By David Lukiiza
Did you know that you can make money out of your compound? George Steven Ochwo, a former banker and businessman, earns sh1m monthly from his compound.
A resident of Kakooba ward in Mbarara city, Ochwo says he earns an average of sh300,000 weekly from his 50 by 50 ft compound. Ochwo invested sh200,000 capital in tomato farming and he has successfully reaped after being badly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
How he started
Last year when the world went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it meant no economic livelihood for Ochwo since most of his businesses were not allowed to operate.
Ochwo says at the same time, his family was at home, including the children since schools had been directed to close.
“This meant high expenditure with no income. But one day my wife suggested that instead of having two meals a day, we could have one and supplement it with a cup of tea in the evening,” he recalls.
Although the idea was practical then, Ochwo knew it was not sustainable. It would only be a matter of time before his family would need two meals a day to keep him healthy.
Meanwhile, he continued to think proactively about how else he could raise money without a job. That is when it dawned on him that he could utilise his compound that was lying idle.
“With this space in my compound, I used part of my savings to invest in horticulture, focusing on tomato growing on a small scale. I targeted the local markets where I could sell them and earn a living to feed my family,” he says.
In urgent need of a crash course in tomato farming, Ochwo met up with a friend in Kampala who had done horticulture before on a large scale and trained him for about three weeks. After acquiring the skill, he also trained his wife and two children on how to set up a greenhouse and earn from it.
Ochwo planted 1000 tomato stems from which he started earning about sh300,000 weekly.
Three months down the road, Ochwo was vending his tomatoes in the market and supermarkets in Mbarara city. “Getting good results starts from proper management of the nursery bed (greenhouse) where lighting is key while transplanting the seedlings,” he says.
Ochwo says backyard farming is lucrative because it requires few chemicals, less labour and few materials. According to him, most of the cost comes down to setting up the greenhouse, the bags and the fertilisers which are a bit costly.
“I used three fertiliser types which include Yalawinner, Yalamila power and Yalabela nitrate fertilisers which are imported from Israel.”
Tomato farming is now Ochwo’s full-time job because it requires stiff monitoring. He says before the seeds start germinating; one must apply Yala power fertiliser to the soil.
After transplanting the seedlings, a schedule of 12 days of spraying should be strictly adhered to, with spraying occurring every after 12 days. This is done because tomatoes are affected by many diseases. In regard to watering, each tomato stem requires one litre of water each day, but this must be shared in two intervals depending on the weather conditions.
Things to be cautious about
After transplanting the seedlings to the main garden one should be cautious about watering, which should not be too much or too little, because once a plant gets too much water, it will become relaxed and not yield much.
Secondly, a farmer should be cautious about pests and diseases. “You should take note that after five or six days, spraying must be done.”