Thursday, June 20, 2024
Home Change Makers Natigo Has Changed Lives Through Farming

Natigo Has Changed Lives Through Farming

by Jacquiline Nakandi
0 comment

By Umar Nsubuga

In the comfort of his agricultural products shop in Mubende town, he follows the operations in the different departments by his workers.

He observes clients who are trying to park their vehicles to take products from his agro shop. At this point, he gets out up from his seat to rush out to meet one of his clients.

This is 40-year-old Geoffrey Natigo who has for over twelve years had his foot in formal employment and entrepreneurship. Today, it is only fair to describe him as an envy for many and a tycoon waiting to be unveiled to his home district. 

When Natigo talks about commercial farming, his passion can tempt one to grab the hoe and run to the garden.

Natigo’s influence spreads across Mubende as he is the aspiring Mayor for Mubende municipality.

The 40-year-old graduate teacher and resident of Mubende town says he used to earn peanuts from his job.

“Although I was working hard, life was miserable. I could not afford to buy a nice shirt or trousers, get time for my family or eat well,” Natigo says.

He joined farming in 2014, inspired by a friend, Patrick Iga, who preached farming on radios in Mubende district. He loved what Iga was teaching and he was forced to study farming at Mityana Agrovet Institute in Mityana.

How he started

When he resigned in 2014, Natigo has since developed the enterprise into a large Farm.

“I didn’t just stumble into farming, my father having been a prominent farmer, so I grew up in a farming environment,” he says.

His father grew coffee, and bananas. Though he was a teacher, but Natigo’s dream was to become a famous farmer one day.

He has 14 acres of coffee, a 120-maize acreage, and a coffee demonstration farm.

Unlike most farmers who use herbicides and fertilisers, Natigo grows his coffee organically.

“Farmers who sell un-pulped coffee lose tonnes of manure that they would have used to fertilise their plantations,” he says.

Coffee and conservation practices

The farm is practising environmental conservation by tree planting. “The more the trees, the more we add to environmental conservation,” he says.

Adopting organic manure

Charles Kimbugwe, a resident says what makes Natigo’s coffee garden distinct from others is just a concept he obtained from his parents, institute, and trainings from different workshops he has attended.

“That’s why I always consult him,” Kimbugwe says.

“If there is anybody who took these trainings it is me. Many coffee farmers have failed to understand the secret behind a coffee crop. But, ideally after the first harvest, each coffee plant is capable of sustaining itself in terms of nutrients,” observes Natigo.

Natigo uses the fresh husks pulped from his coffee harvest as manure for the shamba. Most coffee farmers either dry the coffee and sell the husks with them or sell the coffee fresh, still with the husks. 

Natigo says that this is a very big mistake.

“Why should a coffee farmer waste tonnage and tonnages of manure that would have maintained his coffee plant by selling his coffee fresh to a dealer,” he wonders.

Natigo digs the pits, which are three by two feet, and puts decomposed cow dung, which he mixes with soil. He then waits for two weeks before planting the coffee seedlings in the pits or matooke suckers.

“When my trees are still young, I apply Nitrogen-Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK). The fertilizers are placed at the base of the stem. And when it rains, it can easily dissolve in the soil,” he says.

How is admired

Gloria Kyeyune, a resident and neighbour says Natigo involves himself in every farm activity and not just leaving it to the workers.

“I think this helps him to monitor all the activities and costs at his farm,” she says.

 Highly paying

According to Natigo, growing Robusta coffee is a highly paying investment and it is now the crop for the young and elderly to resort to if they want good money quickly.

“I have a strong reason for recommending cloned Robusta coffee. Besides growing pretty fast, it is high yielding and it has a large bean size, it is also harvested twice every year,” he advises.

Pulping coffee

Natigo pulps coffee beans from the fresh husk. The process is done by a hand-pulping device. He says he bought it at sh2.5m. 

For Natigo, pulping gives him two advantages. The first is that the value of his coffee bean rises by at least sh12,000 from sh4,000, while the other is that he gets the husks and uses them as manure on the farm. 

“By that time, the husks have not only been drained of the acidic content that is dangerous to any crop, but have crumbled into fine crisps of dark soils that I scoop and deposit around every coffee plant,” he explains.

Once the coffee is pulped, it is washed clean and spread on strong polythene mats for a few days until it dries. When coffee has dried, its grained into coffee and also sell some.

“In case of emergencies, I get village sacco loans,” he says.

This comes when they need to pay worker’s wages in time to keep weeds at bay.

Management

“To ensure the smooth running of the farm, I involved my family in all the farm activities. We meet weekly to get performance reports, and to see the challenges and way forward of the farm. We then decide and prioritise in regard to demand and the available finances,” he says.

At times, Natigo says he buys items including seeds, pesticides, veterinary drugs, and weed killers in advance when prices are low.

“The main problems on my farm are diseases and pests. I control them by spraying frequently,” he says.

Natigo says to control diseases and pests, a farmer has to be keen in looking out for them. “One needs proper monitoring to detect any pests and diseases,” Natigo says.

Expenditure

Annually, a rough estimate of sh500,000 goes to pesticides, while another sh1.5m goes to a labour force of six casual workers and five family members whom he also pays, all of them are recruited to tend to his coffee plantation. 

