing and research facility in Gulu in 2008 to improve seed availability to communities resettling in Northern Uganda and started engaging largely women in the regional seed industry supply chain.”
In an interview, Ms. Okot said that one of her beliefs is that business can only survive when society thrives. She is also passionate about women’s empowerment. In a small town bordering Sudan, her company is helping women who were previously living in refugee camps surviving off the UN’s World Food Aid program, can now farm and provide for their food as well as monetary needs.
These women, during the height of the conflict in Northern Uganda, were no longer able to care for themselves or their children. Like the DRC, weaponized rape was used to control and subdue the populace, and when women left the camps in search of firewood or water, they were at great risk of being raped and violently killed.
Victoria’s Seeds also provides training because these women are not professional farmers, and many employ the practice of broadcast planting which is very ineffective. They are instructed in the proper planting of crops in rows that are well spaced. They are also being trained to plant single crops per field to increase yield and quality.
According to the company, ‘in 2011 they opened a third Processing and marketing facility in Masindi Town to expand its processing capacity and meet the increasing country demand for improved seed.” We have featured Ms. Okot and Victoria’s Seeds because of her company’s core mission of empowering rural women.