African societies including Uganda and Acholi as a culture were very rich in traditional medicine and approaches of treating different ailments through the administration of traditional medicine/herbs mostly got from parts of different species of trees and plants.
As we wise women-Uganda we have come up with the use of implementation and restoration of medicine by giving our local farmers with both local native and exotic seedling for example of seeds are ata korac(aloverah) l Lagwana ,oywelo,yaa,cumu,musisi, etc.
Wise Women-Uganda (WW-U) is a group of alternative health practitioners from northern Uganda committed to human and environmental health, formed as a CBO in Gulu.
WW-U are on a mission. For all of them that involves producing great medicinal trees and plants that were lost during the decade of war. For some, there’s an added personal drive – chasing a dream or keeping the family cultures and traditions alive as relates to native tree species conservation. WW-U is also termed as the native seed project (NSP). But for a growing number, there’s an extra mission that goes beyond all of this to a greater good, whether that’s helping others, the environment or something else. WW-U is in partnership with Wild forests and fauna (WFF) and has jointly performed the mission of ecological restoration through native tree planting, VSLA loan schemes, sustainable livelihood, and outreach to;-refugees, other projects like CAFWA and Alum Alum, schools, local farmers, etcetera. “Joining Wise Women Group was the best decision I ever made “Says Akumu Filder.
“Traditional medicine has been used since time immemorial”
For Adoch Juliet, head of WW-U, Medicine making and native tree conservation seem to be having a “moment in the sun”. “I think it’s partly because native medicinal products are so easy for consumers to try out if they’re seeking ethical alternatives – as more and more consumers are,” she says. “The decision to buy ethical is much more straightforward than switching your household electricity to an environmentally-friendly provider, for example. And mission-driven native tree species tend to have stories that are easy to grasp.”
“Do something good in the world”
For Africa-inspired medicinal product LAGWANA obtained from native tree species like Moringa , Opok , Beyo, Tido, Cumu, prunous Africana, Coffee, Neem, Sphethodia, Black wattle, Jackfruit, Oranges , Allovera and many more, the mission is to create sustainable livelihoods for the poor African farmers and Traditional practitioners in Africa by bringing their ideas to a joint mission to the rest of the world. If you’ve heard of Allovera and Shea nut oil, which could well be thanks to WW-U, which also works with other African products including Moringa leaf and Super-cocoa.
“I used to work in the shrine strictly,” says Ajok Janet. “Making products that I didn’t believe in or actively disagreed with.” After a “complete meltdown” a 3 weeks voluntary membership in Wise Women Group turned into 3 years of great learning and knowledge exploration. “It was during that experience that I saw the vision for making traditional medicine a world priority and to have a fairly profound and sustainable impact on the lives of some very poor communities.” Fast forward a few years and Wise women group and Adoch Juliet have transformed the obscure LAGWANA into a so-called ‘Mother medicine’ whilst helping millions of rural households in Uganda.
Adoch Juliet’s journey involved a similar pilgrimage. After a decade as a traditional healer, she gathered traditional healers all over Gulu Northern and formed and started a team called Wise Women-Uganda that grew to supply native medicinal products to various consumers in the country and overseas and and also providing sustainable livelihood through the VSLA Loan scheme to the 250 traditional healers(Women) in Gulu Uganda.. Keen to share what she had learned, She also went on to fight child sacrifice in Uganda’( ACRET) Wise Women-Uganda are now working on expanding the medicinal supply and brands to the whole regions in the country, East Africa and the globe on their own brand LAGWANA, Adoch Juliet. “I wanted to do something that I could go home at the end of the day and think ‘yes’, I have done something good in the world,” she says. “For me a mission-driven group is one that wants to change the world. And these aren’t just medicine making people; they are people who have got a mission bigger than medicine at the Centre of their ambition.”
A number of products have undergone tests ranging from Abac Cough syrup, Abac honey cough syrup, Vernonia solution, Toolupi, and Lagwana (mother medicine). These medicines are now sold both locally and internationally. “I can’t believe our products are finally sold in pharmacies, drug shops and clinics in Uganda, “says Ajok Scovia. “That is amazing “she adds.
