Monday, July 22, 2024
Home Change Makers I Don’t Regret Taking Farming As A Profession — Kyomuhendo

I Don’t Regret Taking Farming As A Profession — Kyomuhendo

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Umar Nsubuga

A 46-year-old woman carrying a black book suddenly rides into the compound.

“I am a busy woman,” Priscilla Twinomujuni Kyomuhendo says.

I had been waiting for her for over 20 minutes since the bodaboda dropped me in her compound. I was amazed by the lush matooke shamba beyond the main house and the well-kept tree fruits on the right. The zero-grazed cattle also looked good.

Kyomuhendo’s 10-acre farm is located in Kibimba B village in Kabarole district.

As we walk around, bicycles laden with huge bunches of matooke are leaving the farm. They are coming from the well-kept banana shamba after the small path.

The talkative and assertive Kyomuhendo is a professional tourism officer but she takes farming as professional and prides herself in that, people come from everywhere to get farming tips from her.

Kyomuhendo’s farm is a bee hive of activity. Gladys Tumwine, a mother of two, has worked on her farm for six months.

She says the job has helped her buy necessities. She is not the only beneficiary of this farm.

Kyomuhendo feeding her cows. She has four cows with only three giving her milk. Photos by Umar Nsubuga

Kyomuhendo practices mixed farming, though her main farming enterprises are bananas, dairy and piggery.

How he started

Kyomuhendo says she picked an interest in farming when she was still a child.

She grew up in Kampala in a family that practised subsistence farming. When she joined secondary school, she started growing cabbage, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables for home consumption.

“After completing secondary school, I learned that farming can be taken as a business and my passion was cows. Using savings from the pocket money my parents always gave me, I bought a cow and by the time I joined university it had given me two calves,” Kyomuhendo says.

She kept the cows under the zero-grazing system. On graduating from Christian University in 2010, Kyomuhendo did not bother looking for a job, but her husband was encouraging her to get a job and get experience.

Currently, she gets between 15 and 18 litres of milk daily from each cow. Apart from giving her milk, the cows give her manure for her gardens.

Kyomuhendo sells the milk at sh1,000 per litre, earning her an average of sh19,000 daily (minus expenses) or about sh500,000 monthly.

Most of the milk is bought from the farm by wholesalers. Asked about the expenditure and inputs, Kyomuhendo says the biggest expense she incurred in starting the farm was sh5m, which she used to construct the cattle shed.

She says the regular expenses are on workers and feeds that cost her sh150,000 weekly.

“I spray every two weeks at sh50,000-sh70,000. I also call a veterinary doctor to check them once in two months,” she says.

Kyomuhendo says artificial insemination has improved the breeds on her farm.

Matooke project

At first, Kyomuhendo had settled on keeping her cows until she discovered that bananas, rabbits and pigs were on high demand on the market.

“In 2018, my husband bought an acre of land and we expanded. It is on that land that I have established my projects,” Kyomuhendo says.

She says bananas need well-drained soils with about 12 hours of direct sunlight daily. Waterlogged soils, she says, result in root rot.

Kyomuhendo sells a bunch of bananas at between sh8,000 and sh15,000. With each acre having at least 300-400 plants, Kyomuhendo has at least 1,600 banana plants.

After getting training on the rabbits and pigs, she decided to try them and has not looked back since then.

Currently, she has 10 old pigs and six dairy cows, from these, she says she earns between sh1m monthly after all the expenses.

Starting of Piggery

Kyomuhendo ventured into piggery in 2020 with four animals, three females and one male.

“I started piggery because many farmers had adopted this and it was doing well at that time and even, I had done research.

I started with two sows (female pigs) and two boars (male pigs), I bought female pigs at sh500,000 and male at sh450,000. I booked these breeds from a friend,” she says

The number of pigs on the farm is never constant because she keeps selling them. For example, “In November last year I sold 40 pigs,” she says, but today there are less than 10 pigs on the farm.

There are all sizes of pigs here. From days-old to weeks-old to months-old.

“Sometimes the number increases to over 70, but when I sell off the piglets, I remain with at least 10,” she explains.

