Denis Kato travelled from Kabale for the Harvest Money expo in 2017 to learn new farming methods to improve his matooke plantation.
The father of three has recently ventured into matooke growing with his plantation covering about one acre. Before venturing into matooke he was growing Irish potatoes.
Kato arrived at Namboole, Wakiso district on Friday afternoon. He never wanted to miss any session, so, he booked into a hotel in Mukono for three nights.
“I came to learn about matooke, but I have fallen in love with urban farming. I live in Kabale town, but always go to the village to farm,” Kato says.
What is urban farming
Urban farming is the growing or producing food in the city or heavily populated town or municipality. While in town, Kato buys almost all the food and vegetables that the family feeds on.
Although these can be produced on a small piece of land, Kato and many Ugandans have not yet realised it.
He laments about the high food prices, which could be minimised if urban farming is embraced. Kato owns half an acre in Kabale town, but had never known he could maximise productivity on such a small piece of land.
“I learnt how to grow vegetables in bags or sacks on small pieces of land. In one bag, one can grow about 100 different types of crops,” Kato says.
Ashraf Ssebandeke, from Bukomansimbi, says urban farming is the way to go for people with small pieces of land.
“There should not be excuses of ‘I don’t have enough land’ if, with this kind of farming, you can grow vegetables in buckets and rear chicken without needing a big piece of land,” Ssebandeke says.
Ssebandeke, who is an urban farmer, grows vegetables on a small piece of land in Najjanankumbi, Kampala. He says the exercise is not tiresome and looking after the crops is easy.
“In this season when rains are not reliable, urban farming is the way to go. During drought, watering is easy and the water is not wasted, weeds are minimised,” he says.
He advises civil servants and other Ugandans not to wait until they retire to start farming.
“As I look around, the majority of the participants are retired people. This is not going to help us as a country. I call on my fellow young people to start farming now, when we can effectively do it,” Ssebandeke says.
Majority of the youth are involved in technology, which Ssebandeke says is not viable if they cannot use it to aid agriculture.
Dr Diana Nambantya, an urban farmer, who trained several farmers during the expo, advises that before you embark on urban farming you must seek an expert’s guide.
She explains that if one keeps away from the experts, one keeps bound to make mistakes that will cost them money and discourage one from farming.
She says experts will help one move from one level to another. “I am an urban farmer, but I was failing until I got experts to guide me,” she says.
Nambatya says to be successful in urban farming, one needs to be committed and able to produce quality products that will fetch high profits.
Many Ugandans have space in their courtyard, where they can do farming, but most times focus is always put on big farms, which are not affordable for everyone.
“Even if you do not have big pieces of land, do not fail to start farming, because you want to first buy land. Get trained in urban farming and start making money,” Nambatya advises.
She emphasised that farming is not for the poor or illiterate. The main feature, which distinguishes urban farming from rural agriculture, is that it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system.
Urban farming includes food products such as grains, root crops, vegetables, mushrooms, fruits and animals, poultry, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, guinea pigs and fish.
One could also grow non-food products such as aromatic and medicinal herbs, ornamental plants, tree products or a combination of food and non-food crops.
While practising urban farming, in case of animal rearing, you need to know the restrictions set by the city or town authority.