Delight Uganda produces fruit juice and seedlings. In doing so, it provides training and income opportunities for farmers. Women are impacted most: Managing farming as a business and intercropping help them feed their families. In this Impact Story, founder Dr Julian Omalla shares her story.
To start, could you briefly introduce yourself?
I am a social entrepreneur, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, and the CEO of Delight Uganda. In 1996, I founded Delight Uganda to support fellow women in South Sudan and Uganda. This is my passion.
In addition, I sit on several boards, like the Private Sector Foundation Uganda and the Uganda Gender and Growth Coalition. I am also a member of the Presidential Investor Roundtable as an advisor on agriculture.
What does Delight Uganda do?
In 2012, we bought 1700 acres of land in Nwoya district in northern Uganda. There, we plant mangoes, lemons, and guavas to produce juice and seedlings. In our orchards, we also intercrop with food and cash crops to improve the income and food security of local communities.
In addition, we run Delight Farm Institute, where we offer farm-based training to members of the local community. We show them how to raise seedlings, intercrop, and apply post-harvest treatments. Trainees then supply us as out-growers and gain a sustainable income. To improve our knowledge, we constantly invite experts to share their insights.
What is the special value your company creates for low-income communities?
On the consumption level, we offer high-quality organic products at affordable prices. Our juices are consumed mostly within Uganda, leading to improved nutrition. If our company didn’t exist, products would need to be imported. Buying locally instead stabilises prices and brings money into the community.
As for the institute, it is one of its kind. People can come and learn even if they haven’t finished school. This is important, since there are many unemployed youths in northern Uganda – especially those who grew up in the refugee camps and missed formal education and parenting.
Managing farming as a business and intercropping also helps to feed families. Community earnings increase. The impact can be observed on the ground: The infrastructure improves, schools open, and supermarkets appear.
How does Delight Uganda impact women in particular?
Women profit the most from our business model. If we train them to conduct farming as a business, they can produce enough to feed their families and make money. Staying close to their homes, they can also raise their younger children. This enables them to balance work and marital duties.
In addition, we are advocating for women’s land rights. Often, women do not own the land they work on and lack the money to buy it. I advocate for their right to use that land without their husbands stealing the products. To do so, we formed an association for supportive husbands, which my husband is the patron of. In the association, we teach men about the benefits of empowering their wives.
In South Sudan, I also trained women in border trade after the war. For these efforts, I was voted Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in the World 2014 by the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC).
How many people do you reach?
Up until now, 14,000 farmers have passed through the institute. Seventy percent of them are women. We have trained these people, visit them regularly and provide extension services. In addition, I have employed 200 people per year since 1986. In South Sudan, I employed about 280 people.
What makes your business model viable?
Our model is very inclusive. We bring everyone on board: the community, researchers, the government, and the consumers. Also, our business is very diversified. Apart from growing fruits, we raise livestock and agro-forestry trees. For example, we restore nature by planting different medicinal trees.
Our total revenue is between 1.1 and 1.2 million dollars per year. About 70 per cent of this revenue is generated in transactions with international organisations and the government. UN Women, for instance, buys our seedlings and we distribute them among vulnerable women. We expect to increase our income when our new factory goes into operation.
How did Covid-19 impact your model?
Our core business – processing and packaging fruit juice – went down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So, I travelled to Northern Uganda instead to do more community work and worked at Delight Farm Institute to organise the farm better and bring more young people into farming as a business. It was the only Institute open during the lockdown. Serving the community is more important for me than just going after the money.
What are your plans for the next decade?
The future looks bright. When I started, people did not believe in me. Now they do. I have brought development partners like UN Women, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, and the government on board. Our model is already being duplicated in other districts of Northern Uganda and will also spread to other countries.
In ten years, we will have impacted one million people. Since our model is expanding and being duplicated, we will impact many more people indirectly. Recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ugandan government. This will boost our cooperation and help the model spread into more regions.
What do you need to realise these plans and scale your business model?
What we need most is technology transfer. We want to cooperate with companies outside Uganda that need our products and can support us in value addition and marketing. We need equity partners with experience in the same field we are in and that are willing to do a co-investment of thirty percent. We need modern equipment to produce dried mangoes or pulp. Also, we are constantly asking ourselves: How can we improve? This search for innovation must go on.
What challenges have you already overcome?
I will tell you about the worst moment of my life. I used to work in South Sudan, where I had a flat and well-functioning business structures. I was big there. Most importantly, I could support the women, who were struggling to provide food for their families. In my bakery, I allowed them to buy on credit in the morning and they returned with money in the evenings. I also trained them on topics like marketing, financial literacy, business and entrepreneurship.
When fighting broke out again, I had to leave everything behind. I lost 3.6 million dollars in property and stocks. After that, I took a bank loan in Uganda and started from zero. It took me two years to regain myself.
I have suffered as a woman, and I have seen fellow women suffer in South Sudan and northern Uganda. Supporting them is my dream. Luckily, my family is always there for me to ensure that I can realise this dream.
What made you start again after losing everything in South Sudan?
Life will never be straight as an entrepreneur. When things are bad, I think more, I plan more, I pray more, and I learn from my failures. God created us with a potential, and we should not give up. It is important to believe in yourself, have a positive attitude and never lose hope.
What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs?
As entrepreneurs, we should be mindful of our faith and our families. Business is not everything. I want to appeal to every woman: You must have time for your children. It costs a society to raise a child. Let us live up to our responsibility, parent our children, train them how to work, and I think the world will be a better place to live in.
My Motto is: “Business is like a wheelbarrow; it stands still until when somebody pushes it.”