By George Bita
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.
When Rose Esther Namuganza abandoned chalk in 2015 to pick up the hoe, she disproved the naysayers by making a fortune out of her farm enterprise.
She said some colleagues tried to dissuade her from leaving a salaried job at St. Charles Primary School, Kawuku on Entebbe Road where she was teaching.
However, 49-year-old says she turned a deaf ear to their pleas. Namuganza’s farm, sitting on 86 acres at Mawagala village in Nawaningi sub-county, Iganga district, comprises a poultry section, piggery, dairy, afforestation, a banana plantation, as well as an orchard.
Namuganza says she purchased 100 acres of farmland in the Iganga rural countryside at sh40m in 2008, but only managed to secure 86 acres two years later, after encroachers had grabbed 14 acres as she was away teaching.
“This was money saved from over 15 years of teaching so I decided to invest it into land. I initially thought of selling the land later when its value had gone up, but changed my mind to indulge in farming,” she says.
She says the encroachment prompted her to get a land title for the farmland by 2011, as well as start to plant eucalyptus and pine trees on a section of the expansive land.
“I had been into part-time farming for seven years when my mother fell sick in 2015. Since my venture was failing due to lack of close supervision, I knew it was the time to take leave of school work and do full-time farming while also caring for mum.”
Namuganza recounts how she chose to plant trees on her land in 2011 as a way of keeping off encroachers.
“The seedlings for eucalyptus and pine that I planted were procured from Namanve, near Kampala, at sh50 each. These have since grown into a man-made forest at the swampy section of the farm,” she says.
She says the venture cost about sh10m to have the area cleared of bushland, planting session, weeding and spraying, to ensure proper growth.
“Nowadays, the trees help in setting up paddocks, building farm structures, providing shade and acting as windbreakers. I am yet to start trading in trees to get cash.”
Namuganza explains that the dairy venture was her second project and that it involved buying two in-calf heifers from Entebbe at sh10m.
“Eight years later, my paddocks hold 38 cows. Out of this population are five heifers and two cross-breeds,” she says.
According to her, three of the heifers give her about 40 litres of milk per day, enabling her to deliver to outlets in Iganga town.
“I sell each litre at sh1,600. However, we remain with some four litres for home use,” she says.
She adds that a veterinary doctor from the Iganga district agriculture department visits once a week, but that whenever there is an emergency, he is just a call away.
“The vet services cost an estimated sh300,000 per month. I usually purchase the required drugs and the vet administers them to the animals,” Namuganza says.
She says the cattle must be protected from ticks, hence they are sprayed with acaricides once a week with a monthly expenditure of sh100,000.
“This is usually conducted on Sundays, although during the rainy season, the risk of tick invasion increases, calling for more sustained spraying. At such times, the exercise is done twice a week,” Namuganza says.
“I started off the piggery project in 2018, with three pigs. These included two sows and one boar,” Namuganza explains.
She says it cost about sh4m to construct a shelter and buy the animals with each female costing sh200,000 while the male was bought at sh350,000.
Namuganza notes that she currently has 32 pigs in the piggery section of the farm, after selling off a sizable number during the festive season.
“Before Christmas, I had over 50 with numerous piglets. However, when it came to the festive season, with its high demand for pork, I sold three big ones, each at sh1m.”
She adds that the medium-sized ones fetched between sh400, 000 and sh500, 000 at farm gate price.
Namuganza says in 2014, she procured over 100 mango plantings from Mukono, which she planted on four acres of her farmland.
“The venture cost about sh2m which I got from my savings. By 2019, I was selling the fruits at a farm-gate price of sh100,000 per 100kg bag.”
She explains that buyers would come from as far as Kampala, but that the fruit production was later affected by fruit flies.
“I have bought some sprays from local outlets that cost me sh150,000 per month. I hope these will stop the flies’ infestation.”
Namuganza bought 500 broiler chicks from Mukono in March and she anticipates making a good sale soon.
“The project cost about sh2m. Meanwhile, the room for layers remains empty as I reorganise to have them later,” she says.
The farm has two-and-a-half acres of bananas of mpologoma species. According to Namuganza, she bought 80 suckers from a farm outlet in Entebbe and the yields have proved to be excellent.
“I earn about sh1m every festive season from sales done at the farm. Dealers come here with vans to buy and take to markets,” she says.
Namuganza notes that this month she procured a pick-up van at sh15m to help in moving farm inputs, as well as outputs to the market.
“The second-hand vehicle is still in good running condition and it is an answer to our transport needs. Lack of a vehicle had put me at the mercy of middlemen who pick produce at their own set farm gate prices so as to profit from the farmer’s sweat,” she says.
Namuganza recalls how she invested over sh30m in layer birds just prior to the start of the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
“The decision made me suffer a loss since the eggs were not being bought, with most markets closed. Movement was equally limited so I had to just sell the birds to locals at giveaway prices, with some given free of charge,” she says.
She says her fish ponds were fenced with an inferior metallic foil which rusted away within a short time, leaving predators like monitor lizards and snakes to invade the waters.
“I have since been directed to a better supplier of fencing materials and I look forward to re-starting the fish venture soon. The ponds have been idle for over three years,” she adds.
Namuganza dug up trenches that run across the sloping surface of the garden so as to trap runoff water after a downpour.
“These ensure more moisture is retained in the soils to boost fertility. They also trap surface soil that could have been taken away by soil erosion.”
She also uses mulch from banana leaves and fibre to keep more water and nutrients in the banana garden. With artificial insemination, Namuganza ensures that only better animal traits are produced on the farm.
Namuganza takes note of all the goings-on at the farm, including purchases, sales, animal losses plus production.
“I sit down every Friday of the week to undertake this important duty. It helps me easily tell whether I am incurring losses or making gains,” she says.
Namuganza notes that farming is like putting all one’s eggs in one basket, whereby a loss may affect the enterprise.
“I offset such risk by taking on many ventures. If one does not turn out profitable, another one will.”
Namuganza plans to turn the farm into a learning centre, whereby people can walk in and get vital farming tips.
“I also want to add value to my farm produce in future, so as to earn more. If I can be able to extract mango juice from my fruits, I will be able to get more cash.”
Who is Namuganza?
- 1986 — Left Kamuli Girls’ Boarding Primary School with a PLE certificate
- 1990 — Obtained an O’level certificate from Busoga High School, Kamuli district.
- 1993 — Got a Grade III Teachers’ certificate from Bishop Willis Core PTC in Iganga district
- 2002 — Obtained a Diploma in Special Needs Education from Kyambogo University
- 2002 to 2015 — Taught at St. Charles PS-Kawuku, Wakiso district.
In 2019, Namuganza was among the farmers taken on a study tour to Israel under an arrangement by the finance ministry, in collaboration with Iganga district local government.
“This trip boosted my farming skills as I came face to face with the Israelites’ dilemma of farming in a desert. I was under the dairy farmers’ category, but couldn’t avoid picking tips on other modes of farming.”
She says the irrigation methods used in the Jewish state made her come up with an irrigation system helping her to water crops during the dry spell.
“As a dairy farmer, I now have a lot of vital information on handling dairy cows. I was even taught how to handle artificial insemination for better animal breeds,” Namuganza says.
Namuganza says the establishment is run with the involvement of family members, to ensure that the business stays afloat long after she is gone.
“My husband, Grace Ceaser Kaima and three children, assist me quite often at the farm. They have knowledge about the day-to-day affairs,” she says.
Kezia Mirembe, her daughter, affirms that she often assists in balancing books as far as expenditure is concerned.
“This helps to tell whether mum is making profits or losses. She has taught us how to milk and we can do it with the labourers.”