By Nasiima Doryn
Over 200 farmers in Rwengaju model sub-county in Kabarole district have started the growing of lemongrass as a way of fighting malaria as well as improving their household income.
These farmers under their umbrella Rwengaju Agro-Farmers ltd grow lemon by inter-planting it with other food crops, as land boundary, backyards, and others on bared/less fertile areas since it grows like a weed and spreads in short time of eight months.
Growing of lemon grass in Kabarole district started in 2019 by Johnson Antony an Indian National with one hectare of land of which he used to multiply for other farmers and now has over 40hcrs of lemongrass.
Johnson Antony says that the locally known as Kalifuha in Rutooro (scented grass), the bush aroma emitting plant was in past mainly grown for domestic use but of late however, we have also started distilling it.
” We carry out simple distillation, as a way of adding value to the lemongrass and in one hundred kilograms of it can fetch a half litre of essential oil that we use to process mosquito repellants, pesticides and perfumes” says Antony..
Antony adds that there is a big demand of the aromatic products especially in Kampala restaurants that uses them to chase away flies, hotels for mosquitoes though production is still low.
According to John Nyamiya a lemongrass farmer in Bwabya village, lemongrass is easy to multiply by splitting it into several plantlets and can be growing the backyard since it requires less space or care and can be harvested continuously.
” My space was small and so had to start by growing it in pots and sacks around my verandah and later bought four more acres of land to extend production where i harvest 300 to 400kgs within 50days every after each harvest selling each kilogram at sh100 Nyamiya explains.
Climate and Soils
Antony explains that the grass grows well in lay -loom soil and one is advised to add organic manure and nitrogen though most of the soils in the region meet the standard.
He narrates that he got the first seeds from India of which was multiplied and now supplies stems which are easy to replant for better yeilds.
Antony says that Tooro region is the best area for lemongrass growing since its rainy season period is more than the dry season giving it more production as it requires more rain falls.
Farmers can practice intercropping with maize, beans for fixing nitrogen while the grass is still young.
Abudullah Agaba another farmer from Busoro says that it takes just six to nine months for the plant to mature and is harvested by cutting out the stem from buttom not uprooting it from soil using a sharp Knife , Panga and others with a grass cutter.
“Harvesting is best done in the morning hours when thr moisture is moderate and we are advised not to cut the stem completely down to allow the stem to regrow again” states Agaba
Antony adds that after planting the grass, one harvests for more consecutive ten years as yeilds keep increasing every after each harvest depending on the management.
Agaba says that from his 10hcres of lemongrass, he is able to harvest 20-40 tones of fresh stems annually capable of producing 70-100 litres of essential oil.
during wet season and so other fellow farmers in the group that is sold at sh100 per kilogram.
He says that even when we are young in growing lemongrass, our Chairman Johnson Antony who introduced us to this project has started the processing of essential oils to make finished products like Mosquito repellants, insecticides and perfumes within our model sub-county Rwengaju that purchases it from farmers at farm.
According to Antony, he sells his finished processed product in Kampala city and Fort portal city restaurants, hotel, schools in cartons and retail at sh9000 per tin to sh90,000 a carton of 12tins.