Inside the agro-processing plant on plot 18 Otekat road, Oderai Majengio ward in Western Division, some three minutes’ drive from Soroti Municipality, machines cling as they fill plastic bottles of various sizes with tamarind juice.
Two workers watch keenly as the machines do the work, ensuring everything goes right.
Dressed in white overcoat, blue jeans and black sandals, Stephen Obore, the owner of the agro-processing plant, looks on with satisfaction.
Obore adds value to tamarind, making juice that he sells mainly in the town, sub-counties and neighbouring districts such as Kumi, Mbale and Jinja.
His is a story of a farmer betrayed by a harsh market for raw products, but did not give up, choosing to add value to the fruit by setting up the facility that he has named Oreey Beverages Limited.
His journey has not been a bed of roses. In 2019, Obore, 32, took a radical decision that any parents who funded his education would not want, he resigned his job with Crown Beverages as quality controller to sell tamarind juice- a local drink known to have nutritional and medicinal value.
To add value to tamarind, Obore separates the pulp from the seeds that he later puts into hot water for blending.
The juice is then pasteurised and filled in bottles while it is hot. It has shelf life of four months.
Tamarind is an excellent source of vitamin B, C, potassium, magnesium, iron, thiamine, phosphorus, riboflavin, and fibre.
How he started
While at his rented house in Kampala, a friend had paid him a visit and they were engaged in a chat. In the conversation, he mentioned that they needed to do something for a living. A that time Obore also had a vision of starting something.
“Teso sub-region is blessed in terms of food, good climate and friendly people,” was something that rang into his mind.
So, as a way of selling his ideas, he together with few village mates started Awidiang Rural Initiative for Development (ARID) with aim of training the locals on how to fight poverty at their households through agriculture as a business.
However, this did not materialise as some of the people he started with had negative attitude towards the group dynamics. But Obore did not rest, so he then started Teso Value Addition Centre in 2016.
Still fresh from the university he started processing green vegetable cow pea. He processed it into two types, pre-cooked and fresh, but all dried.
Other things he did were to process simsim and groundnut pastes, and tamarind juice.
All these products were in small quantities. Fortunately in 2016, he was invited to national trade show courtesy of NARO. This was an eye opener for Obore.
He says income started coming in though not much until 2017, when he chanced to get an on-line training on ‘self-help training group.’
Obore first trained the mothers from his village on how to add value to potatoes, they packed potato flakes in white polythene bags and sold them at cost of Shs500.
The group also made winnowers, mango and tamarind juices and floor mats among others things, which earned them a ticket to go for a trade show in Kampala in 2017.
“It was after the trade show that I started receiving phone calls from some people requesting me to supply them tamarind juice, and this marked the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.”
Obore says the biggest achievement he has so far registered is financial independence.
“I am now able to sustain my family, and I pay school fees for my children.” He said.
He adds that the place they are now working at, they found it in a bad shape but now it is befitting of a factory.
“And what makes me happy is that people have embraced the juice and that gives me pride,”
“When people embraced our juice, and when Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) certified our product it boosted our sales,” says Obore.
They operate using a trading licence from Soroti Municipal Council.
Obore uses network marketing strategy to market his products. He uses his customers who now talk about his products.
Through that he has successfully been able to establish contacts with companies, individuals, schools, hotels, shops and super markets. The juice has attractive packages.
Tamarind, scientifically known as Tamarindus indica, is large, evergreen, crown dense, widely spreading and greyish-brown.
Its leaves are alternate and compound. The flowers are an attractive pale yellow or pinkish, small and with lax spikes.
The fruit is a pod, straight or curved, velvety, rusty-brown. The shell of the pod is brittle and the seeds are embedded in a sticky edible pulp.
The fruit, both ripe and dry, contains mainly tartaric acid, reducing sugars, pectin, tannin, fibre and cellulose.
The whole seeds also contain protein, fat, sugars and carbohydrates.
Tamarind is commonly used in the form of pulp that is a chief ingredient for souring curries, sauces, chutneys and certain beverages.
The immature green pods are often eaten and dipped in salt as a snack. The tender pods are also used as seasoning for cooked rice stew (biriyani stew), meat and fish.