By Tom Gwebayanga
Farmers in the eastern region are in a mad rush of growing a new okra variety whose farm-gate price has hit sh6,000 a kilogramme.
The African lady finger (ALF) variety has changed lives and peasants’ mindset, birthing the gradual shift from the common crops like maize, soyabean and beans.
ALF okra has taken Ugandan farmers, by virtue of being early maturing (90 days), which is far better than maize and beans which fetch between sh1,200 and sh2,500 per kilogramme respectively.
From an acre, the ALF okra variety yields between 2.5 and 3 tonnes depending on the prevailing weather condition and crop management practices.
In Busia district, Rogers Baraza, a resident of Gangu village in Majanji sub-county, harvested 70kg from half an acre.
He bagged sh420,000 in a space of 90 days.
“I used the money to buy a piglet and a female goat,” Baraza said, adding that he’s to enlarge the shamba to two acres from the half.
The lucrative wave has sent many farmers jostling for the seeds which are distributed by the Lutheran Church of Uganda under the promoting agency, Seeds for Souls East Africa (SFSEA).
Rebecca Nakayima, a resident of Nababirye in Bulopa sub-county, Kamuli district, who grew a half an acre, harvested 90 kilos.
She bagged sh540,000 in a space of 90 days.
Nakayima said in case she had grown maize or beans, she would have earned between sh140, 000 and sh165,000.
Kamuli District Farmers Association (KADIFA) chairperson, Vincent Galisansana, is happy that many farmers across the Busoga sub-region have embraced okra.
Okra has medicinal values, according to Rev. Raymond Kaija, the executive director of the SFSEA, also the dean of mid-western deanery of the Lutheran Church.
Kaija explains that okra has health benefits which include being processed into powder to apply in drinks like tea, besides reducing diabetes and high blood pressure in ailing patients.
“Taking okra translates to prolonged lives. We are happy to be adding value to lives,” Kaija said, adding that the pods and leaves contain proteins and vitamins, which are prepared as sauce.
Okra does well on black and loam soils in western, Eastern and northern regions.
Agronomy starts from tilling the land, before treating the holes with organic manure.
The spacing is two feet between the holes and two feet between the lines.
On fertile soil, okra grows to as high as one-anda-a-half metres; however, spraying starts as early as the plants are still young to waive off grasshoppers, mites and caterpillars.
Titus Malijo, the eastern coordinator of the SFSEA, said okra flowers and shows pods at one and half months and ripen in 90 days.
Okra is prone to predators, especially the mites and fire flies, which punch the leaves, which most times compromise plant life and yields.
Other challenges include the poor weather pattern, when the rains at times cease at flowering stage, yet the farmers have no irrigation gadgets.
Farmers also have less information on handling okra, which at times compromises yields and quality.
Kaija says the project is focusing on promoting okra to heights, targeting to ripple production to 1 million tonnes in the next five years.
The project is to be rolled out from the 15 practising districts to 60.
It shall be rolled to schools, such that the pupils learn to grow the crop and take the seeds at home.
“We want the okra gospel to spread. Demo gardens shall be established in schools for learning and better health purposes,” he said.