By Abdulkarim Ssengendo
For the eighth year running, Vision Group, together with the Embassy of the Netherlands, KLM Airlines, dfcu Bank and Koudjis Animal Nutrition is running the Best Farmers competition. The 2023 competition runs from March to November, with the awards in December. Every week, Vision Group platforms will publish profiles of the farmers. Winners will walk away with sh150m and a fully paid-for trip to the Netherlands.
After working for 37 years as a primary school teacher and headteacher, in 2020, Martin Kananura put down chalk and picked a hoe. At the time of his retirement, Kananura was the headteacher of Mbarara Municipal School in Mbarara city.
He used his retirement resources to upgrade his venture, which he named Rwenjeru Agro-Tourism Demonstration and Training Farm.
Kananura had been farming since 1994 on land he inherited from his parents, but kept adding other pieces using his savings.
Sitting on 200 acres, Kananura’s farm is located in Rwenjeru parish-Mbarara North constituency in Mbarara city. Every tree at his farm has an inscription of its botanical name, with a translation in Runyankore.
His farm has over 200 head of cattle, 40 acres of bananas, acres of horticulture, more than 150 goats, 50 sheep, 200 rabbits and fi sh. He also has an apiary.
Kananura practises modern methods of farming, which include an irrigation scheme, animal feed processing and dairy products.
He explains that saving was key to his success as he started saving as early as at the time when he earned sh470,000 per month, and at the retirement, he had accumulated enough to grow his farming as a business.
Kananura warned Ugandans, especially the youths, against living luxurious lifestyles and forgetting to save for their future.
He started teaching having graduated as a Grade III teacher from Shimoni Teacher Training College and at the time of his retirement, he had a master’s degree in education management and planning.
Kananura started his enterprises on a small scale, with the objective of showing community members that one could practice agriculture regardless of the size of the land at hand.
“When you have income, you can educate your children, cover medical bills, eat well and have a good life. As a teacher, this is why I decided to continue with my profession of teaching, and this time teaching old people,” he said.
Kananura said he partnered with agricultural institutions, allowing students to do practical work at his farm. He described this as another form of teaching.
Kananura described his project as a big enterprise he cannot look after alone.
He has a farm manager and two assistants — one for livestock and another in charge of crops.
The assistant managers supervise workers in their units. Under the crop department, there are 15 people and another 15 under livestock. All together, his farm employs 30 workers, who are paid monthly.
Recordkeeping is a must at Kananura’s farm. Books of records can be seen displayed in his offi ce and copied and kept by his general manager.
“We keep records because we want to see how every programme is performing. We go slow on those that make losses and improve those that make profi t for sustainability,” he stated.
Kananura told farmers it is important to keep records because they give a way forward on whether to continue investing resources or if there is value for money in the projects they are doing.
Whatever is purchased is recorded, as well as whatever is gained at the farm. At the end of the month, books are balanced using the data recorded.
Value addition/market strategy
Kananura adds value to his milk by processing dairy products into cheese, butter, ghee, milk and yoghurt. He does this so that they don’t depend on taking milk to collection centres.
Kananura also adds value to bananas by making products such as juice, wine, powder, as well as fi bre art and crafts.
He said this helps, especially when they have bumper harvest of matooke and prices are low.
Kananura told New Vision that there are instances when the price of matooke goes as low as sh5,000 and farmers cannot break even, leaving value-addition as the only solution.
He works with neighbours, cooperative societies like Abesigana Dairy, Kyarujungu Meat Producers Coop Society, Katerananga Bananas Co-operative Society to look for market for their products.
Kananura said all the products at his farm have a good market, especially when schools are open.
He sells around 400 bunches of bananas every month, earning about sh6m. He also sells about 600 litres of milk, as well as meat every week.
Kananura has many machines. Being a commercial farm, they do not only use hoes, but also tractors and ploughing machines.
They also use silage choppers for chopping animal feeds, milking machines and have sprinklers in his banana plantation.
Kananura has drilled a well from which water is pumped into tanks and he also practises irrigation. He allows the community access to his farm machinery.
Kananura also has a milling machine at his farm that makes flour from maize and the community uses it as well.
“The machines we have here were established for the communities to make good use of them, especially the tractors,” he added. “
We are beneficiaries of his tractors, we have big and good gardens, all as a result of Kananura’s machinery investment,” Robert Byamukama, a beneficiary, said.
Kananura looks for good breeds. Since he is involved in the production of meat, he looks for bulls, especially the boran type.
But still, as a milk producer, he looks for good quality friesian bulls, so that he produces both milk for dairy and meat.
