It is a bright sunset on a Tuesday in Bushenyi and Mable Ainembabazi has just packed her motorcycle at Fari’s Juice Centre in Bushenyi Town. The owner of the juice business introduces me to Ainembabazi, whom she says is a pineapple vendor doing her hustle on a motorcycle.
After exchanging pleasantries, I engage Ainembabazi in a brief conversation that later morphs into an interview, scheduled for the following day in Kizinda Town. In Kizinda, Ainembabazi is carrying about 60 juicy pineapples on her motorcycle.
Ainembabazi is a fruit trader from Butare, Kyamuhunga Town Council in Bushenyi District. She started vending pineapples in 2013 after her friend advised her that it was a lucrative business venture.
How she started
She started with Shs20, 000 but after months of building trust with pineapple farmers, she started securing pineapples on credit of up to Shs50, 000.
“I would get pineapples from the garden and sell them in Butare Town. I started going for weekly markets to sell pineapples. My capital expanded to Shs300, 000 and there are times I used a pick-up vehicle to pick pineapples from farmers. I would make profits of 150,000 every week,” she recounts.
Securing a motorcycle
During the first Covid-19 lockdown last year, Ainembabazi sat home for two and a half months but life became hard for her because she needed money to pay her bills and sustain her family.
In September 2020, Ainembabazi thought of vending pineapples using a motorcycle. She was convinced that getting means of transport would ease her business operations.
“One day, I asked one of the cyclists to teach me how to ride a motorcycle. I was asked to pay Shs20, 000 for every two hours until I mastered riding. But my dream was to buy my own motorcycle,”
One day, while listening to radio, Ainembabazi heard an announcement that Butuuro Peoples Sacco was offering boda-boda loans. She did research about the Sacco and proceeded to open an account. It took her about two weeks to secure a loan and that is how she bought her motorcycle.
“I was happy to undertake riding lessons from my own motorcycle. After a month of learning, I was ready to hit the road,” she says.
After the training, Ainembabazi started vending pineapples. She would go to pineapple farms, carry her produce from a distance of 6km and sell them in Butare trading centre, where she stays.
“In October 2020, the rains set it in and the roads became impassable. I became resilient until I stabilised on the road,” she says.
Her attempts at employing someone to collect fruits in large quantities and sell in the market were thwarted due to dishonesty and inconsistencies. So, she decided to do everything herself. Ainembabazi would carry up to 80 pineapples on her motorcycle.
Areas of operation
Ainembabazi started vending pineapples in areas of Kigoma, Kizinda, Ishaka, Bushenyi, Nyakabirizi, Mitooma, Kabwohe, where she has good market for her pineapples.
She takes 130 fruits daily, which she sells throughout the day. On a normal day, Ainembabazi leaves home early in the morning and returns at 6pm.
“Due to curfew restrictions in which motorcycles are not allowed on the road after 6pm, I sometimes return home with unsold fruits. This means the following day, I only get a few more to top up on the remaining ones,” she adds.
On average, Ainembabazi makes 600,000 per month, which she uses to pay bills, service the motorcycle and pay the loan.
Most of her customers purchase pineapples for instant consumption while others make juice. She mainly sells to town dwellers, traders and casual workers.
Ainembabazi has achieved financial independence as a woman and mother. She is able to provide for her family needs and live a better life.
Out of her business, Ainembabazi has been able to buy a motorcycle and pay her loan obligations.
She has also bought land which she uses for producing food for her family.
Weather changes pose a big threat to her business. According to Ainembabazi, people don’t eat pineapples during the wet season, which affects her returns. “Most people prefer eating pineapples on sunny days. Yet during the dry season, pineapples are off season. They are many during the rainy season when the market is very low. On such days, I make low sales. During the rainy season, I sell a fruit at Shs 1000- Shs 1500 whereas the same fruit goes for Shs2000 during the dry season,” she adds.
Also during the rainy season, pineapples, being perishable, go bad when they are not sold and Ainembabazi does not have means of preserving them.
She also mentions fluctuating prices of the pineapples at the farm, which eat into the business when prices are unreasonably high.
Ainembabazi says she cannot ride a motorcycle forever. She is planning to start a business that can be done in one place so that she doesn’t have to keep moving from place to place.
“Sometimes it rains on me when I am looking for customers. I want to settle in one place and work from there. I am planning to invest in a fruit point, where customers can find a variety of fruits such as mangoes, passion fruits, watermelon and others,” she says.
Advice to fellow women
“As a woman, it is better when you are also contributing to household income. During the lockdown, I learnt that poverty triggers domestic violence in homes. Wake up and try your hands at things that generate income,” says Ainembabazi.
“Most people prefer eating pineapples on sunny days. Yet during the dry season, pineapples are off season. They are many during the rainy season, when the market is very low.
On such days, I make low sales. During the rainy season, I sell a fruit at Shs1, 000 whereas the same fruit goes for Shs2, 000 during the dry season. But I soldier on.
Women should try their hands on things that will generate income regardless of what society thinks of them. If it means riding a motorcycle to earn a living, do it. If you have to lay bricks to put food on table, go ahead.’’