For the most part of the day, Junior Ikara waited at the factory for a customer to show up.
It was the last year of installation of the maize milling machinery and now it was time to start making money.
September was on and October was weeks away so his expectations from the harvest season were high.
“In a day, I expect 300 to 500 kilogrammes of maize and it is normally on weekends that I expect this number,” Ikara says.
The maize mill sits proudly in Aloet village, Suula parish in the eastern district of Bukedea. Processing maize seemed like such a great idea in the area and it is the reason Elizabeth Itiakorit hoped for better days.
She had had a good harvest, yielding about 500 kilogrammes of maize but it had been difficult to make it more consumable.
“I used to move from Aloet to Bukedea Town or Kachumbali so I would have to spend on transport and then milling,” she says.
Therefore, with such a setting, it was relief that came with an opportunity to earn a little more.
Therefore, the milling mill, which had been built by Moses Elungat, a former banker, was a wonderful relief that would help growth of agro-processing to thrive in the area.
For 15 years, Elungat had been involved in providing exchange rates to the market. However, it was time to have a change of career.
He had joined the banking industry as a sales clerk and retiring four years ahead of the 60 mandatory age would bring curtains down to his 33-year career.
“I just told myself I should leave when I still have some energy to work for myself. Retirement is a life when you have a lot of time for yourself and that is what I wanted because the work I was doing would break your back. I would travel around the country to visit customers,” Elungat recalls.
It would take some time getting used to retirement but he knew what to do. He had developed a number of properties in Kumi and Kampala and had been a farmer, rearing cows and cultivating crops including peas and groundnuts for sale.
Therefore, he was not short of what to do but in need of a kick start to give him some push.
There were few options but savings that his company had been posting in National Social Security Fund (NSSF) would come in handy.
In 2017, his former human resource manager advised he could access the NSSF savings. He went through the process and got slightly more than Shs100m.
The transition needed knowledge so he solicited advice from people who had already done some investments.
First, he chose to invest the money in Treasury Bonds and Bills. In the meantime he drew up a plan using his banking knowledge.
He had to pick up some habits including careful spending. It was not until he did consultations with a maize farm that he focused on setting up a maize milling plant in Bukedea District, to give farmers better prices as well as producing maize flour and bran.
“There was always a huge supply of maize in my village and farmers would have to sell at very low prices because they do not have storage facilities. Also, by the time the crop matures, most of them would have incurred debts so I ventured there to save livelihoods,” Elungat says.
The retirement benefits made it easy to set up the building, buy modern machinery and extend power to run the mill.
Now that the mill is up and running, he has come to understand that farmers still have challenges.
The maize is brought somewhat wet, with impurities such as stones, so not exactly ready for milling.
Regardless of the proximity of the factory, some farmers who retain their produce still want lower milling prices, less than Shs200 per kilogramme in fact. Nevertheless, there is money made from the mill.
“I look at selling to markets outside the region, schools and medical facilities because the margins are much higher. The previous year, supply was in excess and prices crashed. This year, the harvest has not been so good. I bought maize at Shs500 per kilogramme and sold flour at Shs1,000. After removing labour, power and transport costs, I remain with Shs300 from every kilogramme,” Elungat explains.
He cannot magic up any real annual profits because the mill has been functional this year and believes he will increase production going forward.
If Moses Elungat wins
If Moses Elungat wins the NSSF Friends with Benefits contest, given his value addition efforts and improvement in community livelihoods, he plans to purchase a rice mill.
Elungat is not an engineer but nothing feels better than spending his retirement supervising the five workers that man his machinery.
The other is ensuring quality seed is milled and quality flour is sent to the right market. When he is not at the factory, he puts his work experience into building investment clubs that he dreams will turn into a bank one day.
His benefits are long spent but the progress made is worth deriving inspiration from, even for current savers.
“I would encourage employees out there that they should plan on how they will invest their savings. People wait until retirement to start thinking of what to do with the money and they are likely to misuse it,” Mr Elungat says.
To vote for Moses Elungat in the NSSF Friends with Benefits competition, dial *254# or go to www.nssfug.org”