Uganda Entrepreneur Finds Fortune in Grasshoppers
Uganda Insects Business Opportunities
MEET the enterprising Ronald Bukenya. “I have always looked for lucrative ventures even while my father was still alive. I used to sell maize with groundnuts while in primary school, for pocket money and never asked for pencils or books from my father,” Bukenya says.
Born in 1983 in Ntungamo town, Bukenya grew up as a carpenter, a skill he got from his father, an expert.
His father would teach him whenever he was home for holidays and weekends.
The death of his father, however, altered everything.
“When he died in 2003, I took responsibility for my four siblings. My mother could not support them alone,” he adds.
He worked in the furniture business in the evenings, weekends and holidays since he was a day student, he reveals.
He soon started a small restaurant and had to stop at senior six to concentrate on looking after his family.
“With the two businesses, I was sure my siblings would get education.”
Bukenya says he wanted to prove that if he did not achieve his dreams through education, he could succeed through personal knowledge. His dreams came true when he started trapping grasshopper.
How he started
It all began when he visited relatives in Masaka and found out that selling grasshopper was lucrative.
He then made inquiries about the instruments used to make the traps.
“I explained the whole process to a welder in Ntungamo and he made similar traps,” he says.
Before his innovation, collecting grasshoppers was done by hand in the grass.
“I built in my father’s land to cut out the cost of rent,” says Bukenya, who reaped sh3m in his first harvest in 2005 during the November- December season.
He later used the money he had got to set up another branch in 2008.
With the second branch, Bukenya now earns between sh5-6m per season. There are two seasons in a year: May and November-December.
How the traps operate
The traps are made using scraps of versatile and Ssembule iron sheets to minimise costs, he says.
The sheets are welded into a drum shape with one end enclosed and with many tiny holes. The holes act as a water passage to let water out in case it rains. The other end remains open, as an entrance for grasshoppers. The drums are placed upright, with the enclosed end at the bottom and the open end at the top. One or two iron sheets are placed in each drum to get grasshoppers directly into the drum. Bright bulbs are put inside to attract grasshoppers.
Bukenya says he gets between sh12-14m annually.
With the profits he has now expanded his restaurant and all the financial needs from his siblings, orphaned relatives, his wife and two children.
He has also bought a plot of land where he is planning to set up a house for his family. He also has a four-acre banana plantation where they get food.
Bukenya says the business is flexible because he sells his traps to wholesalers and does not incur transport costs.
The greatest challenge is skin loss, he says.
“The lights are so strong and attract various insects, notably the Nairobi fly.”
Also, he says one cannot tell the time grasshoppers will come. He cites an instance during the 2007 CHOGM period when he bought all the instruments and grasshoppers never appeared, yet costs such as power and bulbs are non-refundable.
The weather too is a threat. “When there is mist, grasshoppers do not appear,” he says.
In addition, grasshoppers are perishable and can only last a day, he says. Other challenges include high operational costs, such as rent. He pays sh300,000 per season and uses 20 bulbs per season, each bulb is costing sh30,000-50,000.
Bukenya plans to establish branches in other towns and hopes to find a specialist to preserve grasshoppers.
By Paskazia Tumwesigye- The New Vision