Cocoa is one of the biggest cash crops in the country, over the last 5 years, the crop has been steadily cementing its place among Uganda’s cash crops.
In 2021, cocoa was the third most exported commodity fetching $106m and turning out to be a vital source of income and livelihood.
In Uganda, cocoa is grown in a number of districts where the conditions are suitable for cultivation, mainly in the central region, western [Bundibugyo], southeastern and southwestern regions and some parts of the eastern region, mainly in Busoga.
Abdallah Ashim, a cocoa farmer in Kasenda, Fort Portal, Kabarole district whose farm is on half-an-acre, says the volumes have doubled over the last seven years.
He started his nursery bed in 2019. Ashim, formerly a prominent coffee farmer, got attracted to coco growing by people in Bundibugyo.
“Making research is the biggest secret of making money and helps you get new and bright ideas from your fellow farmers and business persons on how to join and expand your farm for prosperity,” he added.
The crop’s gestation period is 3-4 years and cocoa growing needs patience like any other crop for one to harvest big.
Soil and climatic requirements for cocoa growing
“If a farmer needs to harvest big from cocoa growing, it needs to be grown in a nursery bed first in order to keep away diseases and be protected from harsh conditions like drought,” Ashim says.
“Its growth is favoured by good temperate soil, altitude and rainfall which is in most of parts of the country, meaning that any determined farmer can be a cocoa grower,” he adds.
A cocoa planted should be slashed regularly to keep weeds at bay so they do not outcompete the crop for nutrients.
Challenges of cocoa growing
Like any other crop, cocoa production too comes with challenges but not too many to scare you from joining the business.
Cocoa production is threatened by aging plantations, poor farm management, soil degradation and increasing pest and disease pressure.
However, Ashim manages most of these challenges by using nursery beds, inter-cropping, adding manure and slashing his farm.