How Loy Nanyonga Dropped the Office Wear for Gumboots into The Garden.
Written by Derrick Asaba on October 21, 2021
In Wankoko, the Industrial area along Old Port Bell road is where I met a mother of two, Loy Nanyonga. She is one of the hundreds of people who deal in the Flower and Plant Nurseries business in this area.
About 8 years ago, Nanyonga was employed in different organisations as a secretary and photographer. She served in these fields for about a decade.
However, when she realised that her income source then, never lived to meet her plans and needs, she decided to quit and venture in this business. Also, she strongly wanted to be self-employed.
In a conversation with Record FM, Nanyonga revealed that being in an office limited her engagement in other businesses.
“While in an office, one has no time to think of other businesses. Their mind is only focused on official duties. Here, I am able to think and start other businesses because I have enough time for supervision unlike in the office,” said Nanyonga.
The business: Growth process and Sales
In her case, Nanyonga deals in a number of plant species like flowers, vegetables and spices. Examples of these include among others, hibiscus, roses, common lantana, agapanthus, basil, parsley, spinach, spring onion, rosemary and eggplants.
Seedlings, as revealed by Nanyonga, are mostly bought from the Container Village in Kampala town. Sometimes, they buy from people who have established flower gardens and also from business colleagues, especially flower plants that can be plucked and planted.
Soil (sandy soil) which is mostly bought from KCCA is used because it is cheaper than other soils. However, they also buy soil from other people. This is put and fitted in polythene bags where seeds are planted thereafter.
Just like human beings need refreshment, they usually water these plants in the time when they have just been planted. “If it is a dry season we still water them at least for them to be healthy. When the plants are healthy, it gives us a firm ground to ask for the money we want,” Nanyonga noted.
When need arises especially when the plants are not healthy, Nanyonga said that they can add some manure to the soil to boost the plant’s health. However, manure and black soil are usually sold to their clients.
Also, spraying is done at times principally during the rainy season because this is when most common pests like caterpillars attack the plants.
The cheapest plant is sold at UGX 500 but the price is also dependent on the number of pieces a client takes. The highest at her garden is sold at UGX 20,000 but there are plants that go for over UGX 100,000.
Her clients are from all groups of people: those who walk on foot, ride bicycles, motorcycles, and those who drive cars.
“In most cases, people who usually support us are those on foot. One of the things we prioritize is customer care. When a client is handled nicely, they can bring in more customers who they act as referrals to,” Nanyonga said.
She revealed that customers usually buy the ground covers, spinach and rosemary because they are cheaper than all other plants and partly because of their purposes.
Their clients usually come in the mornings, evenings and weekends regardless of the time of the year. “In the morning and evenings, people have some time to spare and pass by to buy, which is not the case during the afternoon time. On the weekends people are at home, have enough time to spend, walking around,” Nanyonga said.
Achievements registered and challenges encountered
Like how most of the businesses in the country have been disastrously affected and some exiting at the wake of COVID-19, Nanyonga said that their business sector has not been saved from the catastrophe.
“Everything has changed. Customers no longer come like they used to. Previously, people had money and would come and buy a number of items. But at present, a person contemplates on investing in buying a flower that he is not sure of profits sooner and instead finds it wiser to invest in other things,” she said.
“Our income has gone down. If for instance I used to receive UGX 100,000 a day, today I lose UGX 60,000 and get UGX 40,000,” Nanyonga added.
Nevertheless, like it is said that good and bad match together, Nanyonga revealed that the pandemic opened their eyes to yet another rewarding opportunity they had for long missed out on.
“We initially never planted vegetables but we started doing so during the pandemic. People developed ideas of doing profitable business even while at home. This provoked them to start asking us for vegetable seedlings and our eyes were also opened to this,” she remarked.
Nanyonga said that today she works with surety of a sale because if customers who need flowers do not come, those who need vegetables will come. She added that vegetables are even sold cheaply.
For the ten years she was in office, Nanyonga said she never did so much for herself except for clothing and self upkeep. But with this business, she has been able to do something.
“I have two plots of land on which one I am constructing a house, my kids have been able to go to school, and I am planning to do other things. I am my kid’s mum and dad but at least we both can get what we want. I can’t beg from anyone because I believe my business can do that,” she said.
She has also been able to employ other people at her nursery garden who help her on doing most of the chores like watering, weeding, soil filling among others.
However, she said that the number of employees available at the garden is always dependent on the amount of work available on a daily basis and also her income.
“Sometimes I get part-time workers to help us if we have a lot of work, who work and go and I remain with only one person. If I remain with them, the expense sometimes is high since they have to be fed and paid,” she explained.
Hadijah Abdul, is her permanent employee. She has been working at Nanyonga’s nursery garden ever since COVID-19 was declared present in the country and schools closed in 2020.
“I started working here in 2020 because I was just redundant at home yet an opportunity lay here at. I came and we started working together but whenever school resumes, as I halt my services at this garden,” Abdul, who is also a Senior Three student at Kansanga Seed Senior School revealed.
She works from Monday to Monday watering the plants, weeding, planting and also preparing polythene bags before seedlings are planted therein.
Abdul noted that she has been able to get a lot of things out of the money that she has earned from this job. She has managed to buy all the essentialities any lady would need and doesn’t thirst for anything since she works and is able to provide for herself.
She told Record FM that whenever there is too much sunshine, plants wither away and sometimes dry. This is one of her biggest challenges because it requires her to water these plants almost every time which drains her a lot and yet there are many plants to take care of.
In cases when insecurities arise, Nanyonga said that they seek intervention by the Committee. This committee, on which Nanyonga is the treasurer, was set to help the people dealing in this business on some challenges like theft, failure to refund money after selling colleagues’ plants among others.