What I learned about bread and Uganda

Crossing from one place to another in and around Kampala in a 4×4 or boda boda (motorcycle). My first day in Uganda was overwhelming.

Boda boda in Kampala

Sustainable bakeries in Uganda

For the coming week I am going to investigate how we can setup a (small scale) sustainable bakery concept in local villages in Uganda. The main goal of these bakeries is to empower the women (who run the bakery) and to create business and jobs in rural areas.

These bakeries are sponsored by the Dutch foundation BakeforLife. Almost three years ago the first local bakery was constructed and four women where put in charge. Supported by a microcredit program, the women were responsible for making the bakery financially sustainable. BakeforLife had the ambition to open more bakeries throughout Uganda (and other African countries). But before expanding the concept they wanted to evaluate the results of their first bakery. Based on the experiences and lessons learned the goal was to get a blue print for a sustainable bakery that can work in an environment like Uganda. And that’s where I came in.

Bbrood and the potential of the bread in the world

I arrived on Entebbe airport on Friday evening. After an 1,5 hour drive in a non stop traffic jam I arrived in a mansion south east of Kampala (the capital of Uganda). I was welcomed by Renee, one of the initiators of the project. Renee is also owner of 8 Bbrood bakeries in the Netherlands and two in Kampala. Bbrood is a hip and modern looking bakery providing nutricious, sustainable and high quality bread products. Renee is a strong entrepreneur with large ambitions. Bbrood is already a successful concept and further international expansion in the rest of Africa and Asia is already in the pipeline.

For me it is enourmously interesting to get involved in the bread business. Bread is a huge industry in the Netherlands and bread has a central place in the Dutch food culture. The Dutch are probably one of the biggest bread consumers in the world. But in other parts of the world consuming bread (in this case nutricious bread) is not common. There is still a huge market to serve considering that consumers all over the world are getting more interested in tasty and healthy bread products.


Bbrood located in the center of Kampala

Bbrood: Hip, modern and orange

How to setup a sustainable bakery in rural areas

The first rural bakery is about 50km north of Kampala. We got a warm welcome of the baker women and they proudly showed us the facility. But since two months they stopped making bread because of reconstruction. They have built an extra room next to the bakery for a guard. Many of the materials in the bakery got stolen during the night. The women hope that a permanent guard would prevent that in the future.

But there are more problems worth mentioning. The women were trained by professional bakers. They have the necessary skills to make bread. But these women have health issues (I was told that some had HIV). Mixing and molding dough is a process that requires strength. This was often problematic and as a result their production capacity was only around 240 buns a day. Sometimes there was no production at all. The production was too low to make profit. The limited production capacity is also due to little awareness of the market. The women have no idea how much buns they can sell to consumers, wholesale (shops) or schools. And there is an issue concerning the procurement of resources. One of the baker women told me that every week she buys flour and other resources. This takes her almost a whole day and she pays around 150k shilling (around €40,-) for 50kg of flour. This is a high price considering it can be 2/3 of the price when bought in larger quantities.

So to summarize the areas were the challenge are: security, production capacity, market awareness and procurement.


Discussing the issues like security, production and market

One of the baker women

The sustainable “sun oven”

A special visit was the demonstration site of the sun oven. An American company developed a device that captures the heat of the sun and boils the air in the oven. This sun oven is able to create temperatures up to 250 degrees (more than enough to bake bread). I have to say that it looked too good to be true. This oven only uses sun energy, has a life time of at least 15 years and requires almost no maintenance. Compared to wood heated ovens (causing deforestation and emissions) this is the most sustainable solution imaginable. But there are also disadvantages. The oven doesn’t work when there is no sunlight, it is hard to adjust the temperature and the investment is severe. Unfortunately we had little time to get all questions answered. Hopefully I can have another visit later this week and get a real demonstration.


The sun oven

Next steps

During my first day we also visited other small and large bakery facilities. In only one day I got a good impression how bread and Uganda works. The information was overwhelming and it is still hard to digest everything. Luckily I now have the time to capture most of my impressions in this blog.

I am going to visit several other locations this week. Tomorrow I have interviews with other people involved in the project. In the afternoon I’m heading to the town Tororo for two days. BakeforLife realized a facility in Tororo that is a combination of an orphanage, (baker) school and a bakery. Handicapped children get the opportunity to learn to become a baker and to get a job in the bakery. I’m looking forward to visit this place.

… and after Tororo there are still a lot of other places I want to visit and people I want to talk to. But I also want to see more of Uganda. For Wednesday I’m planning to spend a day in Jinja. This town is famous because it is the source of the Nile river. I was also told that this was a beautful place with lots of waterfalls and wild water rafting.

Keep you posted…..

Niek Huizenga, YEAH!

(read my blog: www.niekhuizenga.nl)

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