Mr Obonyo Alex from “The Kalongo Times” sat down for an interview with Mr Okidi Alfred to discuss his business journey and his plans for the future. He talked to him about how his business has impacted his life and contributed to the socio-economic growth and development of Kalongo Town Council. The transcript of the interview is below.
Can you tell me who you are and what the name of your business is?
I am honoured to have you and you are most welcome. I am Mr Okidi Alfred the proprietor of this Agricultural in-put business by the name of PURA-PURA. The name PURA-PURA was chosen in reference to “working the land” to uplift oneself out of poverty by engaging in as opposed to being idle and engaging in underhand methods to eke a living.
When did you start you business?
I started my business in 2014 after finalising a certificate course in Agriculture in 2013. I then decided in 2015 to go for a two-year course in Agriculture and in 2017 was awarded a diploma certificate. I have since then engaged in Business and sometimes providing the software in terms of sensitization and training of farmers in various areas of agricultural improvement.
What kind of business are you engaged in?
I deal in agricultural inputs which range from seeds, pesticide, protective wear like gumboots and weed killer among others.
How have you progressed since you opened?
I invested a startup capital of ugx100,000- but have since grown over time amidst the challenging environment. Now I can buy stock on a regular basis at a minimum of ugx.1,000,000.
What are the challenges you have experienced in the course of running your business?
Prices have gone up and sometimes the quality of the seeds are bad as some do not grow and this agitates the farmers and therefore bad for business. Farmers are not well versed with the type of seeds and correct timing/season, conditions for planting the crops and as such the seeds fail to germinate or wither within a short period and this casts the supplier in a bad light as they construe that the seeds sold to them are bad. Farmers not using the inputs correctly and consequently end up with adverse consequences. We try to as often as possible buy from certified suppliers like equator seeds and others, but sometimes the stock is unavailable you buy from the open market which sometimes does not guarantee quality.
What achievements have you registered over the period?
I have grown and my business has helped me go back to school and qualify with a diploma in agriculture. I have also been able to support my family with the proceeds of the business. I also go on radio talk shows to educate the populace on various farming techniques, available agricultural inputs, and how to use them. You realize that much as the indications on the label are clearly written, many farmers still find it hard to comprehend and, in most cases, end up basing on assumptions that often leads to undesirable outcomes.
Where do you see yourself in the next short to mid term?
The business is growing and I intend to continue dealing in Agricultural inputs with the possibility of extending branches or outlets to reach farmers in the neighbouring sub-counties. I also intend to improve my capacity through short courses tailored to a specific area of interest for improving agriculture in my community and possibly enrol for a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture.
Tell us about some of the products you are dealing in?
As I said earlier I sell seeds like onions, cabbages, egg plants and some chemicals like rocket for spraying armyworms, grasshoppers and other pests. We also deal in fungicide like Indofil for spraying early blight and Nemathoid which attacks tomatoes and eggplants. We also have herbicide non-selective and selective, this for drying grass before ploughing and selective is for weeding cereal and other crops.
Do you employ other people besides yourself to help the operation of the business?
I have two helpers who support me in running the business as sometimes I am engaged in sensitization and training of farmers whenever approached by NGO’s and other bodies operating in the area. But most times my presence is vital as the farmers seek technical advisory support on the input they intend to purchase.
Tell us about any success story?
I have registered a number of successes stories from farmers who come and buy seeds and other inputs and also sought advisory services like one young man Mr Oloya who operates a small farm (about one and a half kilometres away) engaging in cultivating African eggplant (Tula), eggplants, tomatoes, onions and cabbages. He is a role model for the youth who are now venturing into vegetable production. He has become a key supplier to the market vendors of Kalongo main market dealing in such products; the vendors flock to his small farm and buy from the source.
In this way money circulates in the economy of Kalongo Town.
What is your parting shot?
My interest is to empower people to engage in agriculture in a more modern way that can generate more income in their hands and subsequently improve their living conditions. At the moment the few people like Mr. Oloya are supplying the market with vegetables but this is not enough as many still depend on the traders from Bugisu sub-region who come every Monday to supply onions, cabbages, tomatoes which equally does well here when appropriate attention and action is done through the chain of production. In this way money that should circulate in the economy of Kalongo is taken away with no return as the Mbale traders do not buy anything to take back with them.
What in your opinion needs to be done to improve business in Kalongo?
Many people are not well informed especially on farming as a business. There is a need for sensitization of the farmers to appreciate the type of inputs they need and how to use them. This would go a long way into creating customer satisfaction and subsequently lead to an increase in sales which is good for the business growth and development of Kalongo Town in the broader sense.
Obonyo Alex is The Kalongo Times, Bureau Chief, Kalongo Town Council. He currently serves on the Board of Governors at St. Charles Lwanga’s College Kalongo and on the Pader Abim Community Multipurpose Electric Co-operative Society Limited (PACMECS); a cooperative dealing with the distribution of electricity in the northern service territory. He is a member of the Board of Directors chairing its Finance and Human Resource Committee. Between 2016 to July 2018 he also served on the Board of Governors at St. Kizito Hospital Matany in Karamoja. Alex worked at Dr Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital for 28 years (1990 to 2018), and for 14 of those years, he was the Hospital Administrator. He has a Masters of Science in Health Services Management and a bachelor’s degree in Administrative Studies. Obonyo Alex is also a local Kalongo businessman.