From pumpkins to profits  —  a Ugandan success story

Fatuma Namatosi was born into a hard life in Shananda  —  a village in Bungokho-Mbale in eastern Uganda. But she was determined to complete her studies. Her elder brother helped her to pay her enrollment fees, and for her part, she excelled in her studies.

Namatosi’s hard work paid off when she and her mother started their own rice gardens. Drawing upon her formal education and experience in agriculture and with help from a U.S.-backed program, Namatosi founded Byeffe Foods in April 2015. Her business adds value to pumpkin crops by processing them into flour, which is then sold across the country.

In the early stages of building her organization, Namatosi worked directly with Feed the Future’s Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture project, which is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The project engages youth leaders ages 10 to 35 in profitable agricultural value-chain opportunities.

Two women speaking to each other (Byeffe Foods via USAID)
Fatuma Namatosi, left, explains Byeffe’s pumpkin-based products to U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac, right. (Byeffe Foods via USAID)

In Uganda and elsewhere, USAID is creating economic opportunities for young people like Namatosi who in turn create opportunities for others.

With additional support from USAID, Namatosi has expanded her business. She now teaches 640 young farmers to grow pumpkins as a cost-effective and easy crop, explaining to them that quality pumpkins will fetch the highest prices. She also educates communities about pumpkin products as a powerful source of antioxidants, proteins and vitamins .

Using a solar dryer she bought after getting a U.S.-backed grant, Namatosi produces 1.5 million kilograms of pumpkin products from the pumpkins she buys from the young farmers. Byeffe is generating $640,000 annually from direct sales to customers combined with its sales to schools and supermarkets.

People standing around pumpkin patch (Byeffe Foods via USAID)
Byeffe youth farmers learning about the post-harvest handling of pumpkins. (Byeffe Foods via USAID)

Namatosi works with roughly 20 permanent staff and a network of 5,000 farmers  —  90 percent of whom are young women who have families and children to support. She plans to expand her network of producers and to add farmers growing crops such as millet, rice, maize, soya bean, amaranth grain and sweet potatoes. She wants to support farmers with modern agricultural equipment, weaning dependence on old techniques that often take longer to yield results.

Believing that her work can inspire young girls, Namatosi says, “I want to … demonstrate the fact that they are powerful, because I am a living example.”

A longer version of this story was published by the U.S. Agency for International Development.