By Stephen Nuwagira
With the prices of many crops becoming increasingly unpredictable, farmers have been told to focus on enterprises that bring in more money and have a wide market.
Patrick Bitature says embracing the growing of crops like vanilla and coffee and vegetables and fruits will enhance income and food security among households in Ibanda district.
He noted that Ibanda and other districts in Ankole region should take advantage of the good climate and fertile soils to undertake commercial agriculture projects to cushion themselves against poverty and food insecurity.
“Nobody should be poor in a place like Ibanda that has vast arable, fertile lands, where one does not need fertilisers to produce. We only need to plan well, observe good practices and embrace modern methods like mechanised farming and the use of organic manure to increase our production and productivity, hence better returns,” he said.
Bitature was speaking during an agriculture conference that sought to find ways of improving the sector to anable farmers earn more from their efforts.
The December 29 conference, held at Ibanda University, was under the theme: “Developing Ibanda through agriculture modernisation and value-addition: Challenges and opportunities.”
Organised by Ibanda Community Organisation Network (ICON), the annual dialogue and exhibition attracted about 150 farmers, academicians, local leaders, sector innovators, agroenterprises, institutions, and students.
The entrepreneur said Ibanda, as a model district that was ranked the least corrupt in the country, should ensure that residents have sustainable sources of income and food.
Coffee, horticulture push
Bitature urged more residents to improve coffee production and quality, saying; “Coffee is a profitable business because the market is big locally and abroad. We just need to focus and get it right.”
He urged coffee growers to ensure the best agronomic practices in order to get big-sized beans of screen 16 upwards.
“Let us stabilise and get the big screen size coffee to be competitive. This might take three to five years, but we can do it. This way, we shall be able to compete with areas like Bugisu (renowned for Arabica coffee) and get premium prices for the beans,” he said, adding that local consumption of coffee was growing, ensuring good prices in future.
He said crops like onions, tomatoes, greens, Irish potatoes, passion fruits, avocado and jackfruits have a high demand locally and on the export market, especially for organised groups.
Mollen Kamugisha, a farmer and municipal councillor, said it is important for farmers to learn from each other through exchange visits, noting that high-value crops could help cushion farmers, especially during bad seasons.
However, despite the huge potential Ibanda has in commercial farming, the many challenges along the value chain have conspired to hold back the sector’s development.
According to the district senior fisheries officer, Zephline Tumwesigye, the sector faces challenges of poor quality seeds and animal breeds, diseases and pests plus low production.
Dr Elviada Agnes Twesigye of Kabaare Bisheshe Division said the lack of relevant information and knowledge acquisition were also hindering the switch to agribusiness, with many producing for domestic consumption.
David Kiiza, a coffee farmer from Kashangura in Kangongo Division, said some initiatives aimed at improving different farming clusters fail due to lack of support from leaders.