In the 42 days of lockdown, Robert Kabushenga (RK) is taking off time to run a daily mentorship program called #40DayMentor hosted on his Twitter spaces. In this episode he host Anittah Owomugisha (AO) to talk on Farm Produce Distribution
RK: Anittah Owomugisha. Young entrepreneur, someone who has achieved way more than someone may gauge. Welcome, it is a pleasure to have you.
AO: Thank you!
RK: Could you tell us a bit about your self
AO: I have been thinking of how impactful this #40Daymentor has been. Thank you Robert for this platform. It is good to know of the stories of people that have appeared here.
RK: We are dealing with human experiences. What’s your journey?
AO: I was born in Kanungu in a simple family. Last born in a family of three. My story starts with tragedy. I lost my dad at 6. I grew up with a mother who played roles. All my childhood was around Kanungu District. I discovered that I was exceptionally good at math. I decided to leverage it and stand out.
RK: Where did you go to school?
AO: It’s called Kirima Parents Primary School.
RK: Where did do you wind up for high school?
AO: I only knew a few schools where my brother and sister went. I wanted to go to Butobere High School where my brother was but I later found out it was a boys’ school. Then a friend told me about Maryhill High School. Knowing that I would be away from my mother for some time, I looked around for something to boost my stay in school. In my P7 holiday, I reared a pig which I sold when I was going to S1. I made it to Maryhill. I performed exceptionally well at my school but it was short-lived. I met the cool kids from other schools that threatened me. I remember one girl said “Hi” and I responded “I’m fine”. I had struggles. I struggled to fit. In fact, I remember I began bed wetting.
RK: That is psychological, sorry about that
AO: I feared to sleep because I would wet my bed, so I decided to spend the night reading. I made friends with the girls who used to read at night. I took it upon myself to improve English and became better.
RK: You have humbled me with your story, so where does the desire to make it take you?
AO: It made me so curious. As children, my brother used to dismantle and assemble things together. I became attracted to wires. I was already good at maths. I started looking for people who had made it. There was a girl, who had made it to Nabisunsa and I wanted to be like her. She doesn’t know it. So I also made it to Nabisunsa. By then, I was more confident.
RK: You had also upgraded from Mbarara to Kampala?
AO: Of course and I was not about to go back. My aunt came through for me. But I also learnt that Nabisunsa used to give bursaries to the best students and that became my drive. I got the bursary and I opened a bank account at Crane Bank and kept the money. In holidays, I made jewellery which I sold around. The only thing I forgot doing was having a social life at school.
I topped the class for three terms. I was able to make it to Makerere University to study Electrical Engineering.
At Makerere I felt very happy. I thought I was on top of the game but the people I met in class from Budo and Namagunga was another challenge. I decided to befriend them. I had to connect with them. Today, they are my friends.
Something I learnt from Budionians that I wish I had learnt earlier was to prioritise. To know that you can do multiple things but still excel.
After campus, I landed a consultancy under the supervision of Mr. Wyclif Jjagwe. When I earned my first salary, I decided to change my wardrobe. I sent some money to mother to buy a goat. I joined Total and then Umeme.
RK: In this whole journey, when did you buy your first car?
AO: I was at Umeme. It was such an achievement.
At Umeme, we were 8 engineers recruited at the same time. I knew I needed to start out. I did not have enough hands on experience, so I leveraged my strengths to stand out. At the end of the day, these little steps were shaping my CEO aspirations.
I became pregnant at that time, which set me back. At university I was a mama but I picked up myself and I was ready to move on. I kept on pushing. After my maternity I took on a new job. I then took on Allen Asiimwe’s Girls for Girls Programme.
RK: You must have met Hillary Bamulinde?
AO: No, he had moved on. The job was too engaging. I struggled with imposter syndrome. I felt like I was being a fraud. Till today, it has not gone away but I have learnt to live with it.
RK: The next time it happens, just remember that a girl who moves to Kirima to Umeme, can do it all.
AO: Thank you. It was on that job that I realised that I was putting in a lot but I was not getting out as an individual. So I decide to do commercial farming. I did my research and zeroed in on passion fruit. I asked my aunt to lend me her land to grow the passion fruit. That became my weekend programme.
Six months later we lost a big part of the garden. We applied a lot of fertilisers. The garden we were supposed to harvest in two years, we did only for one year. We moved on to date.
RK: How do you arrive at Rowtan foods?
AO: In January 2020, my job became insecure. I decided I needed to find my own income other than lean on the job. I had just started growing garlic commercially. When lock down happened, I quickly noticed there was big gap during lockdown. The farmers were to have a bumper harvest but not connected to the market.
At that very moment I decided to think through. I had harvested passion fruits. I decided to be fully in. I wanted to make sure that I had limited time to do my day job. I decided to start an e-commerce platform. I knew I did not have the time to negotiate with people that is why it is fixed.
RK: What exactly does Rowtan foods do it?
AO: We are connecting farmers to the market. A customer determines how they want and we package it for them. We also have packages for those who just want fruits delivered to their doorstep.
RK: Is it working for the farmers you have?
AO: For the large part, it is not working for them. they have a lot of produce but at hand we have a retail business.
Comrade Otoa: Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. There is this desire to support the girl child. How do you run the girl mentor program?
AO: Girls for girls’ program gets the girl child and brings out the leader in you. Every girl is mentored and then she also mentors others. The program has made me open up a number of opportunities for girls.
No’wa Ruhanga: Anita, your story is very inspirational. From Kirima to here, please don’t stop.
RK: Is that what you guys call positive vibes?
Viola Nuwaha: Looking back, what would you tell your younger self?
AO: I would say to Anittah to push and stretch herself further.
Joachim Lubega: How would you advise someone with an interest in faming?
AO: Farming is not a way of living. It should be looked at as a business in its entirety. If you are going to do farming. Farming needs time and passion. Farming is a high risk, high return business. If you want to learn, start with a small garden as you learn the dynamics.
Johnn Nuwamanya: How have you been able to balance your job and farming? Have you considered group farming? What is your growth plan?
AO: Honestly speaking, there is no balance. Something is always infringed on. I have put systems in place that guide in the running of Rowtan Foods. My sister has come in to offer support. I keep pushing myself how far I can go. In the future, we look at digitalising the entire value chain in the future.
Doreen Namutebi: I would like to collaborate with you since we are both in the mentorship space.
Dr. Samuel Nsubuga: We’ve preached the gospel of passion in agriculture but there is a missing link we can call the business model.
Irene Mutuzo: You mentioned that along the way you made mistakes, how did you go about it?
AO: We are like weeds; we always find a way to come out.
Charlotte Kemigisha: Agriculture is a science. Make use of the scientists. Make use of the different government programs that have been put in place.
AO: I want to thank Charlotte for the kind words. I would like also thank Sandra Nabasirye for making farming very sexy and attractive for many of us to be there.
RK: Thank you Anittah for being here.
AO: I am so happy for the opportunity you have accorded me. I think and I am convinced that implementing block chain would be able to address the questions of middle men. For someone who is doing farming.