Finding Connection in Kikuji: How One Woman Helped Struggling Women Become Business Owners

by | Aug 30, 2019 | Seeds: Our Blog

A part of the East Africa Leadership Program Series

This year, TPP entered a new stage of its East Africa programming. Focusing specifically on grantmaking to burgeoning community leaders in Kenya and Uganda who have the potential to make real, lasting change, TPP and its East African Leadership team—all TPP grantees themselves—mentor and support these early-stage changemakers to help ensure their success.

Last year, Aisha from Kikuji, a semi-remote village in Uganda, was struggling to support her family of five. She was jobless, and her husband’s income could barely support the family, which resulted in their three children being unable to attend school.
All of that changed, however, when Aisha met Kizza Gertrude.

Kizza Gertrude started the Tukulakulane Women’s Mushroom Project to provide low-income women the opportunity to have a secure financial future. After moving to Kikuji in 2016, she witnessed extreme poverty: mothers who could not afford to feed their children or send them to school. This harsh reality moved Kizza—who was well-known for her leadership and farming skills back in Ddembe, her former place of residence—to start the Project. Her intent was to bring hope and feelings of solidarity to these low-income women, who before Gertrude, could see no way out of their unfortunate circumstances.

Originally comprised of 13 women, Gertrude initially started the group to help the women save money. They soon realized, though, that you cannot save what you do not earn, so the women decided to enter into mushroom farming as an avenue for raising money and sustaining themselves. However, they needed an initial influx of funds in order to afford a mushroom shelter and a community mushroom garden. Gertrude, whose daughter had recently received a TPP grant for her tailoring business, immediately thought that The Pollination Project could perhaps help her as well.

Gertrude was granted in October 2019 through a Flow Fund, a designated fund that is awarded to grassroots leaders and organizations through our Grant Advisors. The women immediately constructed the shelter and planted mushrooms. So far, they have generated $200 income from selling the crops. This income was used to expand on the business and recruit additional members to the group. To date, the group has an astounding 20 members.

In this one small village in Uganda, these women are now independent business owners, however they continue to work together for the benefit of the group by providing mushrooms for group sales, the income from which is then split among the women and saved to further expand the business. In each other, they find support, friendship, and solidarity—all because of Gertrude’s vision and her inspiration to make a better life for her neighbors.

And what about Aisha? Well, she’s doing just fine. As one of the 20 members of the Project, she now proudly owns 70 mushroom spawns, and in one day alone, she harvests 7 kilos – around 15 pounds – of mushrooms and sells them at $2 per kilo. For the group, she sun-dries her mushrooms and sells them to the group at wholesale price, a significant savings for them.

No longer destitute and overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, Aisha and her husband can now afford to support their family—and two of Aisha’s children are even attending school.

TPP is grateful to Kizza Gertrude for her amazing work in uplifting the women of Kikuji! TPP thanks Suzan Joy for her assistance in writing this article.

Written by Carolyn Ashworth