Fatouma Namatosi, 27, explaining Byeffe’s pumpkin-based products to Uganda’s U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac at AgriKool-Youth in Mbale, Ugand

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

Namutosi’s business acumen has caught the eyes of world leaders who have invited her to share experiences as an entrepreneur at the Global Youth Economic Oportunities Summit in Washington in September.

In 2015, Namutosi 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, Namutosi had to re-establish pumpkin as a nutritious and affordable food choice to build demand for her company’s products.

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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, Namutosi’s business boomed. Pumpkin 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 Namutosi 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, Namutosi expects a minimum yield of 384,000 pumpkins, which would more than quadruple her company’s supply.

Namutosi started her company with just US$140 and has transformed it into one of Uganda’s leading pumpkin producers with a net worth of US$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,” Namutosi 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 adds.

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, Namutosi’s entrepreneurial spirit will continue to serve her well as she grows her business.