Kananura allows community members to crossbreed their cattle with his, so that they have improved breeds.
Bio-security on the farm
Before one enters Kananura’s farm, there is a footbath with chemicals that they must use.
“Since we receive many people from different areas, we are not aware of which diseases they may be carrying to the farm,” Kananura said.
He said they are mostly wary of Foot and Mouth Disease. Kananura also installed security cameras to monitor whatever is taking place around the farm. This is beefed up by his dogs.
Innovations at his farm
The use of solar-powered water pumps is one of the innovations at Kananura’s farm.
He also irrigates his farm, especially during the dry season. This ensures that he always has feeds for his animals, keeping him in production.
Kananura also makes silage and stores it for his animals.
Mechanisation, for example, cultivating using machinery and not the hoes, is another innovation applied at his farm.
Kananura’s farm has an established irrigation system with a dam as the source of water. This water is pumped into reservoir tanks to be distributed to different parts of the farm by gravity through the installed pipes.
He has also drilled two boreholes and extended water supply to the neighbouring communities, as well as trained farmers in best agricultural practices.
Kananura has a modern spray race, which minimises the effect of pests on the animals. There is also an established modern milking parlour that ensures quick and convenient extraction of milk from the cows. Kananura has machines that prepare silage for the animals.
Many of his family members are part of the programme. Even most of the infrastructure has been supported by the family.
“I am here as a managing director, but there are also directors in our family, this is a company and they are all board members. It is a family business, not my personal business,” Kananura said.
“This is a resource centre and, as a family, we are learning a lot from our father’s farm,” Duncan Kananura, one of the Kananura children, stated.
Livingstone Namara said the project is a source of income. It has become an avenue for networking for family members and also a source of food for family members. The farm provides a perm
Community members around Rwenjeru have benefi ted a lot from Kananura’s projects.
Kananura employs 30 permanent workers at the farm, all from the Rwenjeru community. The same applies to casual labourers employed during peak periods.
Other activities, such as harvesting animal feeds, are also done by the community. Community members also testified to having benefited from Kananura’s machinery.
Kananura carries out a monthly training, which largely targets his community members, with some people coming from other districts. He recently trained a team from Ankole Diocese.
The one thing Kananura is most proud of having done for the community is drilling water and building two big tanks on adjacent hills to supply them with water free of charge.
“The community is enjoying my retirement programme and they feel like this is their farm. In fact, we have very good security because they take this as their own and they know that whatever is here belongs to them,” he added.
Robert Byamukama, a resident of Rwenjeru North village, is among the beneficiaries of Kananura’s free supplied water system.
“At the beginning of this year, Kananura became our messiah, bringing this water project to our village. The project has saved us from walking long distances in search of water for our animals, especially during the dry season. We used to walk between 5km and 6km, searching for water in government dams,” Byamukama stated.
Innocent Twine, another resident, said the water project has also benefited crop farmers, some of whom have started irrigating their crops.
Kananura’s good bulls, good seeds and good market all have benefited the Rwenjeru community.
He always encourages them to plant animal feed, saying if they do not have animals to feed them to, they can sell to him.
Kananura has a target to train 300 farmers in modern farming by the end of next year.
So far, he has identified 100. After their training, each farmer will be tasked with bringing two farmers for training.
At his farm, Kananura encourages tree planting. He also encourages the use of biogas.
Kananura is against the use of firewood and most of the food cooked at his farm is prepared using biogas. The water they use is run by solar-powered water pumps.
Most of the work at Kananura’s farm runs on solar energy. He prioritises training his neighbours how to use biogas and solar lights as a way of discouraging the cutting of trees to conserve the environment.
“Much as we are trying to do all this for the community, sometimes they are not bothered, especially the youths. It’s like we are forcing them into the programme, even though it is meant to improve their livelihoods,” Kananura said.
He said they are also very much affected by climate change, which takes them by surprise at times. The acaricides are also not effective at killing ticks.
What others say
I am a production manager at this farm. I have worked here for four years and learnt how to practise large-scale farming. I have also made many connections from this farm since I receive people from different areas. I have managed to buy two plots of land and constructed a house in my village using money earned from this farm.
I am a farmer and this farm has taught us a lot. It’s a demonstration farm open to many. I rarely eat chicken, but what surprises me is to see a hen with 17 chicks, meaning if one has like 10 of them, that’s good money. We learnt how to utilise our small pieces of land to generate a lot from them.
I learn agro-tourism from this farm. Many enterprises here are inspiring. Irrigation systems, especially during the dry season, are important.