By Tom Gwebayanga
On arrival at Kakulagira Business Agencies, one is greeted by a sweet inviting yoghurt aroma. This is a yoghurt processing unit in the industrial area in Kamuli town, Kamuli district.
The plant is a hive of activity in the different sections that include the milk-testing laboratory, a boiler, as well as fermenting and sealing rooms.
In the laboratories, Stephen Kakulagira, 48, the proprietor, checks the water content in the milk, using a lactometer.
The second test is conducted using ethanol, to ascertain that the milk does not contain bacteria that cause zoonotic diseases.
The milk is tested for diseases, such as, mastitis, bronchitis and tuberculosis, which cause harm to humans.
The milk is then processed into yoghurt. The product is branded Chosen Probiotic Yoghurt. The product is sold in Kamuli town, Jinja, Kampala, Iganga, Bugiri and beyond. The market includes both local and foreign customers.
He also vends the product on the streets of Kamuli town, wheeling red iceboxes using the three-wheeled bike.
His products cost between sh2,000 and sh30,000. He bags about sh6m per month.
Back in 2015, Nieke Westrike, a Dutch dairy specialist who later became his friend, had traversed the Busoga region and trained farmers, including Kakulagira, about adding value to milk and one of the products was yoghurt.
In 2016, the East African Dairy Development empowered farmers with financial support.
As a result of that technical support, milk production for the farmers in Balawoli dairy unit, where Kakulagira was a member, increased to 450 litres from 150 litres per day.
“I am utilising the opportunity of the increased milk production in Kamuli to propel the enterprise. The excess milk which would have been sold cheaply in the villages, to the farmer’s advantage, ends up here,” he says.
In such scenarios when the milk is in abundance, the farmers used to count losses when the milk goes bad due to the poor market.
Meanwhile, Kakulagira had observed a virgin market for yoghurt in Kamuli and neighbouring districts as traders used to buy the product from Jinja and Kampala cities.
That sparked the beginning of his enterprise in making yoghurt in September 2017. He says he started with sh1.8m, which was his savings.
The animal husbandry specialist started by buying basic tools, which included a milk can for pasteurisation and one big saucepan to heat the milk.
He also purchased a sealing machine, a lactometer and thermometers to establish when the milk has reached its boiling point.
He also bought ethanol, which is used to test diseases like mastitis, brucellosis and tuberculosis (TB), which can cause harm to humans. He also acquired three refrigerators and a standby generator.
In addition, he got a working licence from the Dairy Development Authority. He also secured a certificate from the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, Kampala, where the samples were subjected to laboratory tests.
The above certification allowed him access to sell his product to prominent supermarkets, shopping malls and elsewhere.
He also acquired a tax identification number from the Uganda Revenue Authority to handle his tax obligations.
Kakulagira said since its inception, the yoghurt-making business has grown three-fold, his life has changed and that he has no regrets.
With every passing year, he says, orders have kept increasing, leading to the expansion of the plant.
At peak season when demand is high, Kakulagira employs four workers, including his eldest son, Ivan Buluuba, to help with the tasks.
The tasks include putting firewood in the boiler, lifting the cans from the boiler to the incubation rooms and wheeling the yoghurt to supermarkets in Kamuli town.
During off-peak times, Kakulagira works with his wife, Harriet Biriike and his son, Buluuba, the lab specialist, to run the enterprise.
Biriike participates in sealing and testing exercises and is all smiles over the family enterprise because of its returns.
The first challenge is that some clients are yet to believe that yoghurt can be made in Kamuli, so they shun the products. The incessant power blackouts, which take long and shorten the products’ lifespan are another challenge.
To beat the odds of such outages, he purchased a standby generator. The fluctuating market prices, the prolonged drought, which reduces milk production, are the other challenges.
Kalulagira attributes his success to determination, hard work, family involvement, agility and honesty to customers.
Associates including friends, NGOs and technocrats have helped him with technical advice.
He also attributes his success to the Diary Development Authority eastern team, which has over the years availed him support featuring logistics, such as cans and other apparatuses.
SACCOS including Kamuli Sugarcane Growers SACCO and Kityerera Integrated SACCO, have also empowered him with low-interest loans.
According to Nieke Westrike, a yoghurt specialist from the Netherlands, yoghurt has many health benefits, which include saturating the body with proteins, vitamins and fats.
Dr Lawrence Buteraba, a nutrition expert and the proprietor of House of Health-Kamuli in Kamuli district, says: “Yoghurt reduces cough and flu, reduces duodenal ulcers, reduces constipation and nourishes the stomach, to the extent that one can spend many hours and not crave solid food,” he says.
Yoghurt also reduces allergies and skin rashes and reduces stomach upsets, such as diarrhoea and by taking it, going for long calls becomes easier, Buteraba explains.
What others say
Joseph Kabanda, chairperson Southern Division Kakulagira has proved to the masses that quality beverages can also be made in Kamuli.
He is at times overwhelmed by many orders, but has learnt to manage the demand.
Pastor John Osire, Victory Christian Centre in Kamuli town Kakulagira’s innovation has added value to people’s lives.
Unlike in the past when milk went to waste and became cheap, the farmers can now sell their milk without making losses.
Kakulagira plans to establish a milk bar in Kamuli town, where clients shall access all types of milk, ranging from fresh milk, ice cream, butter and ghee.
He hopes to set up other yoghurt processing outlets in Jinja, Iganga, Kaliro and Kayunga towns.
He also plans to establish a farm with five heifers to propel milk production and maintain constant supply to the plant. He has so far bought three heifers.
He also plans to purchase the motorised “Tuktuk” and van to ferry yoghurt around Kamuli and to distant clients.
To beat the escalating commodity prices, Kakulagira plans to buy items like sugar, ethanol, culture, containers and sachets and other items in bulk.