Every day in Uganda's markets, wheelbarrows of leftover fruit are dumped into gutters and streets, and often shoppers find their feet sinking into slime. It is this public wastage that inspired Ugandan entrepreneur Prudence Ukkonika to start making organic wines and juices using the abundant fruit.
"Every morning I walked past the market to go to work, it was painful to see so many pineapples, mangoes, passion fruits ... going to waste," the former civil servant says as she loads a carton of Bella Wine, one of her products, onto a truck parked outside K-Roma Limited, the company she founded.
K-Roma, whose offices are in Wandegeya, a robust business centre in Kampala also known for its vibrant nightlife, manufactures packages and distributes wines and juices all over East Africa. Sitting at the helm of a company with an estimated worth of over $350,000, Ukkonika's success is no mean achievement at a time when there are still few female winemakers world over--and even fewer from Africa.
Today, Ukkonika works with Ugandan farmers, most of them women, to grow fruits that provide raw material for her industry. "Growing up, they told us to wait for our husbands to give us everything. But now, with the women's rights movement, everything has changed," she says. "We must not just talk about liberating women. We must put our talk into action and empower them."
Cultural and religious factors, along with lacklustre agricultural policies, have often put massive barriers in the way of female entrepreneurs in the sector, and Ukkonika is determined to break stereotypes and show that women can make money out of the country's agricultural bounty.
"Our young people are running away but there is a lot of money to be made here in Africa. We have land, good weather, everything we need," Ukkonika says.
Whether they are farming for sale or home consumption, women in sub-Saharan Africa contribute up to 80% of the labour force in the agricultural sector, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Yet, still as part of tradition, they do not own the land they work on and do not have much say over the produce arising out of their labour.
African agricultural productivity is still well below the global average. The continent still spends an estimated $35bn on food imports--excluding fish--according to the 2014 Africa Progress Report, in part because of the out-dated farming measures that have been I passed on from generation to generation. This in turn leads...