From the time she was a little girl, Mary Munihizi used to accompany her mother to River Mpanga, in Kyabwire village, Karangura Sub- county, Kabarole District, where she made a living through crashing stones.
Unlike others, Munihizi never got an opportunity to go to school because her parents could not afford fees. After years of working with her mother, she mastered the art of stone quarrying and it was easy for her to venture into the same business to make money, just like her mother.
How she started
After perfecting the skills, Munihizi says she applied for a loan of Shs 350,000 from a savings association and hired a piece of land near River Mpanga and started crashing stones.
After securing a piece of land with stones, a hoe, spade and hammer, Munihizi was ready to start her business.
For the last 13 years, Munihizi, 38, a mother of six, has been hustling to earn a living through stone quarrying, a business which she says is profitable.
“When I had just started out, I would crash five jerrycans of stones a day and a lorry of stones in six days. Because of limited resources, I could not hire casual labourers. Every morning, I would go to the garden first and at midday, after preparing lunch, I would head to the quarry site,” she says.
Having witnessed a number of men in her village with many women and children, who neglected their responsibilities of looking after their families, Munihizi resolved to find ways of making money to develop her family.
She also drew inspiration from women who were running successful businesses in her village despite the fact that they had not gone to school.
She says she never wanted to be counted among the poor and this perhaps made her venture in a business that is dominantly done by men, a thing she does not regret.
Munihizi says a lorry of crashed stones is sold at Shs200,000 and on a good day, she can sell three lorryfulls of stones.
Hiring a piece of land is expensive according to Munihizi considering that some people don’t want ditches in their land. She says she has to part with about Shs400,000 to Shs800,000 to hire a piece of land for a period between two or three months, which makes the cost of production too high.
She also says some clients take her stones promising to pay, only to default. However, she says she uses the police to ensure that people effect payment for her stones. Despite the fact that her business is flourishing, Munihizi says she has severally been threatened by environment conservation activists to leave the quarry sites, arguing that her activity was destroying the river and causing soil erosion.
“In 2018, I received a letter from our Sub-county leaders halting my operations. I was asked to stop immediately. They promised to give me some startup capital, which I have never received up to now,” says Munihizi.
Inspite of all these challenges, Munihizi says through her business, she pays school fees for all her children. She also bought a piece of land at Shs14 million and has since established banana plantation and grows other food crops for consumption and for sale.
“I have also supported my husband to build our house and we have also undertaken other projects together,” Munihizi says.
Through the years, she has inspired other women to join the same business to earn a living. Together with other women, they established an association, Bakyara Tukore Balimi Basubuzi, which currently has 52 members.
Munihizi is the chairperson of an association where members save Shs10,000 everyday.
“In a year, I had saved Shs4 million. The older I grow, the hungrier for money I become,” Munihizi says. She says the association has also helped her to diversify her business saying that in the morning hours, she goes to the garden, after lunch, she goes to the quarry site and in the evening, she heads to the trading centre to sell produce.
Today, she employs three people, whom she pays Shs100,000 for every lorry of stones that is bought. Hardwork, determination and patience has kept Munihizi going despite the years.
Although her quarry is located deep in the village, Munihizi says she has built a client base in Fort Portal town who refer her to other clients, especially contractors of construction sites.
“Even if a client wants 100 lorries of stones, I have the capacity to deliver them,” Munihizi said.
As a businesswoman, Munihizi says she spends most of her time thinking of ways to make more money. She says: “I do not want to be a beggar when I can work and make money. Women should use their youthful years to engage in productive ventures.”
Munihizi plans to venture into commercial coffee farming. She also wants to encourage other women through her association to buy land and plant coffee for commercial purposes considering that the land in her area is very fertile.