The Proof is in the Pumpkin: Fatuma’s Journey to Entrepreneurial Success

August 3, 2017
Feed the Future Uganda YLAAFatuma Namatosi, 27, explaining Byeffe’s pumpkin-based products to Uganda’s U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac at AgriKool-Youth in Mbale, Uganda.

After graduating from college in Uganda, Fatuma Namatosi focused on self-employment and entrepreneurship. She considered several agribusiness ideas, and decided on a product she believed would be profitable and nutritious—pumpkin.

In 2015, Namatosi established Byeffe Foods Ltd. and began selling a variety of pumpkin-based products: pumpkin millet, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin leaves, and combination soy and rice flours that include pumpkin. Since pumpkin was a traditional source of medicine in Uganda, Namatosi had to re-establish pumpkin as a nutritious and affordable food choice to build demand for her company’s products.

In June 2016, Byeffe found the perfect opportunity to do so at AgriKool-Youth, an event organized by the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture (YLA) Activity, where agripreneurs showcase their business models and products.

After gaining exposure through this event, Namatosi’s business boomed. Pumpkin’s richness in zinc and Vitamin A led to partnerships with primary schools to supply meals.

But with growth came new challenges: Byeffe Foods was unable to meet high demand due to a limited supply of fresh pumpkins.

To address this constraint, Feed the Future partnered with Namatosi to mobilize 1,280 young contract farmers. Due to pumpkin’s low production costs and high yields, as well as Byeffe’s commitment to provide seeds and extension services, these farmers were eager to participate. At this year’s summer harvest, Namatosi expects a minimum yield of 384,000 pumpkins during the next harvest, which would more than quadruple her company’s supply. 

Namatosi started her company with just $140 and has transformed it into one of Uganda’s leading pumpkin producers with a net worth of $28,000. She also employs 20 young people.

“People have changed the way they look at us. [The Feed the Future project] has helped us sell our name and product,” Namatosi said. “The consumers now treat us differently. Before we didn’t have big consumers, but through YLA activities we’ve been able to book those big customers.”

She next plans to purchase equipment to tap into new markets for other high-value pumpkin-based products including wine, juice, and pumpkin seed oil. From humble beginnings to great success, Namatosi’s entrepreneurial spirit will continue to serve her well as she grows her business.

Fatuma Namatosi will share more about her experience as an entrepreneur in Uganda at this year’s Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit in Washington, DC, in September.