Judith Ahimbisibwe always longed to help others but suffered many barriers in her attempt to achieve this. She didn’t have the money, knowledge, skills, or exposure. This made her feel as if she had no value at all.
Now Judith is the director of a business that helps her peers. JOAK Consultancy, based in Mbarara in western Uganda, support farmers who have practised agriculture for many decades but are still under the poverty line. It improves local nutrition and the production of healthy fruit and vegetables. And, most importantly, it helps to inspire a future generation to get involved in agriculture.
Judith attributes all of this to the education that she was able to pursue thanks to her Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarship. From 2017 to 2018, she studied an MSc in Agribusiness Management and Trade at Kenyatta University in Kenya. During her time there, she was able to interact with international students and attend a wide range of workshops which helped build her career beyond her field of study. “I put my heart and soul into my scholarship to make myself the best person I can be,” says Judith.
As a result of her scholarship, Judith now has the capabilities to help expand small and medium agriculture businesses across Africa. It improved her ability to make business decisions using knowledge that is directly relevant to her industry, and has developed her understanding of the risks and uncertainty impacting the agriculture sector.
Following her scholarship, Judith was hired by the Mbarara District Farmers Association to work with advisers from the Netherlands on agricultural enterprise development. It was here that Judith really began to understand the impact of implementing the skills she had learnt. Working alongside the Dutch advisers, Judith was able to help local farmers who had the capacity to produce goods but no market for their products. She advised farmers who had sold plots of land to pay off loans from the bank, and those who did not understand enterprise selection (how to choose what to produce). She also improved their knowledge on how to control post-harvest losses. This is when Judith realised what she wanted to dedicate her life to: setting up her own agribusiness consultancy.
Judith’s consulting firm provides a service in Mbarara which had not been offered before, and she aims to continue to grow from a local to national level in the next three years. She hopes that by expanding her business she can achieve her most important goal – to end poverty among farmers once and for all. Building on this, next year she will be participating in the Advancing Women Agribusiness Entrepreneurs and Innovators Professional Fellows Program at Michigan State University in the USA. “It’s all part of my philosophy, that you should work hard,” she says. “It will always be worth it.”
My Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarship changed my life and has allowed me to change the lives of others for the better. Before the scholarship, I didn’t have the capacity to help my fellow Ugandans, but now I am a valuable asset, with a business that has the ability to compete in a national and worldwide market.