Global outlook. Rachel Lwantale is a businesswoman turned social entrepreneur who identifies more as a global citizen; accountable and responsible about what happens in the world, writes Edgar R. Batte.
Rachel Lwantale, is the founder of Imali, a social enterprise empowering women financially through sustainable partnerships and market access. The company specialises in agriculture and small scale manufacturing with emphasis on value creation.
“We bring stakeholders together in order to ensure proper implementation of our projects, we are also contracted by both individuals and companies in order to plan, implement, train their farm workers, while being a link to ensure immediate market for their produce,” she elaborates.
Imali currently has three current projects running; the KintuPVC green house project making low cost greenhouses through Polyvinyl Chloride while using drip irrigation, maize farming and the BeeMango project that integrates mangoes with bee keeping in order to maximise yield.
Before founding Imani, Lwantale tried her hand at various enterprises but none fulfilled her passion to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur from the time I was a teenager, while making a difference in the lives of other people. I had to ask myself what I really wanted, and I realised that I was a nature and animal lover, thus I decided to concentrate on agribusiness in 2017 and have never looked back. I had to go back to school in order to get the knowledge I need for this work,” Lwantale shares.
Women only contribute to 30 per cent of the CEO positions in Africa. More than 90 per cent of the billionaires across the world are men. There is a need and a possibility to change these statistics. That is why I named my company Imali. Imali which means my money in Zulu, is a movement of women doing whatever it takes to get their money while empowering other women and future generations to do the same, to have a share on the cake instead of bread crumbs.
“When I first started out, I contacted Doreen Mazakphwe a lactation consultant and told her about my idea, it was not refined yet but she was very helpful in assessing which market to target. After attending the Malengo Hot pink fashion show and the Zimba women’s Summit, my goals became fully clear on how I could contribute to the global goals,” the entrepreneur recounts.
However, Lwentale’s grand idea was at a risk of never being executed because of lack of funds. In 2017 she applied to the Tony Elumelu Foundation for $5000 seed capital and received the grant which helped her get her idea off the ground.
Currently Imali we has been able to get market for 57 small holder farmers across Uganda, in both maize and horticulture.
“We ensure that our farm labourers get professional training in agriculture this has improved our human resource as they can easily get jobs on other farms in case they are not working with us, we trained five farmers last year and we hope to train more this year. We have also worked with five female entrepreneurs who have successfully been able to get grants from the Tony Elumelu Foundation. We are currently working with 80 women in Butambala District who are going to be the first beneficiaries of the low cost Kintu PVC green houses,” Lwentale explains about her achievements so far.
Although Imali gives priority to women, it also works with men who want to start farming but have little or no knowledge about it. It also works with organisations and companies providing services such as soil testing, training and organising market contracts at little or no cost.
However, her main focus remains women because Lwantale believes that when women are empowered with knowledge and finance they will be able to improve the livelihoods of the individuals within their communities.
“Women are fertile soil, where you can plant one single seed and it will have a ripple effect and bear fruit that can be felt on the national level. If the woman is not the business owner, we encourage the business owner to allow us to train female workers at the farm. Women are easier to work with and are open to new ideas and processes unlike men, so I naturally find it easier to work with them,” she reveals.
She is grateful for the mentoring and lessons she has receive from successful women such as Esther Muchemi, Evelyn Mungai, Terry Mungai and Mary Washuka who taught her to be bold and stand up for herself, while uplifting others.
She notes that: “I have learned if I want my company to grow I must learn to rely more on other people. And the importance of building structures and systems that allow you to control the business even if you do not have a physical presence.”
Balancing work and family
The mother, wife and entrepreneur reveals that in the beginning, she had no clue how to manage her time.
“I was not aware how much social media was eating up my time, I would spend three hours a day on social media. This means I was averagely spending four days per month on social media thus more than a month on social media every year. Cutting down helped me balance work and family more. I am blessed to have a supportive husband, so he is able to step in when I have to travel or go upcountry as his work schedules are quite flexible, I have also learned to prioritise the hardest tasks first thing in the morning sometimes as early as 5am, by doing this I am done with work by 1pm,” she reveals.
Her dream is to have 200 sustainable partnerships by the year 2030, which will impact on at least 1,000,000 women both directly and indirectly and become a household name that has played a role in influencing financial empowerment of women.