“Social entrepreneurship is the future”
Our major goal is to enable the traditional healers and various women in the world to engage in medicine making practice. It’s LAGWANA medicine produced by Wise Women-Uganda that is the product of choice for Change Please, a social enterprise staffed by the homeless to help the homeless. Ask founder Adoch Juliet whether mission-driven Wise Women groups are important and she’s in no doubt. “With things like austerity and cuts, changes to the economy, it falls on the shoulders of businesses and social businesses to try and make a difference. To get the same incredible taste and still make a difference to people at exactly the same price is a win,” she says. “So we are able to make a difference to people off the streets and that isn’t costing the consumer anything extra.” Julius Cesar (Coordinator) says he is seeing a growth in awareness of the value of mission-driven wise women groups, from big corporations and their millennial employees who prize purpose-built organizations to students. “I am seeing more and more students say that the only jobs they would consider in the future are in social entrepreneurship,” says JC. “I think that’s really interesting because they are the future.”
Combine the growing interest with an increase in the number of social entrepreneurs says it’s the “zeitgeist of social business”. He’s not alone. “At the end of the day customers want to feel something, and they are going to feel something if that brand has a purpose,” Julius Cesar.
But is having a mission at the heart of your business help or a hindrance when it comes to making it work? “I’m very much of the view that having a purpose or mission as part of your product is a competitive advantage,” says JC. For him, the mission is something that can win over buyers and investors who are as human as the people behind these social businesses.
“Most human beings who have an opportunity to make a positive contribution through their work will take that option. They’re going to choose it not only for charitable reasons; they’re going to choose it as well for commercial reasons because they know customers are also looking for that. And particularly with medicine – the link between medicine and ethics and sustainability are so strong that if you’re not ethical, not sustainable, you’re actually at risk. I think we, purpose-driven businesses, are a little bit ahead of the curve and the bigger players are trying to invent purposes to retrofit into their businesses.”
“They [mission-driven WW-U] have got many advantages over everyone else because when you’re doing something you love and are passionate about and feel driven by you’re going to put more into it,” agrees Dr. Beatrice Odongkara. And thanks to social media, these small businesses can communicate their mission to the consumer with even the smallest of budget. “The internet has opened up the ability to connect and tell your story to the consumer like nothing else. And big businesses aren’t able to fake this.” Lincoln agrees that cost pressures make it hard to operate at a small level without the economies of scale available to large nationals or multi-nationals, but the positive side is that: “You’re able to take on the big multinationals on your own terms and provide a genuine point of difference.”
But the lofty aim will only win over consumers if it comes alongside a great product, says JC. “The mission-driven businesses that really succeed for me are the ones that are a great quality product. It’s not that they are surplus medicine or a social enterprise, it’s a great product then you scratch the surface and there’s a mission beneath it. You can put people off by being too worthy, you have to make the number one point that it’s a great product. The opportunity is where you can buy a product that’s as great as other things out there but has that added mission, its adding value. “Juliet agrees. For him, producing Shea oil that’s the same quality as his competitors is vital to success, especially when it’s often assumed that a social business may sacrifice quality in favor of its mission. “The biggest issue is the perception of quality,” she says. “People automatically think just because you’re doing social impact the quality or taste of the product will be diminished in some way. We overcompensate to prove that just because we’re doing social good, the quality isn’t going to be lower. That perception of quality in every facet of social business is an issue. It’s a misnomer we need to overcome.”
Focusing on quality and competing on a ‘like-for-like’ basis is his advice to anyone planning their own mission-driven group. She’s tested this by raising the price of Change Shea or lowering the quality and it showed that the mission itself isn’t enough to keep customers coming back. “If you’re more expensive and your product doesn’t taste as good there’s only a small distance your social impact will go.”
Equally, the business model has to be viable, says Christine. It also helps if the social and the commercial work alongside one another. “For us the commercial and the social are completely integrated in terms of their objectives so that means if we sell more products we make more impact,” she says. “That means that our objective is to sell more products. You need your purpose to be integrated completely centrally into your business model. Otherwise what happens is the commercial will take over and you will say, ‘we’ll do that later when we’re making money, or we haven’t got time or resources to do that’.”
“The main challenge for mission-driven groups,” says Adoch Juliet, “is that, because they’re doing things in a more ethical way, they tend to have a higher cost base. If you’re a start-up clinic or pharmacy that trains adults with learning difficulties to be waiting for staff, your costs are going to be higher than the next-door high-street super brand that can select the best professionally-trained staff available on the market and realize economies of scale through its franchise network. Or if you commit to buying Fair-trade and organic products to make your food item, your cost base is higher than a non-ethical alternative. But the rewards of running these organizations are so much richer.”