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Fruit of the Vine

Fruit of the Vine

By Deborah Lohse

Photo courtesy KADAfrica
Some people become social entrepreneurs because they have a passion for eradicating poverty through a commercial business. Rebecca (Mason) Kaduru ’09 became a social entrepreneur in Uganda thanks to a different kind of passion—passion fruit. 

Her work also brought her back home to SCU. Last summer she became the first SCU grad to participate in Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute. But first a little backstory.

While doing graduate studies in Uganda, Rebecca met her future husband, Eric Kaduru, then an advertising professional in Kampala. The couple moved to Fort Portal, a few hours west, where Eric had land, to try farming. “Things grew pretty well,” Rebecca says. “But we had a really, really, really hard time selling them.” The problem: Ugandan markets are controlled by produce resellers who leverage the inefficient marketplace to drive down prices paid to farmers. The Kadurus discovered that passion fruit was a high-demand product traders hadn’t cornered.

They hired workers and found women particularly reliable—including young girls who had dropped out of school and were often already married with children; they were less likely than men to take a few unexpected days or weeks off. But women didn’t want to be paid in cash; husbands felt entitled to wives’ income. The Kadurus saw both problem and opportunity—to help women protect what they earn.

They brought groups of 30 girls at a time to work together, several times a week. They taught life skills—from hygiene to investment strategies. After a six-month “KadAfrica Experience,” the girls are expected to make the most of the fruit being grown on plots leased to KadAfrica by churches, the government, or others. They sell harvested fruit back to KadAfrica and pool the proceeds in savings groups, for loans, or reinvestment.

In 2017, the Kadurus traveled to Santa Clara University to attend Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute Accelerator. Rebecca is the first SCU grad to come through the program, which is more than a decade old. Their next goal: leverage USAID grant money to start processing the passion fruit into pulp. That will help insulate the company from future price drops, and it will generate more money to help more girls go through the KadAfrica Experience.

READ MORE: Deborah Lohse’s full feature on KadAfrica. And check out all 14 of the social enterprises participating in Miller Center’s GSBI in 2017.

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