She might be old, widowed, and in a wheel chair, but Joy Eliyonse Batambuze does not consider any of these a limitation in her life. At 94, Batambuze’s sight and body still serve her very well. Despite the paralysis she suffered in 2009 that left her in a wheelchair, she is still going strong, the reason she can afford to keep an eye on all her projects on her farm on a daily basis.
When we visit, we find her on the verandah behind her house. As she speaks to us, it is clear that her immobility has not affected her reasoning at all. Batambuze’s brain still ticks like a watch that has just been given a new battery.
Born in 1920 to Yoweri Kafuko and Euniya Nakirya of Butesa Village in Kamuli (now Kaliro District), Batambuze believes she lived a satisfied and decent life. Her mother was a princess, a sister to Kyabazinga Wako and Batambuze remembers being raised in the palace.
“During that time we used to enjoy life as children of the chiefs. And Like any child, I enjoyed the privileges’ like education that came with it,” Batambuze narrates at her home in Budondo Sub-County, Jinja district.
Batambuze started her early school days at the Church Missionary Society Kaliro from where she moved to Buckley in 1935 to study her Primary Three to Primary Six, which she finished in 1938.The following year, she moved to Buloba to study to be a teacher.
“As a student at Buloba, I studied for two years and was awarded a certificate. This helped me start my career as a teacher at Buckley High in Iganga. I taught around many schools in Busoga until 1943, when I stopped teaching,” she says.
In 1943, Batambuze says, she met the man who defined who she is today. With a smile she fondly remembers Ephraim Batambuze a then Gombolola chief in Kamuli as a loving and kind hearted man.
“I can’t really remember how we met but all I know is we met in 1943 and married in 1944. At that time I resigned as a teacher and concentrated on my work as a wife. We moved from one place to another until 1953 when Ephraim was posted to Budondo where we settled until now.” Batambuze had three children but only one Dr Wilson Batambuze is alive.
Grooming women into hard workers
One of the things the old woman takes pride in is having helped fellow women in her village. After resigning from her post as a teacher and becoming a house wife, she was selected by a white lady called Hesty to work as a welfare officer.
“After settling in Budondo, I got a chance to meet Lady Hesty who selected me among the first women to become welfare officers. This necessitated us to move around Busoga to teach women skills like weaving, pottery, farming, singing and dancing. We would later compete with women coming from as far as Kamuli, Iganga and other parts of Busoga. This eventually made us the women we are today.”
But as she was enjoying her life, something tragic happened. She lost the love of her life.
“In 1977, I got a blow of my life. Losing my husband and having to raise children alone was devastating.” She is not keen on talking about what caused his death, but is quick to note it did not put her down.
“As a woman, that did not set me back in my projects of farming. I continued and in the late 90s, I got a chance to engage in trade shows mainly the national agriculture trade shows. I won awards as the best farmer for three years and this gave me a platform to showcase my products as a farmer and work even more.
When she wakes up in the morning, before breakfast, Batambuze a devout protestant, prays to God to keep and give her more strength to work hard. She says it’s through God’s love and mercy that she still lives and remains strong.
She is then prepared and moved on to the verandah to have her breakfast. At around 10 am, Charles one of the helpers, comes in to wheel her to the farm. She checks every corner of the farm starting from the kraal. Batambuze has two healthy heifers which give her milk on a daily basis. She is then wheeled to the poultry and the piggery farm to oversee the feeding.
In the past, she used to feed her animals but because of the paralysis, she cannot afford to feed more than 350 pigs and the chicken. However, with instructions to the workers, who are about 10, she is be able to manage her farm. On some days you will find her in her garden or at her Batambuze Bakery on Main Street in Jinja Town.
Batambuze does not need a marketer to sell her products. She is well-known in the area and says because she produces quality products, for example the cakes, people especially those planning graduation, wedding and birthday parties find them at the shop. Others go to her home to buy eggs and piglets.
“I know there are other people on the market, but what I don’t know is whether they produce and bake the best cakes as we do at Batambuze Bakery because the demand for our products is too much,” she boasts, adding that those who buy spread the word even farther.
“This does not only apply to cakes, but even for those who buy our eggs and piglets. Because of the high demand I sell a tray of eggs at Shs7,500 and a three-month-old piglet goes at Shs100,000.
Asked why she sells her piglets so expensively, she says these are good breeds and much as she is reluctant to name the type of breed, she says they are from India.
Even with her success, she does face some problems in the running of her businesses.
“Like any other human being, sickness can be very challenging. For example, my getting paralysed has been a great test. Another challenge has been sickness of the animals and prices of animal feeds rising and taking long to reduce,” she says.
Batambuze is bothered by the current generation where women don’t want to work.
“I do not approve of women who don’t want to work but wait for food to be put on the table by their husbands. My wish is to see every woman work, but again, they should not disrespect their husbands when they start earning money,” she says.