On a hot afternoon when Arua is boiling with trade and business, the roads are busy with trucks driving past hither and thither to Kampala and to other markets. Arua is the intersection of trade for Uganda, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of boda boda riders cruise past. Here time is of the essence.
The world passes by so fast if you just watch. Pedestrian traders comb the streets as differently branded Land Cruisers raise dust to arrive yet in time in another community. This is not your usual location for aid and things like that. Here everything is business.
The previous days and nights have been very cold with showers running through the night. If you are a first time visitor to Arua, you might be forgiven to assume that this is the case with the weather here and always.
This Wednesday, the weather is tired of pretending. The rains have done their due diligence to the farmers and now they seek to take a break. The sun takes up this opportunity to shine with envy, erasing all the good deeds of the rains. But alas, it may have to work harder.
Today is Anne Hope Anguyo’s day. At a previous training when the participants were asked to name the people they look up to, her name was mentioned and approved with a unanimous vote. She is the epitome of role model here in the land of honey and sunflower.
At Desert Breeze Hotel, she appears like a model of Arapapa; prim, elegant and graceful like she is ready for a catwalk on a red carpet in a simple kitenge dress with her hands drowned in the dress pockets and a chequered designer bag hanging by her shoulders. Her hair is emblazoned in red tint. You don’t need to be told that she is one person who appreciates class. Later, I learned that this is her. Smartness is a part of her every day menu. She is always dressed to the nines.
Anne is a farmer. Her day starts at Ramic Agri Investments where she supervises the works being done. Here, she has poured her heart. On this one acre of land in Muni, she has established a greenhouse project where she grows peppers. “I harvest 200 kilograms of pepper every week. The demand is too much and we can’t meet it.” Says Anne as she guides us through this well fed greenhouse. The peppers are the kind that you would say went to “international school”. They exude nothing but great investment of health in them.
A trained teacher, when education as a vocation was not cutting the edge for her, she sought greener pastures. Unlike many who leave the country, hope decided to go back home. She went to Arua and there she joined DFCU Bank, a place where she grew to become the branch manager. But in all this she had a plan. “I’d promised myself not to work for more than 10 years. Every passing year, I’d double my effort to hit the target.”
Those years came by so fast and soon they passed. At the time, she had UGX 20 million saved up on her account. She decided to start there.
Today, we stand here at her farm where she is growing peppers in a greenhouse and vegetables. In addition, she keeps rabbits, pigs and fish. “In the near future, I want to venture into meat processing.” Either she has such a gifted hand or she is truly dedicated to her job because all her products look extremely healthy.
In the other corner of the farm is another work of her hand; sunflower oil processing. She buys sunflower seeds from different farmers and processes it into sunflower oil. Again, she is overwhelmed by numbers. The demand for the “Yummy Oil” supersedes her production at the moment. “My plan is to expand. We want to get to production of 500 litres of oil per hour but as for now, our machine is yet to hit the target.” There are a number of recently packaged oil bottles in different measurements. She picks up the bottles examining them with her eyes. She asks the operations manager how many litres have been produced yet before dashing off to the store where all the sunflower is kept. “We work with other farmers who supply us with seeds.” She digs into a sack with seeds and feels the texture of the seeds as explaining to us.
The afternoon is already hot but the heat from the processing unit is not any kind. Beads of sweat well up on her face running down from her red hair but that does not stop her from continuing with the work.
Behind the processing plant is a sunflower garden. She is involved in the entire value chain of sunflower oil. With all the bloom that comes with the yellow plant, one can only wonder how much life Hope gets to spend most of her time interacting with these natural yellow beauties.
When she is done with her morning routines of working at the farm and making the day’s deliveries, Hope goes to the Le Tsuba Hotel, a boutique hotel she is constructing in Mvara, an affluent neighbourhood within Arua. The blue marble work of design gives you a view of Arua town and the golf and tennis courts. “Arua is short of accommodation. Even with this, we will still need more.”
As she stands in the middle of the sunflower garden, you cannot fail but notice that she too is another sunflower glowing and radiating with beauty. “I established this demonstration farm for the women of Arua to know that they too can make it.”
Anne believes there is still more work to be done. “I still have a lot of things to do and I know I’ll do them.” I observe as we bid our farewell that in all the running about, her sneakers are still as white as they were at start. But don’t they say cleanliness is next to godliness?
Every morning, she loads the oil into her car boot and heads off to Arua town to sell. “Your boot should be an income generating store. Never move with an empty boot.” She keeps a blue notebook where she records every sale she makes. And there are many. They come through physical sales and mobile money payments.It is out of this fullness of her heart that all this generosity flows.
The farm is open for women to come and learn. In addition, she has come to be the living hope, just like her name, to many of these women. Her confidence in self and God has taught her that it can be done. Everyday she wakes up with a determination to touch someone’s life, supporting as many women as she can in as many ways as she can.
This visit was made possible by Barbara Kasekende.
All photos by Jovan Kiirya