Tonny builds a bright future with TruTrade Africa

From a small trading center of Aburcero in Dokolo district, Tonny Okech has emerged as one of TruTrade's rising managers. A father of four, Tonny once survived on his income as a smallholder farmer and owner of a small hair salon. Taken together, these businesses earned him up to 200,000 Ugandan shillings ($60) a month. Today, Tonny is the proud owner of a certificate of incorporation for his own company, Cherish Agro Uganda Ltd.

Tonny started working with AgriNet in 2010 in Aburcero parish. He soon emerged as a leading performer and in 2012 he was promoted to network manager for Alebtong and Otuke districts. A network manager runs a network of licensed Transaction Security Service (TSS) agents who manage collection centres and source produce from smallholder farmers at a fair price.

Together with his agents, Tonny checks the quality of the produce and organizes payment. He is in charge of the security of the produce and ensures that it reaches the buyer in good condition.

Tonny is inspired by TruTrade's way of operating and has now become a franchisee. Working directly with TruTrade has meant that Tonny’s network can benefit from TruTrade’s trade financing in the form of Cash On the Bag payments (COB) to farmers, and other services.

"Before working with TruTrade, I was in dire need of a financial breakthough," he says. "Now with TruTrade I can access COB and a ready market so I am sure of selling the produce."

Since he started working with TruTrade, Tonny’s entire outlook has changed, right from the ideas and knowledge he invests in the various farm-planning processes, down to the supply and distribution choices he makes. To do this, he benefits from TruTrade’s services including the use of technology platforms, collaboration with agents and other network managers, and business mentoring.

Critical to Tonny's growth as a network manager for TruTrade is his willingness to learn computing skills. He can now share information online and fill in TSS forms which allow him to evaluate the viability of his deals and apply for COB financing. The online system also allows him to access mentoring for his business.

These skills have allowed him to expand his network, he says.

“In 2012 I started working in Alebtong and Otuke districts but now my network is covering the four districts of Alebtong, Otuke, Dokolo and Apac. I have worked with a large number of agents and at the moment there are ten I can rely on to source for the coming season. Before this time with TruTrade, I didn’t know that I could even earn a million shillings but I have now done well enough to buy a piece of land. My next move is to build a home and make my family proud. My wife is happy with what I have done and it has made my relationship with her better. She even helps out in the business, especially when I am not around.”

The story does not end here; Tonny is receiving ongoing support on financial management, market linkages and post harvest handling to meet buyer quality specifications. He plans to grow his network and increase the volume and value of his deals significantly in 2016, making the most of now having his own franchise business.

The journey has not been easy. Bad roads, poor storage facilities and some farmers who hardly care about quality control, are some of the challenges he has faced along the way. But despite the challenges, Tonny persisted and his business continues to grow. Since getting his certificate of incorporation from the registrar of companies in Uganda, he has worked "night and day" to expand Cherish Agro Uganda Ltd and, he says modestly, "I am now OK". He advises other small-scale farmers and traders to join TruTrade because he wants to see others succeed as he has.