Walking the talk; Student’s loan helped us scale from an idea to a sustainable Agribusiness in Gulu

When we talk of the phrase “from theory to practice”, these guys have it all. A group of highly esteemed Mastercard Foundation at RUFORUM sponsored students pursuing Masters of Science in Agri-Enterprises Development at Gulu University has proven beyond reasonable doubt that opportunity resonates where there is distress. Muteti Francisca Ndinda (Kenya), Mainimo Edmond Nyuyki (Cameroon) and Mpofu Taddias Prince (Zimbabwe) are the co-founders of Hallmark Bio-Enterprise, a successfully implemented venture based in Laroo division, Gulu municipality. The aforementioned are not only trained on entrepreneurship, but also have been adequately prepared to be successful change makers in the real business world.

The trio Nyuyki, Ndinda and Mpofu before a Mushroom Harvest

Hallmark Bio-Enterprises is an organic based social enterprise aimed at supporting rural women, refugees and out of school youths, the African girl child in particular, through capacity building in climate smart agriculture. Hallmark intends to contribute to unlocking the economic potential of the students through training on producing high quality, organic oyster mushrooms as a business. The motivation behind this initiative stems from the realization of the potential that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have in transforming rural communities. With the proliferating dependency syndrome on food aid in northern Uganda steming from two decades of prolonged conflict and civil unrest by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), it has been noticed that the economic development of many households is at a very slow rate. Cognizant of the above, the entrepreneurial mindset in many has been brought to a halt, leading to a drastic drop in their daily earnings to the extent of being unable to afford a balanced diet in their daily dietary intake. Moreover, erratic rainfall patterns in the region and ever-increasing global temperatures have stirred the need for promoting this climate smart initiative.

Mastercard Scholar Mpofu Taddias Prince from Zimbabwe harvesting Mushrooms

Considerate of this, Hallmark’s operations model aims at empowering their target group “rural women, refugees and out of school youths” through trainings on sustainable organic oyster mushroom production, quality control and providing reliable market by making them out growers. In this way, the beneficiaries will not only consume the highly nutritious mushrooms, but also earn income and improve their livelihoods, reducing the dependency syndrome. As part of her sustainability plan, Hallmark intends to train and promote the use of its affordable solar drying system amongst her target group as a way of maintaining product quality while minimizing post-harvest losses. In addition, the enterprise plans to promote the use briquettes made from the final waste as an alternative cooking energy source through trainings and exhibitions.

Muteti Francisca Ndinda carefully puting the harvested Mushrooms together

The three Scholars who received a training on Mushroom growing from a fellow student from Uganda, Walter Amuko who was growing mushroom but could not satisfy the demand have currently established, through the enterprise, contractual arrangements with restaurants within Gulu municipality where they supplies high quality fresh and dried organic oyster mushrooms. Gulu university staff and students also constitute the customer base for Hallmark. It is worth putting on record that feedback from their customers has been phenomenal and it is motivating the team to scale up.

Mainimo Edmond Nyuyki waters the mushroom. an activity they all do in turns.

The trio explaining their business to Mr. Samuel Elolu the TAGDev Coordinator at Gulu University

From a student loan of 1.900.000ugx (Aprox. USD525) given by the University through the Faculty of Agriculture to students with promising enterprises and payable after breaking even, the students have managed to build a big clientele base and are failing to fullfil the high demand for the Mushrooms in Gulu town. They are overwhelmed by the potential of the business and are looking forward to scaling it and replicating it in their own countries. The scholars appreciate the teaching model used by Gulu University to equip them with practical skills that are relevant not only to them but their communities. They are thankful to the Mastercard Foundation through RUFORUM for the investment in their education and look forward to giving back after their education.

The packaged Mushrooms (Oyester Mushrooms) as the final product ready for the Market

For More Information about RUFORUM Contact;

Maureen Agena
Corporate Communications and Advocacy
Tel: +256-417-713-300 (Office)
Direct Line: +256-417-713-326

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