Transforming lives and local communities through business linkages in tourism and agriculture

Transforming lives and local communities through business linkages in tourism and agriculture
Eliezer Magezi, a bee-keeper in Fort Portal town, displaying some of the honey that is produced by Bunyangabu Beekeepers Cooperative Limited (PHOTO: EDGAR BATTE/UNDP UGANDA 2014).

With no money to pay for university education following his A’ levels in 1993, Eliezer Magezi, turned to bee-keeping to earn a living. He had grown up helping out his father, who had practised apiculture on a small scale, and knew he could bank his future on honey.

With this dream in mind, he started mobilising other bee-keepers in Kabarole and Kasese districts, and in 2001, founded Bunyangabu Beekeepers Cooperative Limited (BBC).   

Highlights

  • Bringing together local producers and service providers into the tourism supply chain is critical to developing inclusive tourism business models.
  • Increasing linkages between tourism and agriculture has potential to revitalize the two sectors and boost economic growth.
  • Private sector investment and strengthened partnerships and involvement of local communities will ensure sustainability.

Magezi explains: “I spoke to them about the need of coming together to process honey. They had been selling their honey using rudimentary methods, one of these being using a spoon.”

By 2003 the group, which had grown to 120 bee-keepers, was producing up to six tonnes of honey. However, poor branding, packaging, and marketing meant they could only sell each kilogram at UgShs1, 800, mostly to walk-in clients in the community and a few outlets in the capital city in Kampala.

In November 2013, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) through the Development of Inclusive Markets in Tourism project (DIMATO) held a series of business linkage workshops with different actors in the tourism value chain sector, which resulted in a number of partnerships being formed. Bunyangabu Beekeepers Cooperative Limited and Andrew and Brothers’ supermarket, is one of the successful ones that have started bearing fruit.  Fort Portal town in Kabarole district is a gateway to one of the major tourist attractions in Uganda such as the Rwenzori Mountains, and Queen Elizabeth National Park, the second largest game park in the country. Andrews and Brother’s Supermarket is one of the biggest retailers in Fort Portal, and is popular with both locals and tourists.

“Andrews and Brother’s Supermarket had been looking for a reliable supplier to provide them with quality honey which BBC was willing to do, and that is how they linked up,” explains Jackie Kuteesa, Finance and administration officer, DIMATO.

At the time of signing the partnership with Andrew and Brothers Supermarket, BBC, was making about UgShs 600,000 per month. Today, the group has quadrupled its earnings and produces 13 tonnes of honey annually. The membership has also grown to 340 farmers – including 90 women, and 70 youth.  Through the supermarket, the group has also started supplying honey to Kyaninga lodge, a premier tourist outlet that overlooks Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Increased market for BBC products has led to improved quality of the honey, and also encouraged members to diversify in to other by-products such as candles to increase their revenue. Through the project, business skills training will be provided to BBC to improve book keeping, packaging and marketing of their products. Before the end of the year, the group will benefit from another business linkage with Kabarole Tours, currently still under negotiation, to develop a bee-keeping tourism experience for tourists.

Like elsewhere in the world, the tourism industry in Uganda provides an important export market for craft products. These not only enrich the travel experience of tourists, they are also an important contributor to a country’s economy and help to employ artisans that preserve the cultural heritage, while generating an important source of income through the informal sector.

Rubona Basket Weavers Association (RUBAWA), a local crafts group is about to benefit from a business linkage similar to BBC’s. The 222-member association located in Rubona village, 20 kilometres outside of Fort Portal has signed a partnership to supply arts and crafts to Ndali lodge, located some 24 kilometers south of Fort Portal, on the borders of the Bunyaruguru Crater Lake.

“The linkage between RUBAWA and Ndali lodge is expected to increase revenues and profitability for the artisans by increasing their access to the tourism market and creating more jobs for the community” explains Kuteesa.

Kellen Kenganzi, the salesperson of RUBAWA, which started business in 2005, says the group makes over 100 baskets per week, each retailing at Ug Shs30, 000. “In a month we can make between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 shillings,” reveals Kenganzi, 30, who says she uses the money to meet her needs and to support her mother and three younger sisters.

Promoting increased linkages between tourism and agriculture is part of UNDP’s support to Government of Uganda to revitalise the two sectors, increase their interdependence and boost growth of the economy.

Tourism has been identified as one of the primary growth sectors to enable the country realise its Vision 2040 target of achieving a middle income status in 30 years. The sector, which is key in generating employment, incomes and improving livelihoods, has continued to grow over the last five years and in 2012 contributed US$735 million to Uganda’s GDP. Agriculture, on the other hand remains the dominant economic sector, accounting for nearly 24% of GDP.

DIMATO, which is funded by a grant of USD 1,250,000 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), aims to empower the poor and local communities to harness benefits from the tourism industry by increasing their participation as entrepreneurs, employees and consumers in tourism related income-generating initiatives while the Development of Inclusive Markets in Agriculture and Trade (DIMAT), which is financed from UNDP core resources to a tune of USD 2.6m, is intended to create market access and improve the value of agricultural produce.

Through the two projects, UNDP hopes to create both forward and backward linkages between the two sectors through strategic interventions using the value chain approach to increase private sector investment as well as participation of the poor and local communities into the tourism and agriculture value chains.

“Agri-tourism represents one of the best opportunities to develop inclusive tourism business models that bring together local producers and service providers into the tourism supply chain. It enables local producers and service providers to supply the required goods and services and provides buyers with the skills to develop sustainable partnerships with local producers”, says Wilson Kwamya, Team Leader, Growth and Poverty Reduction, UNDP.