Vertical farming for Food security and sustainability.

We are providing affordable, reliable and modern means of aggro-entrepreneurship(vertical farming)to women and young mothers in urban slums.

Photo of Lilian
0 1

Written by

Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Lilian Nakigozi the founder and executive director Women Smiles will represent the initiative.

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Uganda

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s),, twitter@LILIAN24L.

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €50k - €100k

Organization Type

  • Youth-led initiative

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

I grew up in poverty and experienced food scarcity at a very young age. In other words I have an equivalent of PHD in hunger and poverty experiences.In Katanga slum where we lived,my family lacked land to grow crops for food neither did we have money to buy food this in the end resulted to drop out of school of my nine siblings since my single mother could not afford to look for food and pay school fees at the same time. Luckily enough my school offered to pay my primary level and secondary school fees since I was bright and on finishing university(sponsored at district) I pledged to fight and solve food scarcity and poverty among urban slum dwellers in Uganda especially women and young mothers who struggle day and night.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

This World is full of challenges but food scarcity is more than a challenge over 1.02billion people are facing food scarcity. This is even worse in developing countries for example in Kenya 25%, Uganda 33% of total population are facing food scarcity. This is highly attributed due to lack of land to grow crops, climatic changes which bring about droughts making some areas very dry and unfavorable for agriculture. Being a victim of hunger and poverty, I believe it is in my hands to solve this.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Through Women Smiles, we manufacture and provide affordable, modern and reliable vertical farms to women and young mothers especially those in urban slums where there is hardly no land to practice agriculture and in areas highly affected with severe drought. We train women how to use the vertical farming mechanism, how to make composite manure through vermicomposting and also go ahead to link our customers using the artificial intelligence technology (USSD Code) directly to buyers in markets where they sell the surplus of their produce for livelihood after getting food and to operation wealth creation our partner for free improved seeds.Women Smiles product is a vertical farm. This is a wooden made box like that converts 9 square feet into 3 square feet of farming space and is capable of growing up to 200 plants. To guarantee that the plants are receiving optimal sunlight, it has an internal bearing system which helps it to turn up to 360 degrees. The farm is mounted with an inbuilt drip irrigation system and a greenhouse material to address the aggro-climatic challenges. The farm can be positioned on any small ground that’s on roof top, veranda and walk way.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Our version of a vertical farm is the first ever made and one of a kind. At Women Smiles we embrace new innovations and technology.We made a research and discovered that the ever changing climatic conditions are one of the major challenges retarding agricultural growth in Africa, as a way of addressing this issue we innovated the first vertical farm with a well inbuilt drip irrigation system which enables farmers to grow crops through out the year season after season with out being hindered by the ever changing climatic conditions. At Women Smiles we also embrace technology and it is for this reason that we developed an AI platform where we link our customers to buyers in different markets where they sell the surplus of their produce.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

Women Smiles is a social enterprise and this indicates that we work with in our community where we engage them in our activities thats we do work with organized women groups and we work hand in hand with community leaders who help us in mobilization during our community gatherings.We are also aware that selling vertical farms alone may not help a woman who doesn’t have seeds we therefore, add value to our work and use our platforms to link women to government agencies that is operation wealth creation for free quality seeds and this is only done by women smiles. Operation wealth creation is our partner meaning we have secured partnerships with different agencies to bring about change in our communities. Lastly, being an urban based initiative, we have gone ahead to engage Kampala Capital City Authority in our work and we are into negotiations to secure a recycling center where we intend to recycle plastics and make farms out of plastic in our efforts to conserve the environment.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

During the course of these three years, women smiles has changed from being predominantly slum women serving to being a general women serving company. In this, we have decided to concentrate on securing food for every one and fighting against poverty through manufacture and selling of vertical farms. This means Women Smiles and her vertical farms are neither an idea nor a prototype but rather a business that has reached scale stage. With our vertical farms 1300 women in 14 urban slums have secured food at the comfort of their homes, 90 job opportunities have been created for the young mothers who got the gardens and those working with Women Smiles. We have secured partnerships with Kampala Capital City Authority, Operation Wealth Creation and financial banks who pay us and then give out the farms to their customers on a loan scheme basis and pay back with an interest rate of 2%. This has increased our revenue base and increased our profits.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Women Smiles team engages in different training programs as one way of acquiring more knowledge on business management, marketing and product branding in our preparations to scale. In the year 2020/2021,we intend to map out all our customers using google map and GPS to easily track their progress and see how best we can link them to our partners. We also intend to partner with UNCHR in the efforts to scale this product to refugee settlements in Uganda.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

Women Smiles being formed by a poor slum woman, knowing ins and out of the slum life has helped us know that it is not all about selling vertical farms and making profit as other players think but rather availing all the necessary platforms to enable a slum woman carryout urban farming. We do this by availing platforms like extra training on how to make composite manure as we encourage organic farming, record keeping, how to use drip irrigation among other good practices. Women Smiles has not only solved the problem of food scarcity in the slums but we have also created employment opportunities for the young girls thats those who are recruited in our organization to reduce unemployment.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Currently the source of revenue available is through the sale of the vertical farms, the annual subscription fees from our women groups, directors. annual contributions, funds from friends and family. We are also buying some of the surplus of our customers' produce and reselling it to restaurants, schools and hotels. The revenue generated is reinvested back into Women Smiles. We also partnered with financial micro institutions who pay us and then give out the farms to their customers on a loan scheme basis and pay back with an interest rate of 2%.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Our team is composed of 15 full time and 10 part time great amazing experienced professionals and experts in various fields of marketing, finance, agriculture,soil science,engineering,Artificial intelligence systems headed by Nakigozi Lilian with 5 years’ experience and expertise in social enterprise management and is in charge of representing the organization at all levels, lead the formulation of company policies and supervise their implementation, lead the fundraising of the company.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far


Yes, absolutely! - 25%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


5 —Absolutely! It’s crystal clear how the solution is directly contributing to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity. - 0%

4—Yes, it establishes a clear connection to biodiversity. - 40%

3—Somewhat, the entry speaks to biodiversity but the direct impact is not well established and/or it is focused on a single species without considering its impact on the broader ecosystem - 20%

2—Not really, the connection to biodiversity is weak - 40%

1—No. The entry does not reference the solution’s impact on biodiversity. - 0%

3. 3) Is this entry IMPACTFUL?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 20%

4- Yes, I think so. - 60%

3- Maybe. - 20%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

4. 4) Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 20%

4- Yes, I think so. - 40%

3- Maybe. - 40%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

5. 5) Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4- Yes, I think so. - 40%

3- Maybe. - 60%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%


5 -Yes, absolutely! - 20%

4- Yes, I think so. - 60%

3- Maybe. - 20%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

7. 7) Does this entry value COLLABORATION WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS in its approach?

5- Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4- Yes, I think ko. - 100%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

8. 8) FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions - 75%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 25%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 25%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 50%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 100%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 25%

Other option - 0%

9. 9) FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 20%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 40%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 60%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 20%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 40%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation: