Michael is the owner of the company that presses the shea nuts we buy from women in Otuke into silky butter for BeadforLife. With a warm smile Michael says, “I feed all of my employees twice a day. Many of them are unable to eat at home so I started feeding them here.”
Michael employs twenty-two people full time at his shea butter production facility. He pointed to the large factory across the dirt road and says, “That used to be a cotton factory where two thousand people were employed. It’s now used as a storage facility… you can imagine how many people have been affected.”
Since the war, unemployment has been a big problem in Lira and Otuke District. Not only are there few jobs available, but many people have lost the ambition to want to work. Michael says, “Once an attitude is lost, it’s difficult to get it back.” During the war, a large majority of people lived in Uganda Police Defense Camps where there was barely any food, and there wasn’t anything to do, so alcoholism became prevalent.
Traditionally, the Langi people were farmers. Michael fondly describes their existence as a simple yet happy life. He remembers when his grandmother would feed him spoonfuls of shea butter. His people have been making the butter for many generations. The Langi people worked hard on their land to provide food for their families and marriage was arranged at a young age. Families worked together to provide for each other.
What Michael has seen happen to his community is that people have stopped trusting each other, and many have lost hope for the future. Michael said, “I really don’t know what the future holds for us here. I hope it will get better, and I know it can take generations for things to change.” Michael’s employees are very hardworking and produce thirteen sixty-five pound tubs of shea butter each day. They work six days a week from 9-5 p.m., having Sunday as a day of rest and for going to church. His business is employing people in the area who most likely would have been unemployed otherwise. Michael says, “I’m so happy for BeadforLife!”