One of the most inspiring people I met in Uganda is Bwengye Luciano, Director of Bwelu Investments Ltd. Like many young men in rural Uganda Bwengye (43) started out as a subsistence farmer. However, in spite of many challenges, he has made a remarkable transition to become a successful local entrepreneur and role model, creating many jobs in his local community in rural South West Uganda. One morning last week Bwengye showed the REAP Project Team around his mills and farm, welcomed us into his home and shared his success story with warmth and humility.
Bwengye grew up in the Bushenyi District, the last born of a family of ten. His parents died of malaria when he was twenty years old. He told us that after losing his parents his life was very hard. It was simply a matter of surviving and he said it was the lowest point of his life. He talked about his faith, explaining how he turned to God at this moment. ‘I had no one else to turn to and I wasn’t sure if I would live another day.’ He started to go to church, found faith in God and is still an associate pastor in his church to this day.
Eight years later he married Nora and moved to Ibanda in search of fertile land on which his family could subsist. However, he found that with subsistence farming it was always a challenge to have enough for his family. He started a business buying and selling maize and then decided to move into milling and selling flour. He started his mill by renting a small building. Bwengye showed us the mill and introduced us to his workers.
He asked the workers to show us the process of milling from raw maize to packaged flour.
It was fascinating to see the milling process, much of it carried out by hand and without running water or sophisticated machinery.
Over time, as his milling business grew, Bwengye decided to buy another 5 acres of land and to construct a brand new mill that would employ 70 people when operational. He showed us around the newly constructed mill, which he designed himself, explaining the milling process that would take place in the new building.
He wants to invest in more machinery to improve the quality of his products. The biggest challenge he faces is to secure a stable electricity supply to the new building. This will cost around £20,000.
Bwengye’s dream for the future is to have good machinery in the new building that will produce five lorry loads of produce per day, so that he can sell across Uganda and export to other countries.
Bwengye has four children of his own and he also looks after another seven children from his brothers who have passed away. He welcomed us into his newly constructed home for fresh coffee and fruit and he introduced us to his wife Nora, who now manages the farm.
They have ambitious plans to develop the farm to produce timber, papaya and coffee.
It was fascinating and inspiring to meet Bwengye and to hear how he has developed his business from humble beginnings into a significant local employer. He is a perfect example of what is possible in rural Uganda, in spite of all the challenges, and he is clearly a role model for young people in Ibanda.