Update from the Trade, Fall 2017
In January 2016, we open a shop called The Trade in a village near our hub in Uganda, East Africa. We wanted to create a shopping experience for customers that contrasted the experiences they’re familiar with.
The majority of rural Ugandans are farmers. Across Uganda, agriculture is the main source of livelihood and employment for over 60 percent of its people. Farmers both eat what they grow to feed their families, and sell what they grow to purchase other necessary supplies. But too often, food doesn’t sell before it rots, so not only is it not used to eat, nothing is earned from it either. Ugandans often say they don’t want to “eat their money.” But this can put families in desperate positions, when their “money” won’t sell.
At The Trade, farmers are able to trade in their produce or livestock in exchange for a credit at the shop, which can be used to buy food, toiletries, school supplies, school uniforms, and other items. They don’t have to make sure their food sells in order to get what else they need. The value is in the food itself, what they’re able to produce. We’re encouraging East Africans that an economy centered around agricultural efforts is a Kingdom economy. It’s the kind of work God gave man to do in the garden.
People can purchase items using money like a regular shop, or utilize trade credit. During its first 6-9 months, the credit was not used much. But now, during harvesting season, 35-40 percent of our customers use it to purchase what they need. We’re able to use what people trade in to either sell at the shop, utilize to feed the students and faculty at St. John’s (a local primary school), or widows in the area.
In addition to this distinctive, we are also using The Trade to promote healthier lifestyle alternatives to locals through incentives. For example, soda and tea (both high in sugar) are favored drinks throughout East Africa. To try to get people to drink more water, for only 500 more shillings than a bottle of water typically sells for, we are including a flavored vitamin packet, which usually costs 4000 Uganda shillings (USH). If water can taste good, then perhaps people’s palates can change. Other examples including getting a free small toothpaste with every purchase of a toothbrush, and getting a bar of soap for every 2500 USH spent at the shop.
We also provide incentives through demonstration. For example, Always brand feminine hygiene pads are expensive and need purchased every month. Afri-pads, though more expensive upfront, are reusable, more absorbent, and cheaper in the long run. By demonstrating the superior absorption, we can help people save money by purchasing reusable pads. We reevaluate often to find more ways of providing education and helping people make healthier choices for their well-being.
We recently adjusted our hours of operation to 6-10a and 4-10p, which are the prime selling times in the village, and these time slots allow our students and cooperatives to reasonably staff the shop. It’s providing employment, and the opportunity to participate in a unique and creative business venture.
We're thankful to the Lord for sustaining this very innovative project for almost two years. It has continued to grow, as they say in Africa "slowly by slowly." Introducing something new is never an easy endeavor, but we've seen it provide employment and the opportunity to participate in a unique and creative business venture. The Trade is inspiring people to rethink the way the purchase, and essentially, what they value. Thank you for your support and interest along the way!