For example, two months ago, the centre sold about 80 piglets at a go. However, today, they have grown back to nearly 10 pigs.

Kyomuhendo sprays the pigs every week. She vaccinates the animals every three months to keep them healthy. She hires a veterinary doctor.

According to Kyomuhendo, each of the sows produces an average of 10 piglets every time it delivers. Each sow delivers twice a year, which makes 20 piglets.

“On average, we breed around 70-100 piglets in a year,” she says.  But this depends on how you feed them.

Zero grazing

Kyomuhendo’s cows play more than one role on the farm. At the moment, there are four cows with only three giving her milk.

“I have a biogas system and the cow dung is also collected and used as organic fertiliser for my crops,” she says.

The cattle shed was constructed in such a way that the sludge from the dung flows into a small pit below the shed. It is then collected and poured into another pit, where it is later scooped and poured into the biogas system. In addition to manure, each cow on average gives her 15-20litres of milk per day.

She sells every litre at sh1,000 and earns about sh45000, per month.  Kyomuhendo says fluctuating milk prices affect production.

“Sometimes a litre of milk may be as low as sh700, but on average, she earns sh1.350,000 before balancing.

Rabbits

Kyomuhendo says she started the rabbit project because they can feed on weeds.  

“You don’t need to spend money on feeds, you can just go to the bush and get weeds, but for commercial purposes, you can grow carrots, cabbages among others and they have to be clean”, she says.

The farm has about 100 rabbits.

Social impact

Arali Mutegeki a resident says Kyomuhendo is among the farmers who have started motivating matooke farmers in the area.

“When I realised that matooke is a money-maker, I encouraged other people in my area to start growing them, but just because I admired Kyomuhendo,” she says.

I have tried to motivate youths and even encourage them to take farming as a business.

“I employ three full-time workers,”, Kyomuhendo says.

Farmers visit her farm to acquire knowledge and skills on how to control diseases. The visits are free-of-charge, on average she gets five people on her farm on a weekly basis. 

She pays the permanent workers sh150,000, provides accommodation and food, she pays the casual workers an average of sh5,000 per day.

Her husband is the pioneer of the project, he finances when she gets losses at times.

 How she makes biogas

Kyomuhendo collects rubbish-free cow dung and mixes it with urine and water. She stirs the dung till it is liquid and then pours it in a cemented pit (biodigester), constructed with a pot-like neck at the top.

“Biodigesters may differ in size depending on individual requirements and the amount of cow dung available, mine is nine-feet deep and 16-feet wide”, she says.

Kyomuhendo says biogas can be used to cook and provide light. She says it saves from firewood smoke.

Irrigation

To keep her plants healthy, especially during the dry season, Kyomuhendo irrigates her farm using both tap and rainwater.

“I have invested about sh3m in irrigation kits. I was lucky because we already had piped water in the area, so my major expense was in acquiring sprinklers and installing lines across the farm. I store water in tanks and during dry seasons I pump it into my gardens,” Kyomuhendo says.

Value addition

To control the feed’s expenses, Kyomuhendo bought a machine that she uses to crush the maize and grass such that she makes silage that she feeds her animals during periods of scarcity.

Main challenges

One of the challenges is the fluctuating and often low prices of farm produce. For instance, while she may sell her huge bunches of bananas at about sh20,000 if she was near a big town or city she would sell at a higher price.

 Record keeping

There is nothing that Kyomuhendo do without involving her husband Edson Kyomuhendo, “I always advise my wife accordingly. My wife is hardworking and determined. She embraced the idea of a commercial farmer with both hands, she has now helped train many other farmers in the use of biogas and intercropping”, he says.

Achievements

Kyomuhendo says having to build a farm from scratch to the best standards is her biggest achievement. “I had a dream of training people about the best agricultural practices and today I have a training space.

What others say

John Baguma a neighbour and friend

Kyomuhendo is an inspiration to many youths around this area. Her gradual development into a commercial farmer has made many of us follow her up. I am currently turning my father’s land into a commercial farm, thanks to her model.

 Ambrose Muhangi Fellow farmer

Kyomuhendo works hard at her farm. It is no surprise that her business is doing well, even when she had just started,

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