Using local crops to brew beer helps Nile Breweries create employment in farming, where jobs are needed the most, while offering Ugandans an affordable alternative to unhealthy informal or illicit alcohol.
Uganda's Nile Breweries Limited (NBL) launched its sorghum-based Eagle Lager in 2002, in a pioneering move to brew beer from what was traditionally a subsistence crop.
Sorghum is a plant related to sugar cane that is tolerant to heat and drought, making it a staple crop in arid regions of the world such as Africa, Central America and South Asia. By developing a domestic value chain for the crop, NBL has created sustainable income for more than 20,000 farmers, making a practical contribution towards meeting the United Nations' Global Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. At the same time it has enabled NBL to secure local raw material supply lines that have reduced its reliance on expensive imported ingredients.
Initially, farmers supplied the brewery through contracted agents. Now, as part of an initiative known as LEAP (Local Enterprise Agriculture Program), they have been encouraged to form growers' associations to deliver their crops directly to the brewery. Farmers have also been provided with training to enhance their farming and entrepreneurial skills, while NBL worked closely with local partners to help growers develop a deeper understanding of farming as a business, and of the ways in which yields could be improved.
Promoting female empowerment is a key aspect of the program. More than half of the farmer associations that supply sorghum to NBL are led by women. And Eagle Lager also offers benefits to the wider farming community, through providing access to water, carrying out reforestation programs and offering HIV/AIDS screening.
In recognition for its contribution to agricultural communities, Nile Breweries was able to secure an excise rate of 30% for Eagle Lager, instead of the 60% levied on beer brewed from imported ingredients. This enables Eagle to be sold at a lower price to consumers, making it an affordable alternative to unregulated and dangerous illicit brews. It has also helped the brand grow NBL's market share by 25% since 2002, with Eagle brands accounting for 66% of NBL's total sales.