He says after deducting farm requirements, he saves like sh500,000.

When the harvest exercise begins, he hires a labour force of 20 people, and pays sh7,000-15,000 per day but this depends on the service at the farm.

Mistakes and lessons

“I learnt that for quicker returns, use of modern technologies in agriculture, especially coffee farming is the way to go,” he says.

“I have made several mistakes but I recall when didn’t spray pests attacked and destroyed the yields by 65 percent. I learnt that, unlike other crops, one should never relax with improved varieties if the enterprise is to succeed,” he explains.

 What has he achieved from coffee

He uses proceeds from coffee to pay school fees for his grandchildren in good schools.

He has also expanded his farm from a few acres to more than 12 acres.

“I have since bought 11 acres of land around the village, which I plan to use as expansion of my coffee garden,” explains Natigo.

Additionally, he has acquired local cows to add to his income from coffee. His dream is to acquire a piece of land in the business centre of Mubende town.

Maize and its challenges

“I chose to grow maize after my friend Iga did so on a large scale, His home was a home of maize and you would see many people come home just to eat either roasted, boiled maize or posho.”

In the past, labour was not as commercialised as it is today. Provided you gave labourers’ food and brew, nobody would bother asking for money, he quips. The hard-hitting living conditions have forced things to change.

“I treasure people around me for they are instrumental in my businesses, especially in tending to my maize. I pay them besides giving them food,” Natigo says.

At his office, about 20 people sat leisurely on the verandah waiting to be paid for the week’s work.

Gibson Ntege, his worker, was paid sh100,000.

Alex Bogere, 30, was given sh120,000 for his labour. Young people were spread at the office threshing boxes of pesticides and packing maize in polythene bags.

Maize growing in Uganda is constrained by the presence of weeds like the wandering Jew (commelina diffusa), which has blue flowers and tradescantia albiflora with yellow-tipped stamens. There is also the blackjack, striga and oxalis (witchweed).

Natigo says he also has to deal with striga, stemborers, fall armyworm, termites, leaf pyrosis and mycotoxins. He says these are manageable.

“The high interest rates on agri-financing are a great challenge to my farming activities. Sometimes, I need a loan to buy new machinery but the loans are expensive,” Natigo says.

“Theft is no longer a threat because most of the people who work here appreciate my work. However, some pockets of misgivings from a few errant individuals still exist.”

Plans

To expand the coffee from 15 acres to 50 acres

To turn the farm into a learning centre. Natigo plans to modernize his farm into a model farm in 10 years.

“I wish to also promote farming for export by empowering a bigger section of the community with knowledge on commercial farming and best farm practices,” he says.

Adding value

Natigo says sometimes, the yields depend on the weather conditions. After harvesting the coffee beans, they are put in a drum full of water.

On the other hand, the good coffee is taken to a pulping machine, where the red skin is removed. After pulping, the coffee is dried on raised beds. Natigo says most Ugandan coffee farmers have not embraced value addition.

Challenges

“We do not have key social amenities such as water,” he says. As a result, he spends a lot of money on fetching water from the borehole to the farm.

At the moment, the entire farm does not use irrigation because the equipment is not there.

However, when the coffee trees were still young, he hired workers who used to ferry water from the nearby borehole, to water the seedlings.

According to Natigo, the unpredictable weather pattern and the shift of planting seasons, the prolonged droughts and pests are the biggest challenges.

Impact to the community

My consultancy services target changing the mind-set of a farmer, who then, on realising the benefits, acts as my ambassador to other farmers

Most of the farmers I encounter have no idea about modern farming methods and have myriad myths about these technologies, especially the safe use of fertilisers in farming.

According to Natigo his concern is to promote the safe use of organic and inorganic fertilisers.

“I feel so happy when a farmer implements a new farming approach correctly and comes back full of appreciation because of the benefits realised”, he says.

I have also faced challenges as I do my work. One of my biggest challenges is that I cannot visit as many farmers as I would like because of transport hurdles since I have to do that with a motorcycle.

Sometimes the terrain is poor and roads are impassable even with motorcycles. In such circumstances, I have to abandon the motorcycle somewhere and walk to the farms, which is tiresome.

My greatest desire is to make a difference in the lives of as many farmers and seeing that farmers have land as their greatest resource, I believe if they utilise it well they can improve their lives and stop depending on begging or handouts.

 What people say

Scovia Najjuma, his wife at the farm, says they emphasise the quality of the produce we take to the market. This is why we have many clients of our coffee. We run the plantation through consensus and that is why things are smooth.

Ronald Mwanje, friend and a farmer: Before Natigo advised me, I did not know that weeding a coffee plantation was important. When I started pruning, weeding, and applying pesticides to my coffee, my yields almost tripled.

Susan Nakalega, neighbour, Natigo freely shares knowledge on coffee farming with us. I have learnt a lot about soil fertility conservation from him.

PHOTO CAPTION LEAD: Geoffrey Natigo in his agricultural products shop in Mubende town. Photo by Umar Nsubuga

You may also like

Leave a Comment

Download Vision Group Experience App

Follow Us

All Rights Reserved © Harvest Money 2023

error: Content is protected !!