Fellow Q&A with Amanuel Eshete & Edith Violet Naisubi, Co-Founders of AgriSan

Please Introduce Yourself.

Amanuel: My name is Amanuel Eshete. I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I graduated last year with a degree in Business Administration from Ashesi University in Ghana. I am interested in projects that aim to empower young people and enable them to be the change their communities need.

Edith: I am Edith Violet Naisubi, a Ugandan currently studying MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland with a background in Business Administration from Ashesi University, Ghana. I was born in Kadoto village in Eastern Uganda, where AgriSan is currently operating.

What three adjectives would people use to describe you?

Amanuel: Authentic, Determined, Visionary.

Edith: Focused, Humble, Determined.

What is your favorite book and why?

Amanuel: My favorite book is Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. The book attempts to explain Israel’s extraordinary economic growth since its formation in 1948. I believe there are lessons in each chapter that can be used in shaping the entrepreneurship space in developing countries around the world.

Edith: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoffrey Colvin. I like this book because it teaches one to have good habits of practice and perseverance and also to believe that you don’t just need talent to make it in life.

What is the challenge your venture seeks to address?

Over 90% of women in the Pallisa District of Eastern Uganda are the sole breadwinners for their families, yet they are lacking the skills, resources, and capacity to provide for them. Some of these families end up going to sleep without having a meal that day. Also, 96% of the women in Pallisa are school dropouts and illiterate so most of them know nothing about financial management, family planning, entrepreneurship, and other important topics. The challenge AgriSan seeks to address is the cycle of perpetual poverty that affects women and their family members in Pallisa.

What has your venture achieved so far?

AgriSan aims to empower women in the Pallisa district of Eastern Uganda through collective farming and financial literacy. AgriSan plans to enable women to be in good financial standing, to support their family and community members, and to play a major role in different aspects of community affairs. We believe this engagement with key community stakeholders will in return effectively promote gender equality and empowerment.

We recently won a fund of $3,500 from the Social Entrepreneurship Fund at Ashesi University to scale our savings scheme. This fund will aid us to give favorable low-interest loans to women in the form of start-up capital for businesses.

We have also successfully established a partnership with the local government through the District Headquarters to provide an agricultural worker to teach the AgriSan women the processes of modern vegetable farming. The women are learning transferable skills at every point of the farming process; like using improved seeds to grow vegetables, making nursery beds, transplanting, and spraying, among others. 100% of these women have confessed that they wouldn’t have learned these practices if it wasn’t for AgriSan.

What do you value most about the Resolution Fellowship?

Amanuel: I value the mentorship program. As the head of Public Relations at AgriSan, Resolution has paired my team with advisors that have immense experience in the communication industry and their input has been extremely crucial for our venture.

Edith: Resolution has provided seed capital to launch AgriSan and we were matched with two wonderful Guides who mentor us and check in with us every month.

Our initial target was to impact a maximum of 40 women every year but with the help of the Resolution Fellowship, we have been able to enroll 50 women in the saving scheme and 25 women in the community garden. Last year, our work impacted 250 indirect beneficiaries in total.

What advice would you give other college students who are looking to start their first social venture?

Amanuel: The best advice we can give is to always focus on the main goal of social entrepreneurship which is to create social value to both small and large communities around the world. Nowadays, many social ventures are missing the bigger picture of social entrepreneurship by looking to maximize their profit-oriented goals and slowly and silently minimize their social-oriented goals. Therefore, college students who plan to start a social venture should put social-oriented goals at the core of their operations and consistently examine their journey to make sure they are on the right path to positively affect social change.

What role do young leaders play in the world today?

Amanuel: The challenges faced by society today come in different forms and require urgent and timely responses to address them. In the midst of all these challenges, we believe that young leaders should harness the talents of young people, ensure the voices of marginalized and vulnerable people are not stifled and inspire young people to rethink failed approaches to complex issues in their communities.

Have you been personally affected by this issue? If so, how?

Edith: Growing up in Kadoto village, I saw a lot of women I knew go through the cycle of poverty, women like my own mother, our relatives, and our neighbors, among others. Most of these women were in polygamous homes where the responsibility to provide food for their children was up to them. I was seven years old when my mum passed on and the

responsibility shifted to my elder sister who had just finished teaching college. I could also see her struggle to make ends meet for us. Experiencing these scenarios firsthand motivated me to start AgriSan to try and break these cycles of poverty.

What do you love most about your home community?

Edith: What I love about my community is the sense of togetherness where people look out for each other. People in my community also embrace community initiatives like AgriSan, even men, who are not our target beneficiaries. I love that sense of togetherness and the patronization that is there.