From One Chicken to a Kraal: Benna is Leading the Kiwagama Community Digitalization by Example

In the Ugandan suburb of Kiwagama South in Jinja District, amidst lush maize fields, coffee plantations, and diverse livestock farms, Mirembe Benna Kulaba is hope for transformation. Her journey from a city nurse to a thriving farmer is a testament to her resilience, dedication, and the power of digitalization. As a wife, mother of seven, and community leader, Benna has leveraged digital tools to revolutionize her farm and uplift her entire Kiwagama community.

A Dream Amidst Challenges

Benna’s story began in secondary school, where she met her husband, Kulaba Ben. United by shared dreams and ambitions, they embarked on a journey to create a sustainable livelihood in Jinja City. Benna worked as a nurse to support her large family, while her husband owned a shop. However, the high cost of living and the growing needs of their seven children prompted her to reconsider her options.

Remembering her roots in Kiwagama, she made the bold decision to return to farming alongside her husband, Kulaba Ben. “We took a leap of faith returning to Kiwagama,” recalls Benna. “Farming became our pathway to sustainability, or so we initially thought.” However, farming presented unique challenges, including high labor costs, unreliable fertilizer supplies, and limited market access, which hindered their vision of cultivating various crops and expanding livestock farming.

Farming was not part of Benna’s original plan, and facing these challenges was disheartening. Having witnessed her mother struggle with the arduous farming process, Benna had never envisioned herself becoming a farmer. “I never thought I would end up as a farmer,” Benna remarked, “but circumstances pushed me back, and I decided to make the best out of it.”

The Turning Point: Mobipay’s Arrival

The tide began to turn with the introduction of Mobipay, a solution provider under the Digital Economy Program aimed at empowering rural farmers and extending services to last-mile individuals. Recognizing Benna’s potential, Mobipay appointed her as a Digital Community Entrepreneur (DCE).

Empowering Through Digitalization

Mobipay didn’t just change Benna’s life; it empowered her to transform her community. Through digital literacy trainings, Benna mastered smart farming techniques using Mobipay’s platforms. She attended seminars where she met fellow farmers, exchanged ideas, and learned about innovative agricultural practices. Mobipay also trained Benna and equipped her as one of their paid agents, providing her with a profiling device to digitize farming practices in her community. These experiences not only expanded her knowledge but also fueled her ambition to lead digitalization efforts in Kiwagama. “Mobipay was a game-changer for me,” Benna says. “It provided me with essential tools and training, which I was eager to pass on to my community, bringing me an extra income.”

Building a Legacy: From Chickens to Cows

With her savings, Benna invested in poultry farming, starting with just a few chicken. As her flock grew, she expanded her operations, using profits to purchase goats and eventually cows. This venture, which she proudly calls the “Mobipay Farm,” transformed her family’s financial stability. Her savings facilitated the purchase of her first cow, which soon multiplied, allowing her to milk and sell ten cups of milk a day. Benna’s dedication paid off, and soon she was selling eggs, chicken, and milk. She also diversified her farm to cultivate a variety of crops including cocoa, coffee, maize, and bananas, and raised livestock such as pigs, chickens, and goats on her 3-acre land, creating a steady income stream that transformed her family’s financial situation. She is now able to take her remaining five children to school, cater for basic needs and still sustain her home with enough savings per month.

Transforming the Community

Benna’s impact extends far beyond her farm. Through Mobipay, she established a savings group in Kiwagama that currently has 30 members. As a Mobipay agent, she has profiled all local members of the farming savings group, reducing the previous risks of theft and fraud as previously faced within her Kiwagama Farmers Association circle. Farmers now track their sales and expenses accurately, no longer worrying about record-keeping or documenting meetings. With Mobipay’s platform, Kiwagama now has facilitated access to inputs, ensuring fair prices for products, and connecting farmers with suppliers of high-quality fertilizers.

Her husband, Kulaba Ben, proudly adds, “Benna’s dedication and hard work have transformed our family and community. She’s an inspiration to us all.”

Benna’s leadership has also empowered other community members. Through the savings group she organized, farmers have been able to invest in essential resources like solar lights and irrigation equipment. One member who received irrigation equipment commented, “Without Benna’s initiative, I would never have been able to afford this. She is not just a farmer; her success shows that with the right support, we can all achieve great things.”

Beyond her agricultural achievements, Benna’s contributions to her community are profound. She supports her elderly mother, having built her a house with farming proceeds. She also counsels’ teenagers, advocating for education and providing first aid training for common ailments in her community. Her leadership extends to being a community doctor and a role model, inspiring others through her dedication and success.

A Brighter Future for Kiwagama

Benna’s aspirations go beyond her current achievements. She envisions a fully digitized Kiwagama, where no farmer is left behind. Her hope is that all farmers are profiled, and their transactions are seamless. This transformation would mean improved market access, better financial management, and enhanced productivity for all. “Through digitization, the future of Kiwagama is bright,” Benna says. “We’re on a path to greater efficiency and prosperity.”

Despite her success, Benna still hopes for expanded market access, addressing communal theft, and improving irrigation and storage solutions in her community. She actively addresses community issues, from pests and diseases affecting crop prices to the need for milling machinery for rice and maize.

The Impact

Benna’s journey has had a significant impact on her life and her Kiwagama community. Digitizing transactions has streamlined processes and left a trail of benefits. Through digitalization, she has improved her farming operations, ensured financial stability for her family, and uplifted her entire village. Her story is proof of the transformative capabilities of the digital economy and the potential for community-driven progress. “Benna’s work with Mobipay has brought a new level of efficiency to our farming practices,” says a member of her savings group. “We’re able to plan better and save more, thanks to her efforts.”

Benna’s journey is far from over. With Mobipay by her side, the future holds endless possibilities for her and the Kiwagama community. Through her efforts, Kiwagama is on a path to becoming a model of rural development and digital transformation, showcasing the power of determination, community support, and digitally enabled farming communities.

“I’ve learned to love farming even more,” reflects Benna. “Every day, I go to my garden; if I don’t, I count it as a loss. Mobipay has taken me through a digitization process, and I’m grateful for the job as an agent and the opportunity to lead digitalization in my village.”

With Mobipay and the Digital Economy Program’s current digitization efforts, we anticipate reduced theft, accurate record-keeping, and improved financial management for all farmers across various value chains. Farmers should have better access to markets, fair pricing for their products, and connections with suppliers of quality inputs and fertilizers. Digitization of farming practices is intended to increase productivity and financial stability for many farming families in several last-mile communities.