After winning a trip to the Netherlands in 2015 as one of the Best Farmers, John Bagada, 59, has greatly inspired many farmers in Bunyoro sub-region to venture into commercial and modernized agriculture.
Bagada, a farmer in Biizi cell, Kikiwanana ward in Nyangaya division in Masindi municipality, started venturing into mango growing in 2006; however, his training point was in 2015 when he was selected as one of the best farmers and won a trip to the Netherlands.
Currently, Bagada has helped thousands of farmers both in Bunyoro and outside Bunyoro to start mango production and he carries out training under their association of farmers talk Uganda.
“I own a seven and half-acre mangoes orchard, which has about 800 trees. Alongside this, I rear hens, pigs. I began growing mangoes in 2006,” he says.
“I don’t regret going into mango growing. Currently, I am into wine production. Many people didn’t know that mangoes can produce the best wine but I have demonstrated that. The profit earned is enough to cater for my needs, including paying fees for my children’s education. The good thing with mangoes is high market value and high demand,” Bagada added.
When he got an opportunity to visit the Netherlands, life never remained the same because he got connected to an expert in wine processing.
“He visited my farm and trained me on how I can make good wine out of mangoes,” he says.
Currently, Bagada has different varieties of mangoes at his farm which he says he has minimized losses because of wine processing.
There is an abundance of these mangoes in Bunyoro and the demand for them outside Bunyoro is high because he also has a nursery bed and I sell crafted mangoes to the farmers after training them.
Traders from Mbarara, Masaka and Kampala and as far as Rwanda come and book the mangoes even before they mature. Therefore, the market availability coupled with suitability of the area in terms of fertile soils has motivated many farmers to venture into mango farming.
Bagada says he started venturing into commercial mango production in 2006 with local varieties.
“Due to the high demand, I started growing other varieties like kent, tommy and apple mangoes and the returns were good,” he says.
Bagada says being a mango farmer may be easier said than done. For the new farmer, there is no ideal number of trees to plant. The number would really depend on how much one wants to earn. Even backyard growers who maintain as few as two trees are able to earn income for their daily expenses.
He says that he planted a few trees within his compound which gave him high quality fruits and he used to sell them locally.
He says that earnings from mangoes start from the fourth or fifth year, which is why it is crucial to get the right variety at the onset
This is to make sure that the variety you plant has commercial value. Barring unforeseen circumstances, one hectare should give a return of at least Shs1m per season
“I started with a few trees and later expanded to 100 trees, from which I harvested more than 20 bags per harvest and I have since been expanding and introducing different enterprises on the farm,” he says.
Bagada says the spacing for mangoes should be 30 feet by 30 feet. Proper spacing while planting is important because if it is not followed, the trees will not grow properly and fruiting will be poor. The seedlings are put in pits of three feet by two feet, and farm yard manure is used.
Bagada adds that it is important for a farmer to seek knowledge from experts before starting as one way of minimising losses.
I got the manure, which included cow dung and plant leftovers, from farmers. All the seedlings were grafted to make them high yielding, pest and disease resistant and fast maturing.
He says that it is also important for the farmers to text the soils before venturing into commercial production of mangoes.
“At the beginning, things were not easy because I didn’t follow the best agronomical practices since it was not commercials. I didn’t even have enough money to procure the seedlings,” he says.
Bagada says he didn’t even understand some of the improved varieties that were on the market.
“I spent no less than sh500,000 to start off this enterprise. It needs a lot of time, resources and commitment if one is to succeed,” he says.
There are different types of mangoes at my farm but the most common ones are tommy, kent, apple mango and I have also maintained the local mangoes which I started with.
He says that when recently researchers from the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) visited his farm they decided to name his local mangoes after his name Bagada.
The type, known as Bagada, is high yielding despite the fruits being of medium size. From one tree, I can get at least six sacks of mangoes a season, which is sh600,000.
Mistakes and lessons learnt
Bagada says some of his fruits used to ripen and rot, however with value addition currently, he doesn’t lose any fruit.
“I used to incur losses because fruits would ripen and fall on the ground and rot but now I pick them and use them for processing juice and wine,” He says.
I believe I have become a successful farmer and intend to expand to more than 100 acres. Plans are underway to procure more seedlings and land to achieve this.
Saving the environment
Bagada has also invested in saving the environment by planting indigenous trees around his farm which he says help filter water, combat salinity, clean the air and increase flows of water.
“When the environment around the mangoes is clean they don’t attract pests and diseases and that is the reason why I have also invested in planting trees,” he says.
He also says that it’s important for farmers to harvest rain water and use it on the farm instead of leaving it to be wasted in the soils.
How a trip to the Netherlands helped his communities.
Bagada says that when he came back from the Netherlands many people started flooding his farm to start learning and acquire seedlings for planting.
“People started coming to my farm and I also started going on radios to educate people about mango farming and I also wanted to practice what I had learnt from the Netherlands so balancing time became difficult for me,” he says.
He says that he constructed a training hall in his compound which he would use to train farmers who would visit his farm.
“Because I needed those farmers to find me at that farm I decided to construct a training hall and farmers both individuals and groups currently find me at home. At times I make schedules and visit them in their gardens to practically carry out farming,” he says.
He says that he has trained over 1,000 farmers both in Bunyoro and outside Bunyoro who have all ventured into commercial mango production.
“After training the farmers we give them planting materials at a very subsidized price so that they can also go and plant,” he says.
Impact of his farm in Bunyoro
The farm is currently a demonstration farm for farmers in Bunyoro and the entire country under Biizi Agro-Tourism Multiple Farm.
Students always come here and learn and even different district officials have always come to my farm to conduct training for their people.
Justus Mwesige, a resident of Masindi municipality, says Bagada has always invested a lot of money in acquiring knowledge and he always shares with them the knowledge.
“Bagada doesn’t miss agricultural shows and whenever he returns, he comes back with new ideas and he shares them with us. His farm has had a great impact in the communities and I also started mango farming,” Mwesige says.
Irene Kobugabe, a resident of Kakwesa, says Bagada is one of the modal famers who has helped to transform his communities.
“Many people who embraced his ideas have positively changed and they are good farmers even the people he employs are great ambassadors of agriculture.
Lucy Bagada, his wife, says she also participates in the farm activities when the husband is out of the home.
“Am involved in the management affairs of the farm because my husband is always on the move and I have to ensure that work moves on normally,” Lucy says.
Lucy says that they have also opened up a shop in Masindi town which they are using to showcase their products from the farm.
Currently Bagada is into wine processing and his wine has been certified by Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
He uses the mango juice which he ferments to make wine and sells to people around Masindi and his visitors.
Other enterprises on the farm
Bagada has a banana plantation and he sells his bananas locally around Masindi. He also has a piggery project with over 50 pigs in a modern piggery stye and he also rears chicken on his farm.
Bagada says he has a challenge of high costs of production because of the taxes asked by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
“I pay a lot of taxes because of the value addition component and that is a very big challenge most of the farmers who are into value addition are facing currently. We need the ministry of agriculture and URA to harmonize if they are promote commercial agriculture,” he says.
What community members say
Bagada is one of the best farmers around the region even though I have never gone to his farm but I always listen to radio programs where he educates people about farming. He loves farming and he has a lot of information about farming.
I have been to his farm many times and he is always encouraging every time you visit his farm you will find new innovations. And he finds time to carry out research and help his communities.
Joyce Kabahenda Every time experts come to his farm he calls the people around his area to join him and listen to them and as a result a lot has changed in our communities.
Story filed by Wilson Asiimwe