The Woman Transforming 200,000 Smallholder Farmers into Entrepreneurs

Meet Dr Gudula Basaza – a visionary who has built a remarkable business, Gudie Leisure Farm in Uganda. She is on a mission to support smallholder farmers in her country, and empower them to become self-sufficient, commercial farmers. 

Like all great social entrepreneurs, her vision is big and full of purpose – to transform 200,000 smallholder farmers into entrepreneurs by 2026. And she appears to be on track. Over the past five years, Gudie Leisure Farm has trained 63,720 farmers in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, renewable energy, access to opportunities, and outcome harvesting. 

I sat down with Dr Basaza to find out more about her venture.

How did the idea of Gudie Leisure Farm come about?

The idea came about when I was a Post-Doctoral student at George Washington University.  I had access to a lot of knowledge. I realised that I wanted to contribute to our people at the base of the pyramid and provide them with access to information that would transform their way of life. 

When I returned to Uganda, I tried to find out information from research organisations, especially in agriculture. I realised that this information was not known by the people who needed it most, so I decided to become the bridge.

Obviously setting up such a venture takes a huge amount of effort. What role has collaboration played in helping you set up and establish the farm?

Collaboration has been key. We are working with the National Agriculture Research Organisation, which is carrying out research on our behalf nationally. Without them, there is no way we would have the right information to pass onto the farmers. Reaching the individual farmers is not easy and it’s not cheap, so you need to go through networks. I went through the districts, which is a national structure, and it helped me reach the different farmers that I needed to reach. Then there are also other services that the farmers need, like banking services. I formed a collaboration with a bank here. All our farmers bank with this institution and in return can access favourable small loans.  

You have other aspects to the farm, like tourism. How does the farm work?

The farm is a predominantly white meat farm. We raise chicken, fish, pigs and rabbits. We have incorporated tourism as an income-generating activity, where school children and the middle-class community come to visit the farm for a fee. We have also come up with products that increase productivity for farmers. We have eight products that we market through agents in Uganda. Revenue is also generated through the training we offer to accredit our farmers. The income helps us with our outreach activities to reach more farmers. 

How do you manage so many collaborations?

With each new collaboration, we sit down and discuss the needs of each party. For example, we have a collaboration with the Uganda Revenue Authority. They were very interested in having as many small businesses learn and understand about taxes. So with a sponsor-type arrangement, we have provided a platform to enable the Authority to get their message across to the farmers. 

Putting 11 partners together and ensuring that each partner has what they need from the relationship makes our farm very innovative in Uganda. 

What role does trust play in your ability to establish relationships with corporations and Government institutions in Uganda?

We are not selling a product, we are selling a value. Without the value we are selling to the clients, without that promise, the client will go elsewhere. This is something we keep having to reinforce with the farmers, with our partners. We have to be clear about what we can offer and by when, so we do not raise expectations. We have to deliver as we promise.

Running and operating a farm requires many staff. For a small business with limited resources, have you ever used collaboration to source talent for your business?

Getting good trainers who are knowledgeable is very expensive. As a farm, we are not in a position to bear that cost. Our collaboration with the National Agriculture Research Organisation means that they provide us with their scientists who come and train our farmers. Also, we have 23 full-time workers on the farm who are also business owners. We are able to give them a base salary and share profits. So they are collaborating with us in a business mode. 

What plans do you have for next year?

The future looks very bright. There are two initiatives we are launching that I am very proud of. First one is the White Meat Incubation Centre. We are going to provide different technologies that one requires to add value to white meat.  We shall invite the youth to come and create their own processed products, such as sausages or baloney. This will provide work for the youth and also increase consumption of our products. Whereas up until now a consumer needed to buy the meat at the source, now they will be able to purchase ready-made products for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The second initiative is for the district agents. I now have 40 district agents distributing our value-added organic farming products. These are produced by our farmers, and provides revenue through this distribution network. It is a major step towards empowering them financially and I am very excited about this. 

 

I am sure you will agree that Dr Gudula Basaza is an inspirational entrepreneur who has skilfully set up a viable and impressive farming social enterprise. Click here for more information on Gudie Leisure Farms. 

 

Dr Gudula Basaza spoke to Miriam Feiler, Co-founder, bizzi, as part of The Small Business Collaboration Summit. Click below for free access to 30 inspirational interviews from exceptional entrepreneurs.

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