Kennedy's Journey from Village Despair to Economic Triumph

Kennedy irrigating his vegetable garden
Tuesday, January 16, 2024

In every young man's heart, the allure of urban life often overshadows the perceived hopelessness of village existence. Being in the village is sometimes seen as an object of ridicule among peers. However, 32-year-old Kennedy chose to defy these norms and chart a different path.

A father of three, Kennedy initially lost hope of pursuing his education due to the overwhelming challenge of school fees. Despite efforts from friends and relatives towards seemingly supporting his education, eventually, disappointment was the outcome. Kennedy reflects, "I wanted to become an accountant, but as each day passed, it became increasingly clear that it was nothing more than a dream."

To make ends meet, Kennedy engaged in various forms of casual labor. He left no stone unturned, undertaking any task his hands could find to fend off the specter of hunger. "I did anything I could to avoid going to bed on an empty stomach," he shares.

Despite his relentless efforts, the money he earned barely covered the cost of food and shelter. Kennedy learned the art of surviving with the bare minimum.

As life continued to present challenges, the weight of responsibility as a young father left Kennedy with no choice but to make a painful decision to return to his village and seek a fresh start.

Kennedy irrigating his vegetable garden
Kennedy irrigating his vegetable garden

In 2021, Kennedy made the difficult decision to relocate to his village in Omugo subcounty. Adapting to this new reality took him over six months.

One fateful morning, while on his daily walks, Kennedy encountered a group of youth gathered under a tree in his neighborhood. Driven by curiosity, he approached and joined their discussion. "They were talking about money and groups, and though I didn't fully grasp it at the time, I decided to stay and learn," he recalls.

The modest youth meeting under the tree has since evolved into the Okubani Village Savings and Loans Association, one of the 850 savings groups initiated by World Vision under the SUPREME project. Kennedy now serves as the group's secretary.

At the group's inception, they received training in business planning, financial literacy, and enterprise development. They were provided with a savings kit that set them on their path to a new financial journey.

For Kennedy, agriculture became the cornerstone of his financial aspirations. "During the training, my eyes were opened to the opportunities around me. I began to see business prospects in the resources at my disposal," he says.

Kennedy became a diligent saver within the 25-member savings group, setting aside whatever he could afford. "Some days, I could save only one share, but on good days, I managed to save all five shares," he says. Due to his consistent involvement in the group, he was entrusted with the responsibility of mobilizing other members.

Through the Security, Protection and Economic Empowerment (SUPREME) project, World Vision introduced the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG), which awards a startup grant to one participant from a savings group with the most promising business idea. Kennedy was selected by his group to participate in the EDG program to implement his vegetable production enterprise. He received extensive training in vegetable farming, business management, and a cash grant of UGX4.5 million (USD 1,179)

"When I was informed that I had received the grant, I could hardly believe it. It was a dream come true for me," he exclaims. "I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change my life forever."

With his grant, Kennedy rented a one-acre piece of land for a year and purchased vegetable seedlings, pesticides, and an irrigation kit. He meticulously planned his garden, dividing it into four quarters, each dedicated to different high-value vegetables – tomatoes, eggplants, spinach, and other greens.

Kennedy's hard work paid off, as he now earns an average of UGX 1.8 million (USD 470 )each quarter after a three-month season, totaling over  UGX 5 million (USD 1,300) from his one-acre plot. Thanks to his irrigation system, he can grow vegetables year-round, attracting buyers from various districts.

Kennedy irrigating his  flourishing vegetable garden
Kennedy irrigating his  flourishing vegetable garden

"I aspire to acquire a larger piece of land to become the leading producer of fresh vegetables in the region," Kennedy declares. His garden has also become a demonstration site for other youth in his village, with Kennedy mentoring over 10 young individuals in the art of vegetable production.

With the income from his garden, Kennedy now pays the school fees for three of his siblings, enabling them to attend some of the best schools in the region. "The greatest gift I can give to my family is the education I never had the opportunity to receive," he affirms. He has also launched a mobile money business in his village and built a house for his family.

Kennedy's gratitude is expressed by his desire to empower other youth in his community, stating, "The best way to thank World Vision for changing my life is by empowering other young people in my community. I've been empowered to empower."

Story and Photo by: Brian Jakisa Mungu- Communications Officer.