Stories From Uganda: A Successful Entrepreneur in Rural Uganda

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.

img_6552Bwengye 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.

Stories from Uganda: A Leader with Vision

This is the story of Rev Robert Mugume, a leader with a vision to transform lives and his local community.

Robert (50) is the Regional Bishop for Ibanda with the Full Gospel Churches of Uganda, a pentecostal denomination. He grew up in the village of Birongo III in Ishongororo and married Mrs Jolly Nabasa Mugame. They have five children and two adopted children. He began serving as a pastor in 2001. While Robert was studying Theology at Glad Tidings Bible College he was inspired to work for the development of children. He developed a vision to start a school in his local community where children could have a quality education. He says his vision is to raise children holistically by supporting their physical, spiritual and educational development. In 2005 his vision became a reality when he started Birongo Primary School with 120 pupils. He connected with Fields of Life to assist with the construction of the school and today the school has grown to 530 pupils. As the partnership with donors from Northern Ireland continued a new vision developed to start a school in Ryamugwizi. This vision also became a reality.

Ryamugwizi Primary School is the school supported by the REAP Project that I’m visiting this week. It now has 310 pupils.

In partnership with Fields of Life and donors from Northern Ireland Robert has also established two primary schools in the neighbouring district of Kiruhura; Ulster Farmers & El Shaddai. Projects have been supported to drill boreholes and protect natural wells in the school communities (see yesterday’s blog) to ensure the community has clean water so that children remain healthy to attend school.

‘As a leader,’ says the Bishop, ‘I feel proud and thankful for the partners and donors from Northern Ireland.’

In the Birongo school they have built dormitories for children to enhance their access to education. Fields of Life has also gifted livestock and sewing machines to parents to enable them to generate income so that they can earn money to pay for their children’s education themselves.

‘I’m seeing the vision I had in 2001 now become a reality’, says Robert, ‘Lives and communities are being transformed.’

When I ask Robert how it feels to see his vision become a reality he smiles and says, ‘I thank God. I’ve seen transformation in the lives of the orphans and vulnerable children we are supporting.’

Robert is delighted to see children from the schools now becoming teachers, nurses and students at university.

Of course visionary leaders like Robert Mugume do not stop when one vision becomes a reality, so I ask him about his latest vision for the future. He does not hesitate to respond. He wants to see the children from the schools become successful in life. He wants them to aspire to be doctors, engineers, lawyers and bishops.

He has a vision for a secondary school in the region with the same ethos. He also wants to establish a vocational school for young people who cannot go to university so that they can gain practical skills for work. In addition Robert wants to establish income generating projects, such as businesses and farming, so that each school will raise funds to sustain itself and Robert’s vision will be secured for the future.

I have no doubt that this determined leader will see his vision sustained. Once again on my visit to Uganda I am inspired by hearing the story of a visionary leader creating hope and transformation in his local community.